10 Steps to Working Effectively in US, Global Environment

At an early age, we’re taught how to behave with certain people all within the sphere of our immediate environment. But as adults who travel everywhere and experiences different cultures, how do you behave? In an increasingly global marketplace where people work across cultures, it’s more important than ever to adhere to certain behaviors, values and assumptions.

Raising cultural awareness can help us avoid all kinds of pitfalls. It’s not ideal to trust our initial reactions when the majority of the people surrounding us may act in a certain based on their cultural background. Some foreign engineers who work for a tech company and who travels regularly to the U.S. on long-term consulting assignments may face challenges. In a case cited by TMA World, one expected to receive the same guidance he got at home. Instead, he was put in a situation in the United States where he had to figure out some steps on his own.

Since his style of working was to receive direct orders from his superiors to complete a certain task, he was not used to the American standard that each individual is in charge of his or her destiny and needs to be self-motivated to get a job done.

His initial experience in the US reportedly left him feeling anxious and uncertain if he was doing the job correctly. If he understood that the role of American managers is to delegate work from a big-picture perspective rather than to act as a mentor and show their staff what needs to be done, he would have known that it was not only appreciated but also expected that he take initiative instead of waiting to be told what to do.

Here are 10 steps to working effectively in a global environment, based on TMA World’s findings, which global mobility teams should be aware of:  

1) Reinterpret behaviors from others’ cultural perspectives

Try to put a particular situation into context when the rules are hard to understand. Ask your co-workers or clients for clarification on what motivates them so you can increase your knowledge of what they are doing and why.

2) Accept that you don’t understand what you don’t know.

Don’t be too overconfident of your competence. Stay grounded and open about what you don’t know. No matter how culturally savvy we may be, there are always nuances that will trip us.

3) Increase awareness of your own preconceptions.

Everyone carries a cultural baggage so check your behavior and preconceptions. The more we become aware of our biases, the easier it will be to accept and understand others’ differences. This will help break stereotypes and false generalizations about people and their culture.

4) Be willing to test, adapt and change as needed.

Be able to create cross-cultural competency and observe actions and behaviors that impact the environment. Through astute observation, it will be easy to determine certain rules of how we should or should not be behaving.

5) Don’t judge others by your own cultural values.

Remember that they belong to you and may not be shared by all cultures. There is no right or wrong—only different. Learn to respect those differences.

6) Keep communication simple.

Try to minimize and customize correspondence as much as possible and always confirm that there is an understanding. Avoid using words that have more than one meaning. Steer away from slang and industry specific jargon that could get lost in translation across cultures.

7) Recognize and accept that lifestyle priorities differ across cultures.

If you’re a workaholic who adheres strictly to deadlines, sometimes to the point of sacrificing your personal life, be aware other people have different set of rules for themselves. Even if you think you are more organized or , it is important to respect the boundaries of other people, and monitor your expectations accordingly.

8) Always clarify meaning when communicating.

Be aware of how you are presenting yourself and watch for body language, which represents 55% of all communication. Also, don’t assume you understand gestures. What may be acceptable in one culture can often be an insult in another. Use verbal expressions to explain any non-verbal gestures you use.

9) Assume responsibility for your own actions.

You cannot change your environment—only your own response to it. If you are feeling frustrated by the lack of responsiveness to your suggestion or the lack of participation in a brainstorming meeting, remember you are not responsible for another’s conduct or performance.

Each individual will bring his or her own work style and perspective to the team. Use this as an opportunity to get to know your foreign colleagues by trying to understand their reasoning.

10) Adapt to your new environment by observing your surroundings.

Stay open-minded and adjust your thinking and behavior to the circumstances or situation in order to be successful and accommodate your style to meet others’ expectations.