Teamwork is a quirk; some do it. Some don’t. So let’s get real. (revised)

Different cultures gets things done differently.

It is true that Sam (US) from R&D and Cheryl (UK) from Sales can work things out between them in the spirit of teamwork and escalate only the very contentious issues to their bosses. But Paco (Spain) from R&D and Yi (Shanghai) from Sales will be castigated by their bosses if they work out issues between them without the explicit apriori agreement of their bosses on almost every detail. Paco’s and Yi’s boss do not get things done the way that Sam and Cheryl’s boss get things done.

Teamwork in global organizations presents a challenge because the values needed to drive teamwork are not universally shared. In some languages, the work “team work” does not even exist. In many places in the world, bosses expect that subordinates do what they are told and not “accommodate” their peers from parallel organizations.

Attempts to force feed western style teamwork backfire all the time in the global work place.

Authoritarian managers kowtow to HR and corporate campaigns to improve teamwork, and then go back home and they continue to behave as they have been programmed to: directive, authoritarian and compassionate.

While there is a lot to be said for establishing across the board corporate values and desired behaviours, these artifacts are rarely implemented.

I suggest that attempts to drive behavioural uniformity be more pragmatic. Deeply ingrained cultural behaviours cannot be defined away by empty slogans such as “teamwork” is our middle name.

Teamwork is a quirk; some do it. Some don’t. Now let’s get real about how to leverage the talent we have in the global configuration of organizations.


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