Issue 121 - 03 | Working Across Cultures and Knowing When to Shut Up

By Erin Meyer
Published Sept. 24, 2014 1:00 p.m.
“Today, whether we work with colleagues in Dusseldorf or Dubai, Brasília or Beijing, New York or New Delhi, we are all part of a global network (real or virtual, physical or electronic) where success requires navigating through wildly different cultural realities. Unless we know how to decode other cultures and avoid easy-to-fall-into cultural traps, we are easy prey to misunderstanding, needless conflict, and deals that fall apart.

Yet most managers have little understanding of how local culture impacts global interaction. Even those who are culturally informed, travel extensively, and have lived abroad often have few strategies for dealing with the cross-cultural complexity that affects their team’s day-to-day effectiveness. Often the cross-cultural challenges that arise could be avoided by learning a few basic principles. For example, the answer to the simple question, ‘When should I speak and when should I be quiet?’ varies dramatically from one culture to another.”

About Erin Meyer | Erin Meyer is a professor at INSEAD, one of the world’s leading international business schools. Her work focuses on how the world’s most successful global leaders navigate the complexities of cultural differences in a multicultural environment. Living and working in Africa, Europe, and the United States prompted Meyer’s study of the communication patterns and business systems of different parts of the world. Her framework allows international executives to pinpoint their leadership preferences, and compare their methods to the management styles of other cultures. Her work has appeared in Harvard Business Review, Singapore Business Times, and on In 2013 Erin was selected by the Thinkers50 Radar list as one of the world’s up-and-coming business thinkers.

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