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Resources on East/West relations in the workplace

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poodlek
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Resources on East/West relations in the workplace

Postby poodlek » Fri, 27 Aug 2010 4:41 pm

Hello!

This is a topic of mainly personal interest to me, but my husband is being faced with some real life tough situations right now so I'm wondering if y'all know of some books/websites/pearls of wisdom about how Western employees can get along with Eastern bosses in the workplace here.

I'll try to illustrate an example without being too specific...I don't want to identify the hubby's company.

Hubby (American) works with a number of other specialists, all of whom are European or American, on a project that is funded and run by a local company. These specialists are among the best in their trade in the world, and as such are being paid extremely high salaries with terrific benefits, but all of this doesn't matter as much to them as the integrity of the project and their work.

The local bosses have no experience and limited knowledge in the specialists' field, and there is no person of authority among the specialists who can negotiate on their behalf on issues specifically related to their work. Because of this, the local bosses have made some requests of the specialists which are illogical at best and impossible at worst.

On one particular occasion, the bosses said "Do this" without outlining how or by what deadline. The specialists knew it was a pointless request anyway, but in the interest of diplomacy said "...OK, here's what we need from you in order to accomplish that." which was met with a terse "I am your boss. Don't tell me how to do my job."

They are now at a standstill on that issue, but there are dozens of others waiting to come to a head, and it seems that blocking proper communication on these things are primarily

1. The specialists lack of faith in the boss' vision of the project;
2. The specialists feel that the extra control the boss is wielding over them shows a lack of respect for their expertise;
3. The boss feels that the specialists (her employees) do not respect her authority, and therefore more control over them is needed to rein them in.

Fortunately, my husband has not been involved in any direct conflicts with the boss so far, but each of the other conflicts does affect his work. Is there any tactful and ethical way for him to bridge this divide between boss and employees? I fear that if this gets worse a significant number of specialists important to this project will quit (or be fired without adequate replacement), leaving the project at risk of collapsing completely.

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Re: Resources on East/West relations in the workplace

Postby singaporeflyer » Fri, 27 Aug 2010 6:49 pm

poodlek wrote:Hello!

This is a topic of mainly personal interest to me, but my husband is being faced with some real life tough situations right now so I'm wondering if y'all know of some books/websites/pearls of wisdom about how Western employees can get along with Eastern bosses in the workplace here.

I'll try to illustrate an example without being too specific...I don't want to identify the hubby's company.

Hubby (American) works with a number of other specialists, all of whom are European or American, on a project that is funded and run by a local company. These specialists are among the best in their trade in the world, and as such are being paid extremely high salaries with terrific benefits, but all of this doesn't matter as much to them as the integrity of the project and their work.

The local bosses have no experience and limited knowledge in the specialists' field, and there is no person of authority among the specialists who can negotiate on their behalf on issues specifically related to their work. Because of this, the local bosses have made some requests of the specialists which are illogical at best and impossible at worst.

On one particular occasion, the bosses said "Do this" without outlining how or by what deadline. The specialists knew it was a pointless request anyway, but in the interest of diplomacy said "...OK, here's what we need from you in order to accomplish that." which was met with a terse "I am your boss. Don't tell me how to do my job."

They are now at a standstill on that issue, but there are dozens of others waiting to come to a head, and it seems that blocking proper communication on these things are primarily

1. The specialists lack of faith in the boss' vision of the project;
2. The specialists feel that the extra control the boss is wielding over them shows a lack of respect for their expertise;
3. The boss feels that the specialists (her employees) do not respect her authority, and therefore more control over them is needed to rein them in.

Fortunately, my husband has not been involved in any direct conflicts with the boss so far, but each of the other conflicts does affect his work. Is there any tactful and ethical way for him to bridge this divide between boss and employees? I fear that if this gets worse a significant number of specialists important to this project will quit (or be fired without adequate replacement), leaving the project at risk of collapsing completely.


1)
Is it possible for the employees to take a very calm stand and explain smoothly to the boss (just as a suggestion for the boss to hear and not to accept it) that these would be the negatives or side effects or failures that would happen that the employees feel if they don't do the job in the way proposed?

2)
Also ask from the boss in what ways he/she expects the employees to do the work?

Both parties sit and evaluate 1 and 2 with the pros and cons and then take it from there?

But in any case Item 1 must be a very humble request to the boss to just hear to what they say and need not accept it.

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Postby Strong Eagle » Mon, 30 Aug 2010 5:28 pm

This could be any one of dozens and dozens of large Singapore firms!

Here's how it actually works. The company realizes that there is insufficient internal talent, either technical or managerial, and goes outside for 'foreign talent'.

Once hired, though, there is a problem. What are all the senior managers to do if not manage the foreign talent? They are at a loggerhead.

For example, the talent may build a large infrastructure project, and rely upon a single manager (probably not belonging to the hiring company) to run the whole thing. It is integrated tightly. There are controls and lines of responsibility.

Then, the boss comes along and breaks it all up so that each company manager has a piece to "run". Naturally, this leads to all sorts of problems, including that which you have just described. Lack of knowledge in no way hinders (bad) decision making. Responsibility and control go out the window. Things will take three times as long as they should.

There is no real solution except to recognize that company staffers have a career to manage. They have politics to get ahead of their compatriots. All done in an Asian fashion, which, while saving face, can be ruthless.

One thing you/he can do is lay out all the business cards of all the company managers in an org chart, and figure out who reports to whom and for what. Then your hubby is in a position to talk to his boss about what he needs, not what the company needs. Won't make the project work any better but makes working easier.

It's not only Singapore companies BTW. I've worked in large bureaucracy bound American companies that were quite irrational... for example, Asian managers being overridden in their decisions by the American home office who have absolutely no idea what is going on.

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Postby ksl » Mon, 30 Aug 2010 7:50 pm

This appears to be a typical half cocked attempt at solving something, which will never be finished due to interfering busy bodies who think they are god!

A good project manager would have sorted this out! My two pence would be to gather all the specialists together and have a discussion of how you are going to solve the conflict.

Make a plan of approach and ensure all the individual bosses are notified, this way no one boss is being fingered has the culprit, to justify the approach a financial cost analysis of the waste of time and effort being used on the project because of internal meddling, too many cooks spoiling the broth.

You need to nominate someone at the time to raise the issues, surely you have a leader type within the team, that has the balls to voice everyone's opinion.

It must be brought to the table as the bosses will just keep interfering. Maybe you can nominate a project manager to ensure that these conflicts are smoothed out diplomatically.

These issues happen world wide, though here in Singapore it appears that most lack hands on experience of their business, and therefore have no idea of what is really involved which makes bad leaders.

Their ego's are unaware of the fact its the team that makes them what they are, they are the backbone of the company, Singaporeans can be very much all ego and stubborn, so a softly soft approach is key ensuring that respect is exchanged on an equal footing.

So approach with all due respect in hand must be played out. Not wise to raise the issue with the boss concerned, so a strategic plan is required from all of the team to raise the issue with all bosses.

A waste of time costs money, so raise these points and show them it costs money, on paper, together as a team you can do it.

Ask to meet with all bosses involved in the project, have a project leader nominated and explain why you wish to choose a project leader.


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