Is it Any Wonder Cultures Clash?

19 May

Click here to read a  fascinating look at the way cultures of the world approach negotiations.

To quote the article “By focusing on the cultural roots of national behavior, both in society and business, we can foresee and calculate with a surprising degree of accuracy how others will react to our plans for them, and we can make certain assumptions as to how they will approach us.”

Well, that could be pretty handy, no? It has me recall a time when I worked in the Sheraton Hotel at the Brussels Airport. I was an intern and working in control of the food and beverages. The hotel had four restaurants plus room service, not to mention it fed its own employees. There was a lot of food and drinks being consumed.

All I had to do was measure yesterday’s levels against today’s levels and cross-reference that to the orders being submitted by the various restaurant chefs. Pretty easy I thought. Until cultures started clashing.

In other words, If there were four bottles of a particular wine yesterday and there were only 2 today, I should see that two bottles were ordered at some point in one of the restaurants that day.

I had noticed that the cheeses of one particular restaurant were at lower totals than their corresponding orders. “How should I reconcile this?” I asked my boss, a very uninterested and rather dumb fellow.

“I’d ask the Chef!” he said.

“I have already done that. He believes my math is wrong. It isn’t. Someone is stealing cheese. What is my next step?” I said.

“I’d ask the Chef if he is stealing cheese.” m boss said sarcastically. I could see he wasn’t going to offer me guidance.

I did go talk to the Chef and it turned into a raging argument with both of us accusing the other of lying. I ended the conversation with “Look, I’m just an intern, I could care less if you’re stealing cheese. Don’t call me a liar. I’ve got a report to turn in, I’m going to turn it in with my numbers. I’ll be in America by the time the GM reads it. Your call, Frenchie.”

Had I only had this chart, I’d have known his yelling was simply step three in French negotiations and I would have been so much better off! See how us Americans lay the cards all out? “Where is the missing cheese, Monsieur?” I spelled it out, I confronted and provoked him, we had a fight…but we did not ever reach clarity.

Had I understood their culture better, I could have simply restated the logic and we’d be good. This sort of chart could be so useful for folks in international business. I just found it very interesting.


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