Acute trust issues between people in different geographies in global organizations is not uncommon. This post looks at what can be done to address the issue, especially when the speed of doing business in the global organization exacerbates the level of mistrust.
Speed exacerbates mistrust between various cultures because it accentuates conflict. When the cycle of business is slower, conflict can be mitigated in the context of sustainable relationships. This is not the case when organizational life is moving rapidly, powered by technology and by the 24/7 “follow the sun” cycle of organizational life. In such instances, decisions need to be made on the spot and in real time, imposing a style of “openness” and directness, which are seen as trust breakers in Asia, many parts of Africa, and South America.
To be effective in dealing with trust issues caused by speed, the western form of conflict management serves as one option. The western values of directness, openness and expediency certainly have their advantages in getting things to move faster. No doubt-the ability to move quickly is the greatest forte of the western style of doing business.
However the idea that “face saving and opaqueness just slow things down”, which sounds like a compelling argument for the dominance of western values does not justify (in my view) force-feeding western values.
I suggest a different approach when dealing with the mistrust inflicted by “speed”. If we agree that speed forces communication which is too direct for some employees, there are several prophylactic steps which can be taken.
1) Focus on staffing of key positions appropriately. It makes no sense whatsoever to have people with substandard communication skills and poor emotional intelligence in “busy junctions”, regardless of their technical ability.
2) Use expats and people of mixed ethnicity to “cushion” areas of acute conflict, instead of focusing on “Americanizing a Thai”, or creating a Japanese Israeli.
3) Instead of promulgating a simplistic “can do” attitude, acknowledge the problems and difficulties of execution even whilst moving at high speed. A gung ho “can do” attitude is deeply flawed when applied blindly to deep rooted problems of trust caused by speed. Demonstrating humility in face of great challenge may be more useful than being naive or arrogant cheer leading.
5) Focus efforts on a deep understanding of cultural gaps, providing a detailed protocol for communication in 3 areas- oral, email and chat. Ensure that team member foster relationships instead of just expediting tasks.
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