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Working Across Cultures and Knowing When to Shut Up

Erin Meyer

September 24, 2014

"Today, whether we work with colleagues in Dusseldorf or Dubai, Braslia 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."

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