Once I am aware of the cultural context that shapes a situation, what steps can I take to be more effective in dealing with it?
Millions of people work in global settings while viewing everything from their own cultural perspectives and assuming that all differences, controversy, and misunderstanding are rooted in personality. This is not due to laziness.
Many well-intentioned people don’t educate themselves about cultural differences because they believe that if they focus on individual differences, that will be enough.
If you go into every interaction assuming that culture doesn’t matter, your default mechanism will be to view others through your own cultural lens and to judge or misjudge them accordingly.
Yes, every individual is different. And yes, when you work with people from other cultures, you shouldn’t make assumptions about individual traits based on where a person comes from. But this doesn’t mean learning about cultural contexts is unnecessary.
If your business success relies on your ability to work successfully with people from around the world, you need to have an appreciation for cultural differences as well as respect for individual differences. Both are essential.
Cultural patterns of behavior and belief frequently impact our perceptions (what we see), cognitions (what we think), and actions (what we do).
The point here is that, when examining how people from different cultures relate to one another, what matters is not the absolute position of either culture on the scale but rather the relative position of the two cultures. It is this relative positioning that determines how people view one another.
So cultural relativity is the key to understanding the impact of culture on human interactions. If an executive wants to build and manage global teams that can work together successfully, he needs to understand not just how people from his own culture experience people from various international cultures, but also how those international cultures perceive one another.
The culture of my country has a strong character that was totally invisible to me when I was in it and part of it.
Being a good listener is just as important for effective communication as being a good speaker. And both of these essential skills are equally variable from one culture to another.
Skills involved in being an effective communicator vary dramatically from one culture to another.
In Japan if you can’t read the air, you are not a good listener.
“Say what you mean and mean what you say.”
“Tell them what you are going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you’ve told them.” This is the philosophy of low-context communication in a nutshell.
Beyond language, the history of a country strongly impacts its position on the Communicating scale.
High-context cultures tend to have a long shared history. Usually they are relationship-oriented societies where networks of connections are passed on from generation to generation, generating more shared context among community members.
If you’re from a low-context culture, you may perceive a high-context communicator as secretive, lacking transparency, or unable to communicate effectively.
“I have always believed that people say what they mean and mean what they say—and if they don’t, well, then, they are lying.”
you’re from a high-context culture, you might perceive a low-context communicator as inappropriately stating the obvious (“You didn’t have to say it! We all understood!”), or even as condescending and patronizing (“You talk to us like we are children!”).
You may be considered a top-flight communicator in your home culture, but what works at home may not work so well with people from other cultures.
High-context cultures, the more educated and sophisticated you are, the greater your ability to both speak and listen with an understanding of implicit, layered messages.
In low-context cultures, the most educated and sophisticated business people are those who communicate in a clear, explicit way.
Education tends to move individuals toward a more extreme version of the dominant cultural tendency.
In Chinese culture, children are taught not to just hear the explicit words but also to focus on how something is said, and on what is not said.
If I am not sure, I have to take the responsibility to ask for clarification.
If I’m not 100 percent sure what I heard, shrugging my shoulders and leaving with the message that I sort of think I heard is not a good strategy. If I am not sure, I have to take the responsibility to ask for clarification.
Communicating is not just about speaking but also listening.
Learn to listen to what is meant instead of what is said. This means reflecting more, asking more clarifying questions, and making an effort to be more receptive to body language cues.
For verification, ask open-ended questions rather than backing the person into a corner that requires a yes or no response.
“It is important not to form opinions too quickly,” Díaz suggests, “to listen more, speak less, and then clarify when you are not sure if you understood. You might need to work through another local person in order to get the message deciphered. But if you feel confused, work to get all the information you need to pick up the intended message.”
One of the biggest mistakes lower-context managers make is assuming that the other individual is purposely omitting information or unable to communicate explicitly.
Self-deprecation allows you to accept the blame for being unable to get the message and then ask for assistance.
Be as transparent, clear, and specific as possible. Explain exactly why you are calling. Assert your opinions transparently. Show all of your cards up front. At the end of the phone call, recap all the key points again, or send an e-mail repeating these points straight afterwards. If you are ever not 100 percent sure what you have been asked to do, don’t read between the lines but state clearly that you don’t understand and ask for clarification. And sometimes it would be better to not be quite so polite, as it gives the impression of vagueness or uncertainty.
