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Strategies For Cross-Cultural Workplaces


Hey, how's it going, everyone. I'll change this. Maybe we can see it better, thank you for a great intro. I'm Juan Pablo Flores, senior program manager at GitHub education team where I oversee a couple programs like campus experts and I have the honor of working with students from across the globe to support them on the journey of teaching others so that they can better prepare before they graduate and start careers as professional developers. One of the big changes of educational team is that as Nancy mentioned we're part of the few teams that hire folks from countries where we wouldn't usually hire.

So having people from different regions helps us to have broader overview for a new team member it can be frustrating that cultural barriers might stop them from achieving potential that they know they're capable of.

It is an important moment in time to consider how other cultures work. Remote work and the reduced need to be in the office. So in this talk I wanted to make sure that I could share with you some of the findings that I've gained through this time and especially I want to share key cultural characteristic that you can analyze in order to better understand different behaviors on your team and even on yourself.

That will help you clarify how to respond to them. This is teamwork how culture influences the way you work and team as well. Before we move ahead, I just want to be honest there is no golden rule. We speak of topics and we take everything with a grain of salt and this might be a way for you to create stereotypes about certain cultures but bringing more tools you can use on your workplace.

Now, to clarify how culture works, I wanted to clarify how it impacts our everyday life. I'm going to reference a few authors, one is Edward T hall. This is a model called cultural iceberg.

And in this model as mentioned in the title, culture might be seen as a iceberg where the very small volume of the iceberg is visible and most of it is under the surface making it hard to see. When we think about other cultures, we base ourselves in how we perceive or think we perceive other cultures. This is influenced by pop culture and mass media. Unfortunately we must be aware of how this influences us and how it has created an unconscious vision towards what other cultures are without ever experiencing them on our own. In anthropology, this is known as something called collective imagination. And it's a space in our heads where we share perceptions towards something and we try to make sense of the information that we have received from media outlets and try to translate that into real world. This is a place we have agreed on stuff. An example of this hits home. So in 2015 James Bond Spectra started rolling out in cinema. Shows Mexico City downtown and filled with people using masks and having celebrating the day of the dead. If I ask you all if you ever imagine this is something that would happen in Mexico. Most of you would agree that is correct.

But nothing further from reality. In fact, we didn't used to have a Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City but James Bond movie created a notion this was reality city government started one because tourists came to the city to see the parade. That's how Mexico City started to have a Day of the Dead parade. Thanks basically to James Bond movie.

Something very important that I would like to talk about is that most U.S. films will take over Mexican or Mexico with a film meaning they will use filters to show a little yellow which is weird trying to these movies are trying to make sure that Mexico looks like a desert where we have a full spectrum of colors in the city.

So let's talk about the -- what's about the surface and visual portion of the iceberg is what's known as external culture. Language, tradition, any culture that has to do with how you dress and things you buy. You get to choose how you present yourself with clothing or language but also how you don't present yourself with certain spaces. You are also able to compartmentalize depending on where you're going and who you're meeting. We have something called deep culture and this is characterized by not being understood by outsiders, these are things that drive behaviors and how we interact with others. For example person's values and beliefs play a fundamental role in how they choose to communicate and even make decisions. Culture's affect every day work environment. So no one's surprise behavioral elements unconscious bias, gender roles, status and even concept emerged from cultural context. Yet our core challenge is a few people are conscious of how assumptions and elements play a role in how they interact with others. These are challenges, a little bit hard to change where we're trying to -- when we try to change our behaviors since they're not visible we need to take additional effort or make additional effort to be able to modify them.

What we've seen above and below the surface I wanted to talk more about how Hall's iceberg model has been important. It emphasizes the culture to relate to people from different backgrounds and understanding cultures of people that we work with and even ourselves, we can gain a lot of insight into the ways of thinking.

Which can help improve communication and avoid misunderstanding. It is not an easy task but we're not the first ones to ask these questions. Most of all us understand that values are a result of our culture what's good and acceptable and bad and unacceptable. Hofstede built one of the first bases for statistical analysis for research supported by IBM in the 1970s where they surveyed 165,000 employees in the multiple offices that the company had across the globe.

