CULTURAL SYNERGY – IS IT POSSIBLE IF CO-WORKES ARE OVERSEAS?
I make it a point to say “Bonjour” every morning. I also make sure that I am pronouncing it right. Does that create cultural synergy between me and my French co-workers? Or do they just laugh at my American accent?
Is it really possible to create or develop cultural synergy with co-workers that although work for the same company, are separated by miles and miles.
What is really cultural synergy? According to Moran, Abramson and Moran (2014) “cultural synergy is a dynamic approach to managing cultural diversity in a variety of ways” (p. 266). From my experience, it is extremely difficult to engage and fully interact in a global team when your team members are not able to meet with you face to face. How does one brainstorm with co-workers when there is a language barrier and a cultural barrier? In our organization we meet on a weekly basis with our co-workers in Paris and often have conference calls, that most often leaves us wondering what was said. Although one may not understand what was said we do not say so because we do not want to be the only one who will come across as the person who didn’t understand and more importantly you we do not want to make the other person feel uncomfortable or feel self-conscious about their accent. So what do we do? The truth is that there is a thick wall that separates and as much as we want to be in sync and it is quite difficult because we are so far away from each other!!!
My Co-workers are in Paris and I am in New York!!
This is a picture I took of the Eiffel Tower in 2016 during one of my trips to our parent office. I have to travel to our parent company every year to attend a Global Office. I always look forward to meeting with co-workers face to face. I brush up on my French and often practice the common words. However, it is so difficult to come to a country where you are unable to speak the language and hope that someone understands English. By the way, the French think that is extremely rude, if they make an effort to speak English why can’t we make an effort to speak French? My co-workers often tell me that I MUST learn to speak French. I would love to learn, but have not yet had the opportunity to practice what I have learned because in our satellite office in New York there are only a few co-workers from France and they want to practice English. That does not mean that I do not like the language, on the contrary, I would love to speak French and have been practicing common words. I make it a point to say “Bonjour” every morning. I also make sure that I am pronouncing it right.
Team Building in Cannes!!
This is a picture I took in Cannes during one of our company’s team building events during our annual global offsite. It is very important to build rapport with co-workers. A couple of years ago, we had a team building exercise in Cannes. That was lots of fun, however, I noticed that their was still an invisible wall that kept us from completely coming together. The language and cultural barrier is huge! The French culture is so different from Americans. Sometimes the French think that Americans are rude and there are times that Americans feel that the French are rude. Some of my co workers feel that the French have a lazy way about them. Interesting enough, I read an article in The Economist, titled: “The French Way of Work” where Schumpeter thinks that most outsiders believe that the French are lazy. In the New York office for example, there are some French employees that seem to never have much work to do. The American co-workers often ask what do the French do all day? But I ask myself, is it that the French are just more productive and get their work done easier and faster than the Americans? Or is it that they just have a very lax way about them and about work?
It seems that we are always trying to establish cultural synergy. Sometimes it feels as if we were just forced to work together and figure it out and it doesn’t matter whether you understand each other on a day to day basis as long as one always knows that the parent company is the ruler of all time. How do we create synergy? As we have learned in lesson 6 of our OLEAD 410: Leadership in a Global Context class, it is easier said than done! There is the risk of conflict because each culture are used to seeing the world from their own point of view and respond and seek resources in their own style and customs which sometimes can be viewed or perceived differently by the other cultures. That’s why it is so important, as Moran, Abramson and Moran (2014) suggest, to listen to each other and enter into each other’s private worlds to better understand each other and create synergy. As Moran, et al. (2014) say, “Total team perception and wisdom will then become more than the sum of the parts” (p.271).
I believe we just need to try harder to overcome any language barriers and obstacles. Engage, engage, engage! Together we can create the cultural synergy we are so desperately seeking. By being specific to what are expectations are and not being afraid to speak up when one does not understand what it is said, will be the first few steps leading toward the road toward cultural synergy.
23 things you don’t know about the French language until you live in France (2018) The Local, Image retrieved from: https://www.thelocal.fr/20180129/french-language-learn-things-you-dont-know-about-french-before-you-move-here
Desperately seeking synergy. (2015). The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE, (2185) Retrieved from http://ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/docview/1644486867?accountid=13158
Moran, R. T., Abramson, N. R., & Moran, S. V. (2014). Managing Cultural Differences. (9th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
Penn State University. (2018). Lesson 06: Cultural synergy. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1942644/modules/items/24935399.
Schumpeter. (2011) The French Way of Work: The Economist. Retrieved from: https://www.economist.com/business/2011/11/19/the-french-way-of-work