Start the conversation by stating the main idea, make your points clearly, and at the end of the discussion recap what has been decided and what will happen next. If you’re not sure whether your ideas have been absorbed, then feel free to ask, “Am I clear enough?” Follow up with an e-mail clarifying anything that might still be a bit vague and stating the main conclusions in writing.
A multicultural team, most misunderstanding takes place between people who come from two high-context cultures with entirely different roots,
Multicultural teams need low-context processes.
Three levels of verification would take place at the end of any meeting:
One person would recap the key points orally, with the task rotating from one team member to another.
Each person would summarize orally what he would do next.
One person would send out a written recap, again on a rotating basis.
The best moment to develop the processes is when the team is forming, before miscommunication takes place.
“This is our team culture, which we have explicitly agreed on and all feel comfortable with.” Galvez knew that making everyone comfortable with the explicit, written agreement was both important and challenging. Putting things in writing may signify a lack of trust in some high-context cultures. So when he asked the group to begin putting things in writing, he made sure to lay some groundwork.
The more low-context the culture, the more people have a tendency to put everything in writing.
The tendency to put everything in writing, which is a mark of professionalism and transparency in a low-context culture, may suggest to high-context colleagues that you don’t trust them to follow through on their verbal commitments.
If you work with a team that has both low-context and high-context members, follow Bethari’s lead. Putting it in writing reduces confusion and saves time for multi-cultural teams. But make sure to explain up front why you are doing it.
Some cultures that are low-context and explicit may be cryptically indirect with negative criticism, while other cultures that speak between the lines may be explicit, straight talkers when telling you what you did wrong.
People from all cultures believe in “constructive criticism.” Yet what is considered constructive in one culture may be viewed as destructive in another.
The Chinese manager learns never to criticize a colleague openly or in front of others, while the Dutch manager learns always to be honest and to give the message straight. Americans are trained to wrap positive messages around negative ones, while the French are trained to criticize passionately and provide positive feedback sparingly.
More direct cultures tend to use what linguists call upgraders, words preceding or following negative feedback that make it feel stronger, such as absolutely, totally, or strongly:
More indirect cultures use more downgraders, words that soften the criticism, such as kind of, sort of, a little, a bit, maybe, and slightly.
Another type of downgrader is a deliberate understatement, a sentence that describes a feeling the speaker experiences strongly in terms that moderate the emotion—for example, saying “We are not quite there yet” when you really mean “This is nowhere close to complete,” or “This is just my opinion” when you really mean “Anyone who considers this issue will immediately agree.”
Note, too, that several countries have different positions on the Evaluating scale from those they occupy on the Communicating scale.
Stereotypes about how directly people speak generally reflect their cultures’ position on the Communicating scale, not the Evaluating scale.
One rule for working with cultures that are more direct than yours on the Evaluating scale: Don’t try to do it like them.
In Russia there is no reticence about expressing your negative criticism openly.
“Quand on connait sa maladie, on est à moitié guéri”—“When you know your sickness, you are halfway cured.”
To the French, Spanish, Russians, Dutch, and Germans, the American mode of giving feedback comes across as false and confusing.
The problem is that we can’t tell when the feedback is supposed to register to us as excellent, okay, or really poor. For a Dutchman, the word “excellent” is saved for a rare occasion and “okay” is . . . well, neutral. But with the Americans, the grid is different. “Excellent” is used all the time. “Okay” seems to mean “not okay.” “Good” is only a mild compliment.
When providing an evaluation, be explicit and low-context with both positive and negative feedback. But don’t launch into the negatives until you have also explicitly stated something that you appreciate about the person or the situation. The positive comments should be honest and stated in a detailed, explicit manner.
Try, over time, to be balanced in the amount of positive and negative feedback you give. For example, if you notice something positive your colleague has done on Monday, say it there and then with explicit, open appreciation. Then, on Tuesday, when you need to severely criticize the same colleague’s disappointing proposal before it is sent to the client, your comments will be more likely to be heard and considered rather than rejected out of hand.
Frame your behavior in cultural terms. Talk about the cultural differences that explain your communication style. If possible, show appreciation for the other culture while laughing humbly at your own.
Any negative feedback should be given in private, regardless of how much humor or good-natured ribbing you wrap around it.
First simple strategy for giving negative feedback to someone from a culture in quadrant D is Don’t give feedback to an individual in front of a group. This rule applies even if you use a lot of soft, cozy downgraders or rely on a joke to lighten the mood. And, yes, it applies to positive feedback as well.