The main goal of the research was to find core values that could help management and business in each of the countries, after the research, half the team developed a framework known as the Hofstede cultural dimensions which was originally 5 dimensions and recently 6. For purposed of this talk, we'll keep it to 5. First is power distance. The extent to which society accepts that power is distributed unequally. In other words, it is a measure of how much a culture values relationships where there is a large gap between those who have power and those who don't.

Cultures that store high on power distance tend to be more hierarchical. People accept and expect that there will be large differences in power and status between individuals. In these cultures that there be a strong emphasis on obedience and less on democratic decision making. Cultures that score low tend to be more egalitarian. People expect power and status will be distributed equally. There may be less emphasis on -- more likely to question and challenge. Some main characteristics we've seen how we compare high power and low distance how the next matrix. Perception of inequality is kind of like normalized as we mentioned before. On the other hand, in low power distance cultures, it is seen as something abnormal and wrong, something that needs to be fixed within a specific country. On the other side we have perception of hierarchies, which is more powerful individuals are above the person in high power distance where in low power distance they see power. We can talk about perception of superiors where more powerful individuals are seen as above the rest in high power distance while in low power distance cultures, hierarchy helps select order again.

The other thing we found that was interesting and supported by research in education, most of students and over all high secondary level education respect is the core priority while in low power distance cultures. Independence is a core element taught. Last, but not least when talking about work, the relation with manager in high power distance cultures tends to be about being told what to do. While in low power distance it's much more about being consulted about decision making. Let's review some countries and how can we position different countries in this index. Something I wanted to cover is power distance is not -- let's say a global metric but something that is built on top of comparisons between countries.

So in this specific metric, China tends to be the one that score highest in terms of power distance and Russia, Italy in middle. Netherlands below and one that has the least power distance in research is Denmark.

How is this seen in culture in these countries? In countries with high power distance, it's in equal way. On the other hand, low power distance countries are more equal in terms of income. In terms of class, high power distance countries tend to have large low class income. Or large low class societies. While in low power distances they tend to have large middle classes. In terms of power it is maintained by a low number of people while in low power distance countries if is more distributed across the population. Last, but not least in politics and conflict, fighting is the way to solve it while in low, politics is solved peacefully. People tend to be more diplomatic. Uncertainty avoidance. We talk about uncertainty avoidance this has to do with how people react to unclear events and this requires further understanding of what are the rules, circumstances and threats that individuals face. There is how someone manages stress and anxiety and traveling. Uncertainty avoidance countries, we can start with perception of uncertainty where uncertainty is in high uncertain avoidance countries something that might be seen as risk whereas, low is something novel and generally accepted. This might be will this is pretty much lower and at work in this high uncertainty avoidance countries they stay in job for long periods of time. These populations tend to be less willing to take the risk of moving between jobs while in low uncertainty avoidance countries changing jobs common, low uncertainty avoidance is more about curiosity and what they can build on top of that and high uncertainty countries tend to set up rules as a must so they can have a way to keep order and themselves in a certain level that they will feel comfortable with. So low uncertainty countries tends to not like having rules. These tend to be more flexible with rules. In turn countries we have high uncertainty avoiding side we have Mexico, mush a, France, or Middle East and North Africa, middle U.S. and Netherlands and low section we have Denmark again. Is something interesting is we can start if we compare countries with power distance and uncertainty avoidance we can build relations and cultures in our organization. One study that was interesting is what's the perception of organization in these countries. Low uncertainty avoid answer countries and low power distance organizations are seen as a market where everyone can be part of or everyone can be -- have a voice and decision making. Countries with low power distance there's a high uncertainty avoidance they tend to refer to organizations as machine where everyone gets to be part of the machine and make sure it is well oiled but at the same time they want to make sure the machine is working correctly so the results as expected. LATAM and Russia and a fuse folks have power and they try to keep themselves in that relation or in that will hierarchy so things are the same across time and last, but not least we have the case of India and China where there's low uncertainty avoidance but high power distance and this is something you've heard in the past where they're referred to as family and this is quite interesting because countries like India and China tend to have organizations that are family based or family businesses. Power distance a small amount of people have power and in that sense either families get power for a long time or pass to the next-generation within the same family. So organizations and companies being described in this family is fairly common.

