Communication with Foreign Co-Workers on Overseas Assignments

There is no doubt that we are globalizing ourselves and that we are more diverse than before. The United States has become a land of many cultures. Communication has become better through technology and the socialization of the human species. Yet, how can we prepare employees for an overseas assignment? This is something that can be seen in two ways, a structured plan for the assignment itself and the in-depth cultural communication factor.

In an article in the Harvard Business Review, Andy Molinsky and Melissa Hahn write that there are five ways one can succeed on an overseas assignment in a structured way.

  • Have a purpose and a person who can promote that purpose. Having the right person to make this assignment work is quite important, especially in cultural understanding and understanding of the project.
  • Having a close connection to home works well, that way the person overseas doesn’t lose touch with what he or she is doing for the company. A good mentor would work.
  • Communication between the worker and employer needs to be constant for best results.
  • Before leaving, it is ideal to start on talks of how the assignment was beneficial and what was learned.
  • The company can distribute what it learned from that experience.

We often forget that to have a successful assignment overseas, the communication between the employee and the foreign team is crucial. We need to consider cultural, social, and language barriers amongst diversity and work. There is no denying that “…English is now the global language of business.” as mentioned by Tsedel Neeley in her article Global Business Speaks English. But this doesn’t really help many. My interview with Dr. Joann Jones, Executive Director – Leadership Development for Cummins, led to these tips.

  • Prepare the assignment ahead of time so that everyone working on the assignment can understand the assignment.
  • Know that there will be a need for clarification as language and cultural barriers are present.
  • If possible, know the language and culture of where one may stay can improve results.
  • An ending follow-up on the assignment will be helpful, especially a written documentation of the progress and results. This may help clarify any miscommunications.

Making sure an overseas assignment is completely worked out is the main goal, but knowing the cultural factor and having a structured plan can lead to a successful assignment.

 

By Alvaro Garcia, Business Major – IUPUC

Have a dysfunctional team and don’t know what to do?

“dysfunctional – (of a trait or condition) failing to serve an adjustive purpose

                                                             -http://webster-dictionary.org/definition/dysfunctional

Dysfunctional teams occur everywhere, whether it is at home with a family or in a work force. Not everything runs smoothly or as planned in which makes a team “dysfunctional”. This is not necessarily a bad thing but definitely doesn’t make things easier.  I am going to share my thoughts on how to regroup and get back on track if things fall apart.

Step 1: Take a breath! Things may seem shaky right now but can be fixed with cooperation and determination by everyone on the team.  You need to come up with a common goal. A goal that if not everyone then the majority agrees on. If in a work setting this could be a finished product. If you are unable to agree on a central goal then try again. Compromise may be the key to come up with a single goal that everyone can work towards.

Step2: Once a common goal has been agreed on then as a team you need to come up with a plan or steps that will help you reach the goal. This can be as simple or as detailed as you want it. If you had tried a more detail plan before and it didn’t work then try something more simple that is 1, 2, 3 step process. This may make it easier for everyone to understand what you, as a team, are trying to accomplish.

Step3: Now for the tricky part. As a team decide if you want to do everything together step-by-step or assign parts to the members. This could be difficult if everyone doesn’t pull their share of the work. If this occurs then they may be the reason you got sidetracked in the first place. Make sure everyone is being included in the decision process.  Keep an open mind if other team members are trying to come up with a separate plan. If they do then ask them to share and you may be able to incorporate there plan into the group plan.

Step4: Take another breath. The hard part is over. Now everyone needs to trust in each other that you as a team can achieve your goal. Have group meeting to discuss where you are at in the project. This can help air out any issues that members are struggling with or answer any questions. Hold each other accountable. If one falls behind then everyone can end up behind. Share what you and your team has accomplished so that everyone is included; you never know someone may have a great idea that can take your goal to the next level.

Rabecka Ward

Differences Between Group Work and Team Work

The following is an article written by X204 Business Communication Adjunct Lecturer Robin Fritz for Chron.com, the online business portal for the Houston Chronical:

Overview – In the business world, the words “group” and “team” seem interchangeable, but smart managers realize there are subtle – but important – differences.  Recognizing these differences early on will help small business managers to more effectively lead people to achieve their organizational goals.

What is a Group? – A group in the workplace is usually comprised of three or more people who recognize themselves as a distinct unit or department, but who actually work independent of each other to achieve their organizational goals.  For example, a small business may have a client services group, but one person may focus on local clients, one person may focus on regional clients and a third person may assist both of those individuals.  Also, groups tend to be permanent fixtures with ongoing goals or responsibilities.

What is a Team? – A team is comprised of three or more people who may come from different departments within a business, but they collaborate together over time to achieve some set purpose, goal or project.  For instance, before a small business creates a new product, it may organize a team comprised of people from all departments – engineering, finance, legal, marketing, etc. – to consider all aspects of the potential new product in order to avoid costly surprises down the road.  With a team, individuals recognize the expertise and talents of others needed to achieve the team’s goal.  Additionally, teams are often formed for temporary assignments with one specific goal, focus or outcome in mind.

Why Form Groups? – Managers recognized many years ago that two heads are better than one, thus small businesses have turned to groups or departments for many reasons.  With group work, members have a shared knowledge of the group’s objectives, but specific tasks or responsibilities are assigned to different individuals.  By separating work into groups – such as one devoted to marketing, one devoted to accounting, etc. – individuals within those groups are able to maximize their expertise on a long-term basis.

Why Form Teams? – Businesses form teams usually to tackle a specific – and usually temporary – goal or project with the intent of leveraging the collective expertise of a variety of people.  Because experts from various departments are involved, teams can avoid potential problems early on in a project.  For instance, a team of only engineers may create a new product but may not understand whether it’s affordable until someone with a finance background completes a “return on investment” or ROI analysis on its feasibility.  Having a finance member involved on the team from the beginning will help the engineers to create an affordable product in the first place, saving time and resources.  Teams can be very productive because involving people with different talents provides teams with increased opportunities to work more efficiently.

 http://smallbusiness.chron.com/differences-between-group-work-team-work-11004.html