In most Asian societies, it is best to give feedback gradually. This does not mean that you beat the direct message in periodically, again and again. Rather it means that you make small references to the changes that need to be made gently, gradually building a clear picture as to what should be done differently.”
Give the feedback slowly, over a period of time, so that it gradually sinks in.
Use food and drink to blur an unpleasant message.
Once we are relaxed, this is a good time to give feedback. We don’t make reference to it in the office the next day or the next week, but the feedback has been passed and the receiver is now able to take action without humiliation or breaking the harmony between the two parties. In Japan, Thailand, Korea, China, or Indonesia, the same strategy applies.
Say the good and leave out the bad.
Politeness is in the eye of the beholder.
In Germany, we try to understand the theoretical concept before adapting it to the practical situation. To understand something, we first want to analyze all of the conceptual data before coming to a conclusion.
Your habitual pattern of reasoning is heavily influenced by the kind of thinking emphasized in your culture’s educational structure. In business, as in school, people from principles-first cultures generally want to understand the why behind their boss’s request before they move to action. Meanwhile, applications-first learners tend to focus less on the why and more on the how.
Principles-first reasoning (sometimes referred to as deductive reasoning) derives conclusions or facts from general principles or concepts.
With applications-first reasoning (sometimes called inductive reasoning), general conclusions are reached based on a pattern of factual observations from the real world.
Judgment in one case sets a precedent for future cases—a clear example of applications-first thinking.
General statute or principle is applied on a case-by-case basis, mirroring the principles-first approach.
Way different societies analyze the world depends on their philosophical roots. These, in turn, define how we learn in school and how we behave as adults at work.
The way different societies analyze the world depends on their philosophical roots. These, in turn, define how we learn in school and how we behave as adults at work.
Presenting to Londoners or New Yorkers? Get to the point and stick to it.
Presenting to French, Spaniards, or Germans? Spend more time setting the parameters and explaining the background before jumping to your conclusion.
Effective leadership often relies on the ability to persuade others to change their systems, adopt new methods of working, or adjust to new trends in markets, technologies, or business models.
Applications-first thinkers like to receive practical examples up front; they will extract learning from these examples.
Applications-first learners are used to the “case method,” whereby they first read a case study describing a real-life story about a business problem and its solution, and then induce general lessons from it.
Traditionally emphasized interdependencies and interconnectedness
Ancient Chinese thought was holistic, meaning that the Chinese attended to the field in which an object was located, believing that action always occurs in a field of forces that influence the action.
Chinese people think from macro to micro, whereas Western people think from micro to macro.
In the eyes of Asian business leaders, European and American executives tend to make decisions without taking much time to consider the broader implications of their actions.
In a specific culture when managing a supplier or team member, people usually respond well to receiving very detailed and segmented information about what you expect of each of them.
In holistic cultures if you need to motivate, manage, or persuade someone, you will be more influential if you take the time to explain the big picture and show how all the pieces fit together.
If you need to explain a project or set objectives or sell an idea to a holistic audience, begin by explaining the big picture in detail. Outline not just the overall project but also how the parts are connected before drilling down what specifically needs to be accomplished and when.
On a multicultural team, you can save time by having as few people in the group work across cultures as possible. You can have the innovation from the combination of cultures, while avoiding the inefficiency that comes with the clash of cultures.
Think carefully about your larger objectives before you mix cultures up. If your goal is innovation or creativity, the more cultural diversity the better, as long as the process is managed carefully. But if your goal is simple speed and efficiency, then monocultural is probably better than multicultural.
The belief that individuals should be considered equal and that individual achievement should be downplayed has been a part of Scandinavian society for centuries.
Power distance as “the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations accept and expect that power is distributed unequally.”
In an egalitarian culture, for example, an aura of authority is more likely to come from acting like one of the team, while in a hierarchical culture, an aura of authority tends to come from setting yourself clearly apart.
Once you understand the power distance messages your actions are sending, you can make an informed choice about what behaviors to change. But if you don’t know what your behaviors signify, you’ll have no control over the signals you send—and the results can be disastrous.
First historical point is that the countries that fell under the influence of the Roman Empire (including Spain, Italy, and, to a lesser degree, France) tend to be more hierarchical than the rest of Western Europe.
The countries most influenced by the Vikings consistently rank as some of the most egalitarian and consensus-oriented cultures in the world today.
in Chinese families, children are generally not spoken to in the family by their personal names but rather by their kinship titles (“Older sister,” “2nd brother,” “4th sister,” and so on). In this way, they are constantly reminded of their position in the family relative to everyone else’s.