The next want to cover is long versus short term orientation. And this refers to the degree in which society has future oriented perspectives. Cultures that tend to score tend to be patient and thrifty. Cultures that score low on this metric tending to pragmatic and have short term horizon. More present in the moment. They tend to be less tradition minded and more and have less respect for overall traditions. So we see core characteristics on both sides. Perception of time and rewards. Perception of good and evil. Long term orientation they see that possibility of evolve and change. They see same thing about perception of good and evil. Change through time and become good or evil as time happens. This is fixed. This is because most of these countries -- and you can see these in the last item here on the table. Perception of time is just about past and present. So definitely the perception of being good and evil is fixed. So they could potentially move from one to the other can be really hard.

On the other hand, let's talk about self-perception is how people in cultures tend to see themselves and long term tend to be more humble in the sense that learned that through time people are able to change and able to grow into the future. But in short term orientation countries, positive signals so people tend to only look into the mast and present but have a bias towards what are positive results they've had with the work that they have done. Center of the world or part of the multiple other cultures, long term orientation cultures. Tend to learn from other countries tend to be proud of country. Closed minded of own culture. Long term orientation index which will effectively benefit more points in a way to say to think long term goals and we have China, Germany and Russia as some of the discount countries that tend to look for themselves in long term. There are ways to see this in society. Score higher in mathematics. Score higher in investing savings for future and short term oriented society especially at work they tend to long term oriented society tend to use metrics such as overall market share. Something interesting here is what is the attitude towards time that these cultures have? Consider for example how different historical events and societal evolution might change how we develop a relationship about time. Think of results that ringing a bell or using a whistle to start a clear start and most of the day have had on people at that time. Unless they change from being flexible. Going to factories and working on assembly lines tied them up to a strict aimed to max mid efficiency. It's known as chronometrics. Polychromic and cultures that work on a task at a specific moment in time. There isn't one being better than the other. More present at work. Monochromic principles setting update and time is inflexible. They expect people to be on time or accept a short extension. Sow things like arriving five minutes late. Monochromic schedule another time to gather if goals of meeting are not met. Polychromic cultures have lax relationship with time. People, relationships, and often extend to complete a task. In personal meetings and appointments there is no judgment or worries about arriving past time agreed on. Might have several tasks. If a meeting agenda needs to be completed or not fulfilled, they most likely will extend that to make sure they have covered all the items. The next item I want to review is individualism versus collectivism which refers to the degree to which individuals are integrated into groups. In other words, it is a measure of how culture values autonomy or expression of an individual versus a collective need and goals of the group. Plies high value on personal freedom and privacy. Cultures tend to have a more competitive nature where the success of the individual is highly valued. Cultures tend to be collectivist. Strong cohesive groups such as extended families, clan or an organization. People tend to have a strong sense of loyalty and commitment to the group and place high value in social harmony and maintaining relationships.

Will they have a comparative nature where group success is more important than individual success.

Some of the core characteristics about individualist versus collectivist cultures is first of all, individualist cultures ties between individuals are weak or collectivist cultures tend to be strong.

Identification is cultures one of them is identification is about yourself while in collectivist cultures tend to identify themselves as a group. Last but not least in competition in individualist cultures as you might imagine between individuals or collectivist it is between groups.

Something that's important about collective cultures is they have a strong impact on communication.

So in high -- you have pretty much categorizing two types of communication and collectivist or individualistic cultures. Would have ways where people rely heavily on nonverbal cues and share experiences that convey meaning.

Communication is often implicit and less reliant on words. High cultures are people rely heavily on numbers facial expressions, voice and body language to convey meaning. People share similar backgrounds and experiences and values which leads to a high level of understanding and mutual trust. Explicit instructions or explanations, communication is highly dependent on context and relationship between the people involved. And people in high context cultures are built on different -- these relationships are built on trust and understanding over a long period of time rather than short term interactions. Examples of high context cultures are Japan, China and Arabic countries and many tend to be tight knit groups.

