Monday, September 12, 2011

Article: Cross cultural issues and how to live and work in a new culture

There was an interesting article in the weekend Wall Street Journal "Learning to Speak Iowan: Corn, Pigs, Cyclones and Hawkeyes." The article talks about the cross-cultural challenges faced by foreign doctors immigrating to work with patients in Anytown rural America.

The challenge is not unique to doctors. Even techies face a version of this issue and how the “Software Culture” helps mitigate the typical cross cultural issue that I described in my book a while ago.

Most of us have spent some time in the west can only smile and reflect on learnings when we see younger generation of doctors and software engineers learning to speak Iowan.

Like the training for doctors in the article, larger software sourcing firms have institutionalized orientation of cultural training, especially focused on Indian culture vs American/European culture.

The issues they miss out on cultural training are reinforced periodically by onsite managers and leaders… occasionally with emails that get into nuances of Do’s and Don’ts, some of it are sure to make the more seasoned veterans smile.

Ps: Sample of Email continually sent to onsite team members by sourcing firms

Come to work on time
· Most client folks come to work by 7-7:30 AM
· Try to match your customer's schedule - If they work early, you also work early; If they start work late, you start late
· Be there when your customer wants you
· Let the manager to whom you report to know when you are not going to be available in your seat during regular hours

Follow Client's dress code
· Business casuals / formals from Monday to Thursday - Jeans and sneakers not allowed
· Jeans and sneakers, if allowed, only on Friday

Use perfumes and deodorants regularly
· Change your clothes daily
· Wash and press your clothes before wearing them to work
· If you suffer from bad breath, chew gum, eat peppermint, brush regularly

Be polite
· Do not get into fights with offshore team over the phone in open air – it tends to get noticed and escalated
· Speak slowly (Indians are very fast in speaking compared to Americans)
· Say thank you and please to everyone
· Open the door for others walking behind you
· Never slam the door on the person walking behind you
· Move away from the doorway when some one else is walking by
· Greet everyone whom you see on the passages
· Learn how to do the "How do you do, Good, How do you do" sequence while passing someone on the passageway
· Always speak in English when you are in office (not in Marathi/Bengali/Tamil/Kannada/Malayalam/Hindi etc). In case you need to speak in any other language, please go into a closed conference room and do so.
· When you answer the telephone, identify yourself and greet the person on the other side
· Don't just pick up the phone and say aah, mmmh or be silent

· Show your identification badge to the security officer (whether he asks for it or not)
· Get proper parking tags and park in proper parking lots
· Do not park in Visitor parking lots

· Do not make personal telephone calls from the work phone
· They monitor very closely the calls that are made from each phone
· Do not try to access internet sites that are blocked
· Do not access chat sites from work
· Do not visit Pornographic sites from work
· Do not engage in online trading of stocks from your work PC
· Do not download any software from the internet (be in free ware or share ware)
· Do not receive or forward junk/chain/joke emails
· Requests for additional access/ Prod access etc should go through your manager
· Never request for additional access/prod access directly.

Communication with Client
· Do not ask any Technical questions to client folks (All technical questions are to be resolved within Infosys -using Technical bulletin board, referring to manuals, sending e-mails to team members-Onsite/Offshore)
· Ask as many Business questions as you can to Client folks
· Put down the business you learnt on a BOK
· Use short simple sentences
· If you feel that the other party did not understand you completely, do not hesitate, start explaining all over again
· If you did not understand what the other party said, stop them with an excuse me or pardon me and request them to repeat
· When attending a meeting, be prepared for the same and make sure that you have a notepad/book and take a note of all the important points discussed especially if it is a meeting regarding requirements with users
· Have SIGN-OFF/REVERSE sign-off on any issue-resolution/requirements/design before starting off the work. This is part of the process and will serve as an agreement between both parties involved and will help everyone when there is any doubt or lack of clarity.
· DO not refer to Infosys Project code while discussing with Customer, as they may not know/understand the code. Instead try to refer to your application/system(s).
· While addressing people directly, please use the ‘first name’. In E-mail directories, you will find the name listed as ‘Last Name, First name. (For example, Tom Smith is listed as ‘Smith, Tom’.)
· When talking about somebody in a conversation, please use the ‘first name and last name’ or just ‘last name’ (For example, Tom Smith can be addressed as either Tom Smith or just Smith)
· Understand the short names used in the first names. Usually people are addressed with their short names. Consider the following examples:
· If a person’s name is Robert XYZ...he/she is addressed as Bob XYZ……
· If a person’s name is Thomas, XYZ…he/she is addressed as Tom XYZ…
· If a person’s name is William ,XYZ…he/she is addressed as Bill XYZ
· If a person’s name is James XYZ…he/she is addressed as Jim XYZ

· Never comment on political/racial/sexual sensitive issues
· Always give a meaningful subject to the emails that you sent out
· Do not sleep while at work
· Honor other people's personal space - don’t stand or sit too close to some one
· Make sure that no one gets an opportunity to complain about you on sexual harassment
· Be very careful with your looks , gestures and words you use to colleagues of opposite/same sex
· Eve Teasing in the office is unacceptable
· Prepare Bok documents on what you learned onsite
· If any valid point is missing here, please add the same
· Please make sure that Out-of-office mail is set up in e-mail and voicemail whenever you are not in office (travel, vacation, sick leave etc.)