Countries with Protestant cultures tend to fall further to the egalitarian side of the scale than those with a more Catholic tradition.
In many strains of Protestantism, the individual speaks directly to God instead of speaking to God through the priest, the bishop, and the pope. Thus, it’s natural that societies in which Protestant religions predominate tend to be more egalitarian than those dominated by Catholicism.
Emperor (kindness) over Subject (loyalty,) Father (protection) over Son (respect and obedience), Husband (obligation) over Wife (submission), Older Brother (care) over Younger Brother (model subject), Senior Friends (trust) over Junior Friends (trust)
Most Asians today are still used to thinking in terms of hierarchy. They tend to respect hierarchy and differences in status much more than Westerners.
When I thought of hierarchy, I thought of the lowest person’s responsibility to obey, which I felt suggested an inhumane situation, like a relationship between slave and owner. I saw this as being in direct contrast to individual freedom.
The leader’s responsibility for caring and teaching is just as strong as the follower’s responsibility to defer and follow directions.
Similarly, details of etiquette may prove critical to your success in China, Korea, or Japan. When you enter a room, you should know whose hand to shake first (the boss’s) and with whom to exchange pleasantries before sitting down to serious business (everyone in descending hierarchical order). When hosting a dinner, you should make seating arrangements according to the rankings of your guests, lest you offend someone.
When all is said and done, humans are flexible. Most of the time, if managers take extra pains up front to discuss how they are going to communicate, many painful and costly faux pas can be avoided entirely.
If you aren’t sure about where the culture you’re working with falls on this scale, follow the hierarchical recommendations, which are generally safer and unlikely to get you into trouble accidentally.
if you are leading a global team, with members of various cultures with different positions on the Leading scale, define team protocols up front.
If you are working with people from a hierarchical society:
Communicate with the person at your level. If you are the boss, go through the boss with equivalent status, or get explicit permission to hop from one level to another.
If you do e-mail someone at a lower hierarchical level than your own, copy the boss.
If you need to approach your boss’s boss or your subordinate’s subordinate, get permission from the person at the level in between first.
When e-mailing, address the recipient by the last name unless they have indicated otherwise—for example, by signing their e-mail to you with their first name only.
If you are working with people from an egalitarian society:
Go directly to the source. No need to bother the boss.
Think twice before copying the boss. Doing so could suggest to the recipient that you don’t trust them or are trying to get them in trouble.
Skipping hierarchical levels probably won’t be a problem.
In Scandinavia, the Netherlands, and Australia, use first names when writing e-mails. This is also largely true for the United States and the United Kingdom, although regional and circumstantial differences may arise.
Ask your team to meet without you in order to brainstorm as a group—and then to report the group’s ideas back to you.
When you call a meeting, give clear instructions a few days beforehand about how you would like the meeting to work and what questions you plan to ask. Tell your team members explicitly that you will call on them for their input.
Don’t expect people to jump in randomly without an invitation. Instead, invite people to speak up. Even if team members have prepared well and are ready to share their ideas, they may not volunteer unless you call on them individually.
Introduce management by objectives, starting by speaking with each employee about the department’s vision for the coming year and then asking them to propose their best personal annual objectives subject to negotiation and final agreement with you. In this way, you become a facilitator rather than a supervisor
Make sure the objectives are concrete and specific and consider linking them to bonuses or other rewards.
Set objectives for a twelve-month period and check on progress periodically—perhaps once a month.
Without respect it is difficult to get anything done.
In today’s global business environment it is not enough to be either an egalitarian leader or a hierarchical leader. You need to be both—to develop the flexibility to manage up and down the cultural scales.
German culture places a higher value on building consensus as part of the decision-making process, while in the United States, decision making is largely invested in the individual.
Consensus fails to satisfy anyone’s desires, but it does so equally, and so it’s accepted. It is through seeking consensus that we get mediocrity.”
“United we stand, divided we fall,” is a powerful American value, expressed in the belief that getting behind the decision as quickly as possible leads to efficiency, which in turn leads to success.
Most cultures that fall as egalitarian on the Leading scale also believe in consensual decision making.
The United States breaks the mold by combining an egalitarian ethos with a more top-down approach to decision making, in which one person—generally the person in charge—makes decisions quickly on behalf of the entire group.
American pioneers, many of whom had fled the formal hierarchical structures of their home-lands, put heavy emphasis on speed and individualism.
