Puro Mali (not his real name) was one of the company’s project reviewer and auditor. He had just completed his review and gave the project two high findings.
- Not submitting the required project documents on time and,
- Submitting a project schedule below the approved minimum quality standard
Within the day, Puro received an e-mail from the Project Manager Don Notagree (not his real name), with copies to all the department’s bigwigs stating the following:
“I do not agree with the position you have taken. High findings are unjust as it assumes that the project team had blatantly ignored the fact that we are required to prepare the requested information. Also, to assume that the team did not generate or have more current information is rather short sighted. At a minimum the initial findings should be “TBD” while your review continues.”
Puro was very unhappy with the e-mail. He felt slighted by the personal, strong, and accusatory tone of the message. He made it a point to reply promptly copying the same bigwigs the Manager chose to involve.
“The deadline for the submission of findings had passed. Your group submitted nothing and in doing so, the project got a high finding. I am not trying to insinuate that you and your team are irresponsible. Please do not make it personal by attacking me like this. We can always talk between ourselves before you issuing a broadcasted e-mail. The High rating is in accordance to the Review Guidelines. There was nothing shortsighted about it. I hope that this brings you some understanding. If you like, we can meet face to face, have a cup of coffee, and resolve this disagreement on neutral grounds.”
In spite of Puro’s apparent cool-headed approach, a cold war had started. Another work relationship was strained and upper management did not even know about it.
He also discovered during a follow-up meeting, that the words and phrases he used in the same report had elicited some really negative reactions from Don and the two members of his team. They complained that the wordings were too harsh.
Puro was not expecting that kind of feedback. In his view, the words and phrases that he used were all perfectly normal. Why did they see it that way?
“It cannot be this way,” he thought.
He has a Master in Business Communication in his country of origin. The intention of the review process is to identify room for improvement, and bridge the gap to help the project. It was not his purpose to create the gap.
In Puro’s contemplation,
“*#!%… there’s something wrong with this people. Why are they extremely sensitive?”
For the reader’s benefit, I captured some of the words and phrases that Puro used. They are listed below.
- “The quality of the project schedule is questionable. It was below the minimum standard of quality.”
- “The project should follow the governing procedure and must see to it that…”
- “…schedule resource loading was incorrect.”
- “There were mistakes in … “
Groping for answer and seeking a peaceful co-existence, Puro unhappily agreed to change his wordings resulting in the following:
- “The quality of the project schedule could be improved as it is below the minimum standard of quality.”
- “The project is requested to review the governing procedure and to check …”
- “…schedule resource loading did not match the baseline estimate.”
- “There were some misalignments in … “
Whether a person is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the company, the janitor or cleaner under contract, or a jobless person on the street, I am sure he wants some respect.
Project Y, Original Drawing by Rufran C. Frago (Copyright 2004)
An intelligent person wants to be heard and a chance to be understood and validated. The American writer Max Ehrmann (1872–1945) Desiderata, which he wrote in 1927 underlined this principle in the first few lines of the famous prose poem.
“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull, and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons. They are vexations to the spirit.”
“If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”
I, for one, find the ideals of yesteryear more and more unsuitable to our current complex society. As such, it is imperative that organizations train and prepare all their employees not only to manage others, but also to manage themselves in a culturally diversified workplace. We all have to open our eyes wider, as it is crystal-clear that mismanaging cultural differences will adversely affect even a strong, skillful, and qualified workforce.
If we review Diversity Risk Case 1 : Nho Klu and this case, we will notice a glaring mismatch in the communication style of the characters. The most basic natural behavior that each one of them brought to the work environment reflected their styles. The mismatch of styles created a silent conflict that grew and became unmanageable.
The idea of hierarchical culture is tied closely to the power distance dimension (PDI) forwarded by Geert Hofstede. A visit to the Mind Tools website in 2012 provides the reader a starting plain look at what Hofstede calls the “Five Dimensions of National Culture”.
A revisit to the same website recently (2017) has added two more dimensions to the group. Suffice it to say, these general dimensional attributes are good tools in managing and distinguishing one culture from another. It is now generally described as “Seven Dimensions of Culture.”
“The cultural dimensions represent independent preferences for one state of affairs over another that distinguishes countries (rather than individuals) from each other. The country scores on the dimensions are relative, as we are all human and simultaneously we are all unique. In other words, culture can be only used meaningfully by comparison ( Mindtools, 2017.Hofstede Cultural Dimensions).”
It goes to show that the key to better understanding depends equally on all involved. Nho, John, Puro, Don, managers, and colleagues should have had open minds to avoid quickly succumbing to personal perceptions based solely on their own cultural lenses.
The challenges brought about by cultural differences like nationality, region, education, language, family values, political and professional affiliation, exposures, training, expectations, communication styles, philosophies, roles, positions, responsibility, unspoken languages, and many other potential differences produce the common office interactions and relationships we are seeing today in the workplace.
It is very interesting how new Canadians (newcomers to Canada) cope at work compared to their Canadian-trained counterparts in various settings.
In that aspect, communication being a two-way street, we can conclude that it will affect Canadian trained professionals to the same extent. The degree of understanding can improve only if one takes enough time to look through each other’s lenses. Seeing another person’s perspective with an open mind will influence the success and failures of any endeavor.
Source: Frago, R. (2015). Risk-based Management in the World of Threats and Opportunities: A Project Controls Perspective. ISBN 978-0-9947608-0-7 (Canada). Chapter 8.Section 8.4-8.5.page 162-166
Rufran C. Frago – Author (25-Jan-17)
- E-Touch Up
- My Oil Pro
- Risk-based Management and Services Inc. Facebook
- E-Touch Up (Facebook)
- Your World, Our Risk Universe: WordPress
- LinkedIn Professional Website
Related articles authored by Rufran Frago.
- Diversity Risk-Case 1: Nho Klu
- Diversity Risk in the Canadian Workplace
- Risk Relativity
- Man is the Center of the Risk Universe
- Your World, Our Risk Universe
- Rufran Frago in the Global Risk Community Site
- Risks as a Function of Time
- Changing the Culture of Your Organization
- A Person Perceives Others Based on His Own Interest
- How Can Management Motivate and Empower?
- How Can Managers Increase Leadership Effectiveness
- Risks Surrounding Canada’s TFW Part 2