There are cultures that get most things done by leveraging personal relationships (and even by trading so-called favours) to speed up or by-pass process, get things done now, clean up later and solve routine as well as stubborn, irritating problems.
Example-Simon needs an electrician to check out wiring at station 3 after a repair. He calls Vlad, who is about to go home, to “do me a favour and check out station 3 now because I don’t want to come in early tomorrow morning for your scheduled inspection.” Vlad agrees; deal done. And Simon owns Vlad a favour.
Another example: Todd from Engineering and Chava from Purchasing take part in face to face management offsite for next-generation managers. Todd’s requests gets preferential treatment from Chava whilst Chava never gets push-back from Todd when she prefers a certain vendor with whom the firm has a special relationship, albeit their poor level of customer service.
And then came covid. Offsite done by Teams. Todd and Chava’s relationship has cooled. Simon and Vlad have not had breakfast and lunch together in over a year due to “covid capsules”. Relationships have cooled. No favours exchanged. No short cuts. Nada.
Zoom calls, Whatsapp groups and other “colder” avenues of communication have taken the “warmth” away from the task. The task is a cold thing that needs to be done. No one needs to be cajoled or appreciated. Work needs to be done.
All cultures find this transition somewhat difficult. Other cultures find it crippling.
To be more exact, in cultures where relationships formed from doing tasks, the transition to the covid and semi-post covid mode is a minor and unpleasant challenge.
In cultures where good relationships served as a platform for getting tasks done, the “carpet” has been swept away and getting things done is a nightmare.
Symptoms of the “carpet being swept away” include a slow down in getting issues resolved, mutual blaming, far more cover-my-ass-communication and lots of things stuck in the pipeline waiting for escalation.
So-what are the solutions? To be honest, I have none that bring us close to what the situation was before covid. On-line happy hours, sharing personal experiences remotely and a million other tricks I have read about don’t cut the chase.
(Or maybe I am too old? After all, I preferred standing in line to order movie tickets outside the theatre rather than ordering tickets on-line.)
However if you are finding it hard to do get along well with people who come from relationship-driven business culture, I suggest: travelling to meet them as soon as possible, talking about things other than “work”, sharing mutual interests, small talk before and after meetings, coordinating strategies before meetings, and trying to avoid trust-busting escalations.