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Importance of cultural consideration at work

Updated on June 30, 2014

Cultural differences exist, especially when you are servicing clients from across the globe. As a business owner, there are times when you face ethnic singularities like handshake with a client in US is similar to a peck on the cheek of a client based in middle east. Cultural singularities may seem little, but they play a major role in corporate relations and communication.

The way your firm operates and the path you have chosen for achieving goals in future, every aspect needs to consider the cultural behavior of employees, clients and their respective professional habits. Enforcing a professional standard that you might have absorbed from your overseas experience, might not be a great idea.

That is what I was experiencing while working outside and trying to achieve the same results by doing similar things. We are humans, and we are all equal, but our habits may be entirely different. Also there is a huge difference in effectiveness when you change your habits, considering what culture you are working in and what for.

We as humans unconsciously try to escape discipline and rules

I was listening to Nasser Hussein, former skipper of the England cricket team, known for his astute leadership and people skills. In the video he shared that Graham Thorpe was a perfect example of anti-establishment. If the dinner dress is white shirt and black tie, Thorpe will come 45 minutes late, wearing a grey shirt with a floral tie. Nasser couldn't say anything to him in front of 14 other because he was the star performer, neither he could allow this indiscipline go on as that would have a negative impact on 14 disciplined players in the team. He came up with a simple solution, and made Thorpe the manager of dress code.

Apart from the applause showered upon Hussein for his exceptional solution and brilliant presence of mind, the story teaches us another important thing. No matter how talented, gifted or important a person is, nobody is above team discipline. Enforce a strict discipline rule intended for everybody. There always will be a few Thorpe in your team, and you can't have 15 “Sir, Yes Sir" members in your team. But, unless you aren't making sure that everyone is following the same rules, you are risking the most valuable responsibility you have as a captain, which is the team's unity and integrity.

There are several ways to handle situations where behavioral differences are the root cause of discipline, and you can easily make thief the cop, like Hussein did. Other prominent leaders and Nasser's contemporaries, Saurav Ganguly, would have done the same thing differently and Steve Waugh would have done it differently. The vital detail is that all great leaders ensured that team discipline is maintained over individual idiosyncrasies. If you can't be as innovative as Hussein, you can lead from the front and nurture discipline within your team. If the major issue with your team is punctuality, you can be super punctual and lead by example. Once you perform, others will listen to it when you command it. Or perhaps you can reconsider if the team correct in its worst state and is in need for a transformation.

Behavior and tendencies differ from culture to culture

Carrying the previous bit further, culture differs from country to country a lot. That is why it is becomes difficult to apply your knowledge of manpower management you acquired during your overseas education from Australia in India. You simply can't do that. As two distinctly different cultures, each with its own uniqueness, the Australian and Indian people management have some contrasting different undertones.

People in India would work differently than people in Australia, US or UK. So learning from different culture and trying to implement things can go wrong or might not work. We wish to have what other cultures have but we would need to work within in our cultural behavior to make things work.

On Culture rests the foundation of an organization's

“Someone important did say you can always replicate a company but not its culture.”

See, a company's culture is as unique and different as the cultures of different nations and races. While you might copy a certain things, like an Indian copying the perfect Oxford accent, but you cannot copy the whole idea, the Indian will hesitate a thousand times before calling a teacher by his name, or first name. Some cultural idiosyncrasies will always be there. You cannot help it, rather, you need to accept it and assimilate it in your corporate culture. If this were not important, the big MBA institutes would have been wasting their time on teaching international corporate relationship for at least 4 months.

Build the culture of the organization to build people

“This is difficult but can only be worked out by accepting what the culture is for the people and what is that you wish to bring.”

People will not adapt to new culture that is what we so fiercely resist, in personal life as well as professional life. But, once they agree, you have your core team formation ready. The expansion of company doesn’t depend on the available funds; it depends on the core team. So many companies spend years and decades without forming a core team and as a result, stay at the same place for all their life. Acceptance is a major factor here as well, as fighting against the tide is difficult unless you understand that the ship needs a different sail to row outside the tide. So accept the culture then find centre (core team) of influence and start your change which should work with the current culture.

People culturally might not be as good towards obeying some rules

“Some might or might not need to abide by the culture you want to bring. If you don’t want to change you would need to take over or it shall?”

When the company forms its culture, which is a very conscious thing to do, else you might start following something else unconsciously, by taking into account all the values and the cultures the core team represents and of course the vision and mission of the company, you achieve the best possible end result. You can sometime loose or get tired of the change while doing your best it won’t be time till you start to see it all over. It might require you to get authority to get a specific change be in place. I would suggest create a system and maintenance structure to help you achieve the change. Monitoring the change through measures is core part that should be built on the system you create.

Cultures merge together

“The culture of the background of people with the culture of what you want the organization to be should work together.”

Great people make great organization; I don’t remember where exactly I read it. Was it a Japanese company? A company is great when the employees are the company; they are the same soul, same entity. If a company is formed by bringing together some loosely connected individuals, who want to earn some money, from any company whatsoever, good luck in creating the next Apple. But, once the ideas, the ideologies, the aims and the cultures fall together like the pieces of a jig-saw puzzle and they are assembled by the owner to create the company, there is the next Suzuki in making. Some leaders would adapt the culture and start working towards brings in a newer change. Just like any other company comes and keeps the same system but changes the menu as per culture. The same is applicable to any project.

It is not easy to find such people. No mass recruits can give you that. That is why CSC (Computer Sciences Corporation) says, Eagles don’t flock, catch them one by one.


Culture can easily be the decisive point in the success of your organization. While understanding the nuances and utilizing them favorably can improve the performance so much, ignoring those considering them to be too small to bother about can easily call upon your failure.

Also important is how you implement and here the key tactics is the pushing the changes gradually and in a way which will not be noticed by the employees. Slowly you can change them exactly like you want and the whole organization will transform from a collection of individuals to become one big entity, performing like a well oiled machine.


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