Why people from some cultures do not escalate issues

Often, managers ask my why people from certain cultures are reticent or refuse to escalate issues via email/phone call when appropriate.

Let us  take an example.

Tada from Chang Mai is a product manager for Product Q 4 in Asia Pac. Recently, a leading VP from HQ returned home with a long list of issues to be fixed. Tada had shared the list of  concerns only after having been asked. Let’s see why Tada never escalated  before he was asked.

1) Tada prefers harmony to conflict. Tada believes that conflict or bad feelings need to be avoided at all costs because these unpleasant  states are almost irreversible.

2) Tada believes that the role of his boss is to know things and act. If he does not know, he should know. If the boss does not know, he should ask. If the boss does not ask, it is not  Tada’s role to tell him and “upset” him or disrespect him.

3)  Tada believes that maintaining hierarchy is more important than resolving specific issues.

4) Tada believes that he will be “stick out as a trouble maker” is he escalates, and while escalation may solve a specific issue, his  reputation within the organization will be tarnished.

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3 thoughts on “Why people from some cultures do not escalate issues

  1. I totally agree with Tada, if you have problems with a boss, you either accept and try to solve the situation in a proper manner or change jobs, is a different story if the problems are the employees, because the boss can tell, his employees what needs to be improved or needs to be known or done, without causing a mayor problem.

  2. There are some culture that are more tolerant and do not wish any confrontational. They are more patient and aligning to their religious belief. Confrontational is not a bad word after all and it depends on how one interpret it? It can be described as a contest of idea. Generally speaking, this new world is getting a bit more less tolerance.

    My 2 cents worth.

  3. It is often difficult to break out of cultural norms. However, even if culture was not the main factor in Tada’s choice not to confront issues he may have been having, there is still the possible connection between Tada’s restraint and his survival instincts. Most people subconsciously associate speaking out with death. It is almost a direct correlation in there minds. Speak out and die. i.e. If he thinks speaking out will/could make him lose his job then it will run counter to his survival instincts. In my observation, even when speaking out could help the company as a whole improve their business and ultimately contribute to even greater success for Tada, many people will opt for keeping their mouths shut and avoiding the risk no matter what culture they are from.

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