Post # 1
My company has offices all over the world and I communicate with colleagues in offices in different states and different countries (for the sake of clarity, I’m referring to Spain, Germany, Sweden, France). However, I’ve noticed a major difference between the US based employees and the international based employees. Whenever there is a problem or or there are some issues that need to be taken care of, the international employees type me a NOVEL describing, in detail, all the issues they found. Whereas, a US based employee is more succinct and to the point when a problem is found. Also, if you don’t respond to an e-mail from an international employee immediately, they begin to harass me and call me asking me why I haven’t answered the e-mail. On my desk, I have a variety of issues that need to be rectified, most of them sent from the international employees.
I hope no one takes offense to my post. But can anyone here relate to what I am describing or understand what I am trying to explain? If so, do you have any idea why they would be more anal retentive than someone from the US?
Post # 3
Is it possible that they need you to fix the problem before they go home for the day and due to the time difference that means a lot sooner than you think?
Also, in terms of detail, I guess some people think it’s better to give you more than enough?
Not really sure, but I’m glad that you can vent on WB and get it all out! 🙂
Post # 4
I’ve never had your particular experience, but I have to admit, I think I might be more like the international coworkers you describe. I hate getting emails that don’t have enough information and going days upon days without getting a response to an email or phone call. But hey, that’s just me!
Post # 5
I taught overseas for a while, and one thing we focused on with our students with cultural communication styles. There are several different continuums that measure interaction and communication within different cultures. I bet reading about them would help you do your job a lot more effectively!
Let me try to find some basic info online about a few of them for you…
Post # 6
High and Low Context cultures – the amount of information that can be inferred from communication, rather than directly stated.
Monocromatic and Polycromatic cultures – how time is viewed
Collectivist and Individualist cultures (scroll down to the part with the propositions) – value of the individual versus value of the group; this could come into play if your time frame affects their ability to work, like if they need your step in the process to move forward
Direct and Indirect cultures – this may not be communicated as much through email, but it would affect the expectations that your colleagues would have for you.
Moral particularism and utilitariansim – basically questions whether there is universal morality, or if it’s all situational; not really relevant, but still interesting 🙂
Whew! That really brings me back! This is all stuff I studied in cross cultural communications courses in college, but some of it’s still relatively new, idealogically, so there’s not a lot of info out there on some of it.
In the end, it boils down to the fact that there are several factors at play in culture, many of which directly affect the way people communicate, and each culture is made up of a unique set of these factors, which all exist on continuums. I wish I could give you a write up of each culture, but beyond the US and China, I’m not familiar enough with each culture to peg them on each continuum, and I have never seen well written national continuums for most of these. Like I said, still a newer branch of study. 🙂
Post # 7
Thanks so far for the responses!
@Twista: I failed to mention that once upon a time, I JUMPED into every e-mail to take care of the issues immediately. My boss told me not to do this for some reason and to put them on the back burner. I did talk to him and tell him that these people are now beginning to call me and ask me what is going on (about a day or two after the initial e-mail was sent. He basically said that if we cater to their every whim, that they will ALWAYS expect us to drop what we’re doing to get to their issues. So he wanted me to wait a little bit before taking care of the issues. Now, I won’t tell these people that my boss said to wait a little bit. I just tell them that I’m working on it. On the other hand, when I take two days to get back to the US employees, they don’t comment about the time lag. Like yourself, I hate waiting to take care of the issues, but I feel like I’m between a rock and a hard place.
@ddw: Thank you for the detailed overview about the different communication styles. This is very helpful.