Natalia Sarro is an Argentine Psychologist & Intercultural Trainer based in BA. As founder of Nómadas Globales Argentina, Natalia is one of the first Intercultural Specialists in Argentina dedicated to the design and delivery of customized Intercultural Training programs for the Buenos Aires community of expats, international students, travelers, and all those interested in exploring and understanding cultural differences in a world of diversity. Every week she organizes fun & interactive Intercultural Coffee Meetings for Expats & Argentinos in Palermo to raise awareness on challenges of expat life in BA and Porteños mentality.
Globalization multiplies our opportunities of interaction with clients, colleagues and managers living outside of Argentina who know little about el “asado del domingo”, the Argentine dulce de leche or the “viveza criolla”.
As Argentine professionals or expats working in Buenos Aires, we face frequently the challenge of working as part of multicultural teams.
Let´s imagine different scenarios…
An European Manager was just transferred to the company´s offices in Buenos to lead a team. Or you beging to report to a Regional Vice-President in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Or your company sends you periodically to negoiate contract with Asian clients.
Each of these interactions across cultural boundaries confirms that the way of measuring professional success, the importance of business relationships and the concept of time management at workplace, among other variables, are far from being universally valid.
On the other hand, these elements depend more on cultural related contingencies than what we can imagine.
Consequently, Argentine professionals and expats intending to work or do business in Argentina need to give serious thoughts to those questions that our European neighbors –in their melting pot – have been asking themselves for many decades now.
How to deal with possible disagreements and cross-cultural misunderstandings at workplace? What role does the Argentine idiosyncrasy play in our performance and well being in business settings?
Following the contributions of worldwide renown Interculturalists, such as Gert Hofstede , we know that, when doing business with partners coming from other cultures, we could go down a wrong path if we base our decisions merely on cultural practices from our home country. We need to become aware of the cultural glasses that color our worldview.
Therefore, it is as essential to identify our own values, attitudes and communication style, as much as exploring cultural preferences of our business counterparts.
Call me “Licenciado”
In business environments, should I report each of my decisions to my superior? Or only when there is a specific issue that needs to be solved? Is it expectable to treat my Manager as an equal and feel free to express disagreement? Or should I follow rules and orders without questioning? This issue sheds light on the concept of hierarchy across cultures.
Here is an example of cross-cultural misunderstanding based on the way we define hierarchy.
In Argentine-based organizations, titles -such as “Doctor” or “Licenciado” - and rank in chain of command are synonyms of power and authority, and they must be respected as such. On the other hand, US culture considers equality and egalitarianism as highly regarded values. Therefore, US based organizations tend to be less hierarchical and expect less power distance between employees and Managers.
Let´s take now this national differences to a cross-cultural management scenario in a multinational company.
How could a US Manager perceive an Argentine employee who doesn´t feel comfortable discussing and sharing freely his point of view with superiors?
And the other way around…
How do you think that an US employee can be perceived by an Argentine Manager if, “forgetting” his lower rank in the organization, the US employee insists on questioning decisions made by his superiors?
Developing intercultural competencies
Intercultural Training is an innovative solution that addresses the needs of Argentine organizations and foreign companies doing business with Argentina, who envision the importance of training their work teams to face the challenges of international assignments.
Intercultural Training programs help us determine our cultural preferences and compare them with those of our foreign business partners we interact with on a daily basis.
Only by becoming aware of these differences, we will be able to bridge cultural gaps, wear the shoes of our foreign counterparts and interact more effectively with their needs, wishes and concerns.
Beyond the concept of hierarchy, intercultural training focuses on developing intercultural competencies to improve our business and personal performance in a wide variety of aspects.
To mention a few examples:
Group dependence: Do I depend on resources of others? Or do I tend to rely on my own strength and knowledge?
Diversity receptivity: Do I prefer to be around people different or similar to me at workplace?
Status attainment: How do I measure success? Through accomplishing professional goals? Or by having fulfilling relationships with family and friends?