Americans developed a dislike for too much discussion, which would just slow them down, preferring to make decisions quickly, often based on scanty information, whether by the leader or by voting.
Egalitarian cultures tend to have consensus decision-making processes, hierarchical cultures tend to practice top-down decision making.
In a consensual culture, the decision making may take quite a long time, since everyone is consulted. But once the decision has been made, the implementation is quite rapid, since everyone has completely bought in and the decision is fixed and inflexible—a decision with a capital D, we might say.
By contrast, in a top-down culture, the decision-making responsibility is invested in an individual. In this kind of culture, decisions tend to be made quickly, early in the process, by one person (likely the boss). But each decision is also flexible—a decision with a lowercase d. As more discussions occur, new information arises, or differing opinions surface, decisions may be easily revisited or altered.
Before Japanese company members sign off on a proposal, consensus building starts with informal, face-to-face discussions. This process of informally making a proposal, getting input, and solidifying support is called nemawashi.
“In Japan, decisions tend to be made by group consensus rather than by the individual,” Mori began. And he went on to explain what is called the ringi system of decision making. This is a management technique in which low-level managers discuss a new idea among themselves and come to a consensus before presenting it to managers one level higher.
The Japanese ringi system epitomizes a culture where decisions take a long time to be made, as everyone is invested in building a group consensus. But once the decision is made, it is generally fixed and the implementation may be very rapid, because each individual is on board. The result is a decision with a capital D.
If you find yourself working with a team of people who employ a more consensual decision-making process than the one you’re accustomed to, try applying the following strategies:
Expect the decision-making process to take longer and to involve more meetings and correspondence.
Do your best to demonstrate patience and commitment throughout the process . . . even when diverging opinions lead to seemingly interminable discussions and indecision.
Check in with your counterparts regularly to show your commitment and be available to answer questions.
Cultivate informal contacts within the team to help you monitor where the group is in the decision-making process. Otherwise, you may find that a consensus is forming without your awareness or participation.
Resist the temptation to push for a quick decision. Instead, focus on the quality and completeness of the information gathered and the soundness of the reasoning process. Remember, once a decision is made, it will be difficult to try to change it.
On the other hand, if you are working with a group of people who favor a more top-down approach to decision making, try using these techniques:
Expect decisions to be made by the boss with less discussion and less soliciting of opinions than you are accustomed to. The decision may be made before, during, or after a meeting, depending on the organizational culture and the individual involved.
Be ready to follow a decision even if your input was not solicited or was overruled. It’s possible for a project to produce success even if the initial plan was not the best one that could have been devised.
When you are in charge, solicit input and listen carefully to differing viewpoints, but strive to make decisions quickly. Otherwise you may find you are viewed as an indecisive or ineffective leader.
When the group is divided about how to move forward and no obvious leader is present, suggest a vote. All members are expected to follow the decision supported by the majority, even if they disagree.
Remain flexible throughout the process. Decisions are rarely set in stone; most can later be adjusted, revisited, or discussed again if necessary.
Finally, if you are working with a global team that includes members from both consensual and top-down cultures, you can avoid problems by explicitly discussing and agreeing upon a decision-making method during the early stages of your collaboration. Define whether the decision will be made by vote or by the boss after a team discussion. Determine whether 100 percent agreement is needed, whether a deadline for making the decision is necessary, and how much flexibility there will be for changing a decision after the deadline.
Cognitive trust is based on the confidence you feel in another person’s accomplishments, skills, and reliability.
Affective trust, on the other hand, arises from feelings of emotional closeness, empathy, or friendship.
Throughout the world, friendships and personal relationships are built on affective trust.
in countries like the United States or Switzerland, “business is business.” In countries like China or Brazil, “business is personal.”
American managers make a concerted effort to ensure that personal relationships do not cloud the way they approach business interactions—in fact, they often deliberately restrict affective closeness with people they depend on for economic resources, such as budgeting or financing.
for a Chinese manager working with Americans, the culturally based preference to separate cognitive trust and personal trust can indicate a lack of sincerity or loyalty.
The United States has “a long tradition of separating the practical and emotional. Mixing the two is perceived as unprofessional and risks conflict of interest.”
Unlike Americans, Chinese managers are quite likely to develop personal ties and affective bonds when there is also a business or financial tie.”
In task-based societies like the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, relationships are defined by functionality and practicality.
“In China, business relationships are personal relationships. The loyalty is to the individual and not to the company. If someone leaves the company, the personal relationship would be much stronger than the severance between that person and the organization.”
