Cross-Cultural Working Styles

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cross-cultural working styles

Cross-Cultural Working Styles

Most likely, you will find yourself working with someone from another culture. According to NorthOne, 58.6% of the American workforce works remotely. As more and more global companies embrace remote work, the odds of you working with someone from another culture significantly increase. 
The more you can understand and adapt to other cultures’ working styles, the better off you will be. 
There are several things to consider when navigating cross-cultural working styles. Below are three different styles to be aware of as you prepare to work with someone from another culture.

1. Leadership Style 

You may find a difference in leadership style depending on the culture. When you understand these differences, you can tailor the way you work and your messaging.

Consider the following:

  • Hierarchal – In a hierarchal leadership style, there is a clear chain of command starting with the lowest ranking to the highest ranking employee. When a culture has this leadership style, you will want to ensure you are following the right path. For example, suppose you are reporting the budget to your direct superior, but have questions or concerns. In that case, you will not be able to go above your immediate superior to express these questions or concerns. Instead, you will need to present everything to your direct superior. Your direct superior will then present all the information to their immediate superior. These types of leadership styles are prevalent in large global organizations. It can help to streamline communications. cross cultural communications
  • Collaborative – In a collaborative leadership style, input across all levels is highly valued. You may be encouraged to speak with higher-level executives who aren’t your direct superiors to discuss questions or concerns. For example, even if you aren’t the direct report to an executive, you may be asked to join a budget meeting. Collaborative leadership styles encourage everyone to get involved in the discussion.


Knowing what type of leadership style is expected will help you understand how to communicate within the organization.


2. Decision-Making

The way decisions are made within an organization can vary depending on the culture. When you know how decisions are made, you can adjust your expectations when making a request or waiting for a response.

Consider the following:

  • Consensual – When organizations embrace a consensual decision-making style, decisions are made based on what most people believe is the best thing to do. For example, suppose you are in a meeting, and there is a discussion about whether or not to allow staff members to take summer Fridays. In that case, the decision will be based on whether most people in the room agree. Once a consensus has been made, the decision will be disseminated to the rest of the organization. cross cultural working styles
  • Top-Down – A top-down decision-making style means the person at the top has the final word. For example, if you are in a meeting about summer Fridays and the consensus is to take them, but the CEO doesn’t want people to be gone on Friday afternoons, then the summer Fridays will be taken off the table. A top-down decision-making style means the person making the decision doesn’t necessarily have to wait for or agree with a consensus.

The way decisions are made can have an impact on how you approach your workload. Consider the culture and what decision-making style they prefer.


3. Communication Style

Every culture has a different communication style. Making sure you know what is expected and how communication will vary will help you become a better employee.

Consider the following:

  • Explicit – Things are very detailed in cultures where explicit communication is valued. These cultures often prefer to over-communicate rather than under-communicate. For example, in an explicit communication culture, you should expect to send emails with a lot of context, and specifics. This is what others in this culture will want to receive from you. A short, vague email won’t work in this situation. The more detailed and explained, the better.
  • Implicit – In cultures where implicit communication is more prevalent, you may find the way you carry yourself, and your body language is extremely important. For example, sitting up straight with your head held high and eyes fixed on the presenter can show you are listening. However, if you are more relaxed and not sitting up straight, it may come across to the presenter that you aren’t interested in their message, even if you are genuinely paying close attention. Your body language will appear as if you don’t care, even if you really do. 

Each culture will have a different communication style. Understanding what is expected will help you communicate in the best way possible.

When considering cross-cultural working styles, think about leadership, decision-making, and communication styles when working in a culturally diverse situation.


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