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Topics: Agile, Communications Management, PM in Academia
Communication styles and cultural differences
Network:370



Have you worked with a culturally diverse team? What did you notice in terms of communication styles?
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Network:2537



I can not remember when I did not work with a culturally diverse team. A recent team of five had one person from Korea, one from India and one from China. The one challenge for many people has been voice tone. In the US, we are accustomed to the voice going up or down at certain points in a sentence. This does not always occur the same way for those who English is not their first language. They may come off sounding critical of you when that is not their intention. If you restate what they say in your head using your own tone, the sentence has a completely different meaning.
The other issue we have had was with my one manager. She would use a lot of little sayings like "don't throw the baby out with the bathwater". After a meeting, I would need to explain to another team member what she meant. I made her aware of this issue and eventually, she stopped herself mid sentence.
These are just a few "issues" I have noted in the past.
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1 reply by Farouq Zaabab
Aug 10, 2018 9:11 AM
Farouq Zaabab
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Hi Dinah-

Thanks for this detailed answer. I have noticed the same things; I think that any kind of communication that includes the following can fail to achieve its purpose :

1- Referring to shows or sayings of famous actors or pop expressions as well as using idiomatic expressions. Unless one has lived in that country for a long period of time, they wouldn't get it.

2- Jokes (Oh goodness!) you wouldn't believe the number of jokes that I've seen fall flat within these teams.

I will think of some more :)
Network:370



Aug 10, 2018 8:56 AM
Replying to Dinah Young
...
I can not remember when I did not work with a culturally diverse team. A recent team of five had one person from Korea, one from India and one from China. The one challenge for many people has been voice tone. In the US, we are accustomed to the voice going up or down at certain points in a sentence. This does not always occur the same way for those who English is not their first language. They may come off sounding critical of you when that is not their intention. If you restate what they say in your head using your own tone, the sentence has a completely different meaning.
The other issue we have had was with my one manager. She would use a lot of little sayings like "don't throw the baby out with the bathwater". After a meeting, I would need to explain to another team member what she meant. I made her aware of this issue and eventually, she stopped herself mid sentence.
These are just a few "issues" I have noted in the past.
Hi Dinah-

Thanks for this detailed answer. I have noticed the same things; I think that any kind of communication that includes the following can fail to achieve its purpose :

1- Referring to shows or sayings of famous actors or pop expressions as well as using idiomatic expressions. Unless one has lived in that country for a long period of time, they wouldn't get it.

2- Jokes (Oh goodness!) you wouldn't believe the number of jokes that I've seen fall flat within these teams.

I will think of some more :)
Network:1058



Farouq -

What's interesting is that with long-lived teams, beyond just learning and embracing each other's linguistic differences, they will develop their own team-centric lingo!

Kiron
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1 reply by Farouq Zaabab
Aug 10, 2018 9:37 AM
Farouq Zaabab
...
Agreed Kiron, yet these teams are hard to form and sustain. I guess they go through "a moulding phase" before reaching this stage you mentioned where they have their own lingua franca.
Network:370



Aug 10, 2018 9:27 AM
Replying to Kiron Bondale
...
Farouq -

What's interesting is that with long-lived teams, beyond just learning and embracing each other's linguistic differences, they will develop their own team-centric lingo!

Kiron
Agreed Kiron, yet these teams are hard to form and sustain. I guess they go through "a moulding phase" before reaching this stage you mentioned where they have their own lingua franca.
Network:518



Hired translator for overcoming the communication issues
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1 reply by Farouq Zaabab
Aug 10, 2018 12:33 PM
Farouq Zaabab
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Good idea though a lot can be lost in translation.
Network:2537



I worked with a deaf man before. We brought a translator in for meetings, but the remaining time I had to find a way to communicate. I asked him to teach me some basic sign language. Sometimes, showing an interest in a team member's language or culture goes a long way to smoothing over any issues that may arise.
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1 reply by Farouq Zaabab
Aug 10, 2018 12:36 PM
Farouq Zaabab
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Dinah-

That is wonderful. I have never been in a similar context.
Network:164



Farouq -

I like working with culturally diverse teams. Have had experiences of working with people from India, China, Germany, US and Russia.

Initially there were many issues due to time zone, communication styles, way we attack a problem, reporting status etc., Comprehending emails, audio calls were challenging. But in few months we had a good understanding as a team and started to do everything as team work. All differences vanished and we were just one team.
...
1 reply by Farouq Zaabab
Aug 10, 2018 12:38 PM
Farouq Zaabab
...
Girija-

Great to hear that you managed to establish effective communication. Just curious, how long did it take you to get to that point?
Network:370



Aug 10, 2018 10:35 AM
Replying to Muthukrishnan Ramakrishnan
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Hired translator for overcoming the communication issues
Good idea though a lot can be lost in translation.
Network:370



Aug 10, 2018 10:51 AM
Replying to Dinah Young
...
I worked with a deaf man before. We brought a translator in for meetings, but the remaining time I had to find a way to communicate. I asked him to teach me some basic sign language. Sometimes, showing an interest in a team member's language or culture goes a long way to smoothing over any issues that may arise.
Dinah-

That is wonderful. I have never been in a similar context.
Network:370



Aug 10, 2018 10:54 AM
Replying to Girija Ramakrishnan
...
Farouq -

I like working with culturally diverse teams. Have had experiences of working with people from India, China, Germany, US and Russia.

Initially there were many issues due to time zone, communication styles, way we attack a problem, reporting status etc., Comprehending emails, audio calls were challenging. But in few months we had a good understanding as a team and started to do everything as team work. All differences vanished and we were just one team.
Girija-

Great to hear that you managed to establish effective communication. Just curious, how long did it take you to get to that point?
...
1 reply by Girija Ramakrishnan
Aug 11, 2018 3:12 AM
Girija Ramakrishnan
...
Farouq -

As we were on mission-critical projects we had less time to make issues of diverse culture. It was a highly visible portfolio of projects. To accomplish our project goals we started embracing the differences in a period of 3 to 4 months.
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