We live in a global world these days. The growing interdependence of national economies has created a demand for managers and employees sophisticated in international business and skilled in working with people from other cultures. International businesses can be traced back for centuries but today’s escalation in production and distribution has created new demands on the competitive international business environment.

Sometimes, it is our resistance to change and adapt which make it a little difficult to work in a setup different from us and our culture.

For Example, IKEA has been present in India for 28 years in the form of sourcing products from suppliers and then shipping the products all over the world. In India, IKEA has 48 suppliers and by that extent employ 4,00,000 coworkers. When IKEA India was first being established, as much as 50 Indian workers were being employed and trained to work the “IKEA” way.  These are some of the best practices used by the company to merge Indian sensibilities with European work culture. And well, the practice could work for anybody working for a global brand locally.

Concept of “Being on Time”

Indians tend to be late for everything. It may not be an intentional thought or a rude gesture but just something that has seeped into the system. It has almost become customary. The perception of time has been engraved into the Indian culture, where tardiness is accepted. Well, it does slow down productivity and in fact drags the deadlines further. Being punctual and on time is a very good professional ethic.

Tip: Respecting others time is as important as respecting own time.

Competitive spirit

The Supply and Demand of resources versus jobs in India has a disparity due to the overwhelming population count. So, inherently Indians are raised to compete to get the best spot, best deal, best job etc. It becomes a race to go to the right schools and work towards certain goals in a competitive manner. There is also a certain correlation to the competitiveness in India to loosing face and not being allowed to make mistakes. However western world differ a little in that thought. They are a little easy on things, believe that it is OK to make mistakes and to learn. But the Indian culture does not allow mistakes like that.

Tip: Your only competition is you. So work towards improving and not winning!


Accept the similarities, Respect the differences

There will be similarities as well as differences in the cultures. No matter what the culture of any organization or country is, the foundation always is the basic need to be good by doing good. Treating everybody with respect and inculcating the feeling of togetherness.

In India, people care very much for the family life as they often grow up in extended families and on a daily basis can have many family members to relate and cooperate with. In fact this very strong social bond can be an example to follow by foreign coworkers.  If a coworker in an Indian company would get sick and go to the hospital it would be customary for someone from work to go and visit, and this can be a virtue that the western brand can include in their practice. It’s not just about working together but to also find connection about lifestyle and values and beliefs.

Tip: Love, care, nurture……Share and help them spread.

Hierarchical structures and Dignity of Labour 

Because of our history of serving under the British rule for a good 200 years, a certain hierarchical structure has evolved over time. India is very hierarchical and this is shown in the power relationships between individuals and is dominant in official and business contexts. There could be a distinctive separation between managers and employee. However other than the job profiles, everybody needs to be treated equally. And no matter what the job profile is, every human is entitled to receive respect for he /she performs his/her job with dignity and pride.

Tip: Take pride in what you do and appreciate success in what others do.

An important change in adapting to a new work culture is the process of unlearning what you already know in order to learn something new. There could be many barriers. Linguistic, proxemics, value system etc. But if best of both the cultures can be integrated then it becomes beneficial for the employee to have a joyous experience of working.

You may also want to read other articles written by the same author ‘Decoding Stress‘, ‘Communication made easy…‘, ‘Personal Finance Planning’, ‘Are you financially fit?’, ‘3 M’s… Mantra for Morale‘ , ‘Tips for effective interaction with management’, ‘Adapting to global work culture – locally

About the author: 

Padmaja Acharya – From the ancient language of Sanskrit comes my name ‘Padmaja’, derived from Padma (meaning lotus) and Ja (meaning to take birth from).  A woman as created by the divine.  An Engineer and MBA by virtue of education. A dance choreographer, teacher by virtue of passion. A soft skill trainer and educator by profession.  An author and speaker as guided by my calling. This is what encompasses me.

 (The author is a guest blogger at Her Second Innings. The opinions expressed are those of the author.)

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