In peach cultures like the United States or Brazil, to name a couple, people tend to be friendly (“soft”) with others they have just met. They smile frequently at strangers, move quickly to first-name usage, share information about themselves, and ask personal questions of those they hardly know. But after a little friendly interaction with a peach person, you may suddenly get to the hard shell of the pit where the peach protects his real self. In these cultures, friendliness does not equal friendship.
In coconut cultures such as these, people are more closed (like the tough shell of a coconut) with those they don’t have friendships with. They rarely smile at strangers, ask casual acquaintances personal questions, or offer personal information to those they don’t know intimately. It takes a while to get through the initial hard shell, but as you do, people will become gradually warmer and friendlier. While relationships are built up slowly, they tend to last longer.
Different cultures have different social cues that mark appropriate behavior with strangers as opposed to cues that indicate a real friendship is developing.
People from both task-based cultures and relationship-based cultures may be affable with strangers, but this characteristic does not in itself indicate either friendship or relationship orientation.
Once an affective relationship is established, the forgiveness for any cultural missteps you make comes a lot easier.
One productive way to start putting trust deposits in the bank is by building on common interests.
Once the relationship is built, loyalty and openness comes with it.
When working in a relationship-based culture such as Mexico, the moment you switch from boardroom to restaurant or bar is the moment you need to begin acting as if you are out on the town with your best friends. Don’t worry about saying or doing the wrong thing. Be yourself—your personal self, not your business self. Dare to show that you have nothing to hide, and the trust—and likely the business—will follow.
Having a signed agreement in a culture with a consistently reliable legal system makes it possible to do business easily with people you don’t trust or even know.
You can sign a contract, but there is no way of enforcing it if the payment doesn’t come through. The only way you feel assured that you’ll be paid in countries like Nigeria is the trust you have in the other person.
Why can’t we just get down to business and sign a contract?” remember—in many cultures, the relationship is your contract.
If you are from a task-based society and are hosting people from a more relationship-based society, put more time and effort into organizing meals to be shared. During these meals, spend time getting to know your collaborators personally rather than discussing business.
If you are visiting a relationship-based culture, don’t mistake a long lunch for a waste of time. If you use this time to develop a personal connection and a little affective trust, it may end up being the most important part of the business trip.
Sharing meals is a meaningful tool for trust building in nearly all cultures. But in some cultures, sharing drinks—particularly alcoholic drinks—is equally important.
In Japanese culture, where group harmony and avoiding open conflict are overriding goals, drinking provides an opportunity to let down your hair and express your real thoughts. Drinking is a great platform for sharing your true inner feelings (what are called honne rather than tatemae feelings) as well as for recognizing where bad feelings or conflict might be brewing and to strive to address them before they turn into problems. Under no circumstances should the discussions of the night before be mentioned the next day.
Across East Asia, whether you are working in China, Thailand, or Korea, doing a substantial amount of drinking with customers and collaborators is a common step in the trust-building process.
The more you are willing to remove social barriers in the evening, the more they will see you as trustworthy.
Scheduling is a state of mind that affects how you organize your day, how you run a meeting, how far you must plan in advance, and how flexible those plans are.
M-time cultures view time as tangible and concrete: “We speak of time as being saved, spent, wasted, lost, made up, crawling, killing and running out. These metaphors must be taken seriously. M-time scheduling is used as a classification system that orders life. These rules apply to everything except death.”
P-time cultures take a flexible approach to time, involvement of people, and completion of transactions: “Appointments are not taken seriously and, as a consequence, are frequently broken as it is more likely to be considered a point rather than a ribbon in the road. . . .
Positions on the Scheduling scale are partially affected by how fixed and reliable, versus dynamic and unpredictable, daily life is in a particular country.
It’s natural that cultures that put a premium on relationship building tend, with a few exceptions, to fall on the flexible-time side of the Scheduling scale
It’s only logical that if relationships are a priority, you will put them before the clock. Thus it’s natural that cultures that put a premium on relationship building tend, with a few exceptions, to fall on the flexible-time side of the Scheduling scale
But a meeting in a flexible-time culture like those found in South America, parts of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East is more like an evergreen tree. An agenda with a meeting start time and a topic will probably be circulated before the meeting. This will serve as the trunk of the tree. But there’s no expectation that the meeting will progress in a linear manner.
For those on linear time, any behavior that distracts from the predefined task at hand is just plain rude.