When diversity and cultural training address the wrong issues the wrong way

Charles is a product expert /evangelist in a North America based company. Charles owns adapting the specs for each specific market where his product (to be released in 6 months) is to be sold.

Charles lives in a culture where his utmost loyalty is to his career, and Charles could easily walk away from his company for a 20% raise, especially if the commuting time is less. Charles does not believe the company is loyal to him; Charles believes that in another recession “I would be thrown to the dogs without an afterthought.”

Jaya (male, Indonesian) is an account manager in Jakarta. Since Jaya’s mom is British, Jaya speak perfect English. Jaya has always worked for “foreign firms” and managed relationships with the Indonesia based clients. Jaya sees utmost value in the local  relationships he has with his customers. Into his relationships, Jaya “plugs in” the product of the company for which he is working.“Today I will sell them something; when I change companies, I will sell them something else”.  Jaya must always be seen as highly credible in the view of his customers, who have a very low tolerance for half-cooked, just released products, since customer service is done out of a regional hub in Taipei, which is too culturally and geographically removed.

Charles wants to visit a huge Indonesian client to push his product. Charles does not want Jaya to be in this meeting because “Jaya throws too many blocks”.

Jaya has emailed corporate that if Charles visits this Indonesian customer without his presence, Jaya will leave the company the same day. Jaya does not trust Charles, who “flies in, makes promises, flies out, and  leaves me to manage the mess.” Jaya believes Charles can quit “tomorrow”, so Jaya does not trust the product or Charles, which are one in Jaya’s view.

A solution was found! Charles took part in a webinar on “how to behave at a client visit in Indonesia”. Charles learnt that Indonesians generally do not show enthusiasm. He also made a note that he was expected to remain calm. This was his major takeaway.

Charles’ visit was a disaster and Jaya quit. And this is what happens when our training addresses the wrong issues, the wrong way.

Cultural and diversity training needs to address matters of process design, business assumptions,  as well as  provide employees with mutual dependencies in specific situations a protocol for interaction. The training needs to be tailored made, and  driven by business needs.

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3 thoughts on “When diversity and cultural training address the wrong issues the wrong way

  1. Allon,

    Is this correct: Too many Americans think that they are primarily selling a product in cultures where the the customers are primarily buying a relationship.


  2. Wow Allon… I am impressed over the fact that someone else actually KNOWS about the things we are trying to convince our clients to GET TO KNOW by paying for our services! 🙂 Great to read your blogs Allon and would love to meet you some day to discuss and talk about our mutual experiences. 🙂
    We do run “Cross Culture Workshops” for MNCs but not that many thinks it’s an essential thing to invest in so… but the ones that understand the need for it and do prioritize it they succeed very well in Asia.

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