When Culture Doesn’t Translate

by Erin Meyer

UNTIL RECENTLY MOST OF US worked in organizations that were largely local. We interacted with colleagues and clients who were with us and culturally like us. Fellow staff members were often in the same building and at the very least were in the same country, which meant that they had similar ways of communicating and making decisions.

But as companies internationalize, their employees become geographically dispersed and lose their shared assumptions and norms. People in different countries react to inputs differently, communicate differently, and make decisions differently. Organically grown corporate cultures that were long taken for granted begin to break down. Miscommunication becomes more frequent, ...

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