Low context cultures people rely on words and explicit. This helps to convey meaning. Often more direct and some characteristics are people rely heavily on verbal communication meaning they have communications that are explicit and direct. Cultures tend to have diverse background experiences and values which leads to a lower level of understanding and mutual trust. Instructions and explanations clearly and directly this is less dependent on relationships of people involved.

some examples of low context cultures include the U.S., Canada, Germany and many other western cultures. Culture is individualistic or not is by other countries in this case we have in collectivist cultures count ribs like China, Russia, Japan and India and more individualistic ones are U.S., Netherlands, Denmark and Australia.

Something that -- the way we see individualist and collectivist are some countries that are part of the individualistic tend to be wealthier countries, there are several constraints about human rights and some collective countries the use of the word "i" can be seen as a taboo: It what's even more interesting is when we compare individualism and power distance, there tends to be a very direct relation where in countries where there's low power distance now, the next dimension is about masculine versus feminine and this refers to the degree to which traditional masculine work, will assertiveness, material success. Modestly and quality of life. Culture that score high on masculinity are expected to be assertive, ambitious and they tend to have more competitive nature where success is defined in terms of wealth power, status. In these cultures there might be a higher degree of gender discrimination where gender roles are more pronounced and men are expected to be providers and protectors. Women are expected to be caretakers. Others tend to be more feminine where men and women are modest, caring for others and focused on quality of life. These cultures have a more comparative nature success is happiness and wellbeing. Responsibilities and role. Something that is important about this dimension and I know this might add a lot of noise is this dimension should not be confused with gender identity or sexual orientation.

In this case, masculine versus feminine cultures, fundamental role for feminine cultures family is top priority, where masculine countries work is top priority. They tend to be sympathetic where masculine countries reject weaknesses and isolate people that show these weaknesses.

In terms of roles, both genders both men and women have the right in some would say to cry but neither should fight. Masculine countries, boys should not show that much of an emotion and 10 more to fight. Last, but not least, sex in feminine countries tends to be a way to relate and build relationships and strengthen relationships where in masculine countries it's a way to measure performance. For these this is masculinity index which is what men like and women like and countries that tend to have high index of masculinity, number one is Japan followed by Mexico and U.S., Japan, Italy. Countries more feminine are Netherlands, Russia and Islamic countries. Some ways we perceive societies in every day life is they have a larger functional illiterate population. I'm adding here an additional dimension to this whole presentation. And this is the notion of space. So even when we don't think about it beyond office aesthetics, the space between us and others is revealing and when we're having conversations with friends, we tend to allow them to get closer to us you can have Polycontacts such as hug or kiss is discomfort. Some might get people into this zone without us wanting people to join these circles, capacity. Those of us in this situation, might have tendency to get released from certain violations of our personal space. Related to coworkers where you feel comfortable working with them but not interacting too close and last, but not least is here range of emotions can go very different directions let's say for example when someone gets too close it might be described as invasive while staying too far away from each other could be considered cold or rude. This affects us in workspaces, just as space can be considered public or intimate, when engaging on online communication, people have different definitions of what should be shared in private channels or public ones. Sharing private might be interpreted as intimate exposing private information. People might have a tendency to kind of like --

People might have a preference for sharing whether they thud share public or private. Some folks might feel they should interact work and wait until next to have a conversation. In other cases people never send a message, counterparts can see these as avoidant or poor communication skills. They feel they will interrupt the work they're doing. So I know we're really short on time so I want to make sure we go through stuff we talked about today. Go really fast to what we talked about today just like from this case external and external culture as things we can relate to. Deep culture as something we might not be aware of but definitely have an impact on overall relationship and last, but not least we defined six different dimensions that might be affecting these, have more power distance and base themselves on hierarchies, uncertainty avoidance, tend to be situations of war. Tend to have a lower uncertainty avoidance while those tend to have higher uncertainty avoidance, long or short term orientation meaning whether someone will have a long vision of themselves or short term vision of themselves in the future meaning that they take into consideration how can they be wealth and other stuff. How much people relate to group of people. Masculine versus feminine which has to do as general as masculine and feminine and last, but not least public and private spaces. What might make people feel they can share stuff in a private space or public space and that they will feel they can trust spaces to be the right place to be. Essentially that's all that I have for you all today. I know that we have a few seconds before we finish. Yeah, Nancy.