5 rules of work in an international environment

November 5 2021

5 rules of work in an international environment

Imagine that starting tomorrow you are working in a team of foreigners coming from different continents and cultures who have a varying level of proficiency in foreign languages and who have been taught different work styles and methods. Are you excited? Or maybe you are experiencing fear of the unknown? One way or another – read this text to know the rules!

An international environment significantly accelerates new skills acquisition and previous competencies development. You only need to abide by a few rules.

If you don’t understand something – ask

Regardless of proficiency certificates, two persons communicating in a language foreign to them will almost always make mistakes resulting from, e.g. pronunciation nuances. Accept this and don’t hesitate to ask the other person to repeat what they said. If your interlocutors show impatience, explain politely that you want to ensure optimal work performance. You are not trying to get their attention – you just want to obtain information necessary to perform your tasks efficiently. If you are working with professionals, they will understand.

Read also: Business meetings – the importance of savoir-vivre

Listen more, talk less

Each day of work with foreigners is a chance to learn something new. A simple chit-chat at the common kitchen in the office building may provide valuable information or inspiration for development. Don’t waste those chances by wanting to share your vacation memories at any cost; instead, pay some attention to your interlocutors, even if it is only a typical small talk. By listening carefully, you will manage to make new acquaintances faster.

Avoid sensitive topics

Due to many reasons, topics related to politics, religion and worldviews are avoided in international teams. Unnecessary emotions that they might evoke surely do not support effective performance of duties, and possible antagonisms will have a long-lasting negative impact. Even if the company culture is based on tolerance and diversity, remember that it is better to leave the controversial topics for informal meetings outside of the office.

You may be interested in: Eight soft skills that can prove useful at work

Care about the atmosphere but stick to the procedures

Work in international teams is subject to procedures that are meant to ensure effective communication and efficient task performance. After a few weeks of working together, the atmosphere often becomes more relaxed and some rules are taken lightly. Remember that something that is only a recommendation for people form the Central Europe is like a regulation for other working cultures. Maybe your co-workers from Germany, Switzerland or Scandinavian countries will remain silent about yet another deviation from rules, but this will not mean approval. Most of them will not hesitate to include a relevant note in the report that will be provided to your supervisor.

Play as a team

We are a society of individuals, and probably this is why Poles have been quite often criticized for their dislike for teamwork in international project teams. There is no point in making generalizations, but you need to know that it is deemed one of the most serious problems that may even result in the termination of cooperation in the Far East working cultures. The “we” approach has become more common in modern international companies not without a reason – effective communication, motivating one another and providing feedback make task performance much more efficient. 

To sum up, even if you work at a company famous for its relaxed atmosphere, remember that work in the international environment requires you to strictly follow the above-mentioned rules, even if they have not been officially announced. An unfortunate joke or acting without the team in mind may be considered by your co-workers as serious rule violation and a sign of – in the best case – lack of manners.

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