Communication Tips For International Teams
18 January 2019

dubai international work trip

A photo from our recent trip to Dubai 

From conflicting time zones and cultural differences to verbal misunderstandings, working with a global team can have its challenges. At Primo Associates, we relish working with diverse teams around the world. Most recently, our business ventures have taken us to Dubai, UAE, where we’ve been collaborating with a myriad of talented people for our company and Devine Power International Ltd.

So if you’re keen to understand how to best navigate global professional connections, and widen your reputation on an international scale, check out our top communication tips.

 

Understand Cultural Norms

Since cultural norms can differ from country to county, it’s important that you take the time to research the culture of the team that you’ll be working with. This will help avoid miscommunication or inadvertently causing offence. In the Netherlands, people prefer bosses who don’t beat about the bush. In Sweden, they prefer communication that is friendly and based around empathy. In China, the balance of hierarchy is important to a productive workplace. Try to use this as an opportunity to learn about different cultural practices and working styles, something that will make interactions smoother, and more enjoyable.

There are heaps of ways of getting to grips with an unfamiliar culture, through websites and blogs, travel guides and online forums. The best way undoubtedly is to learn from your own team members. Build a sense of kinship between by showing interest in their customs, food and history. Creating interpersonal connections will lead to a more productive and thriving team.

 

Remember Your Time Zones

There’s no better way to annoy your international team mates than setting a meeting at 1pm your time, and 6am theirs. Remembering time zones and thinking logically and sensitively about how to approach communication will save yawn-induced meetings. Though it’s not always possible to find the best time for everyone, and some compromises will have to be made, being aware of time differences and cultural notions of time will make working relationships more manageable.

Despite the fact the concept of time doesn’t seem like it would differ from culture to culture, it does. In countries like India, China, Kenya and Italy, time is seen as flexible. Rough timings are therefore used frequently to make room for adaptability. In contrast, Germany, Switzerland and Japan are more rigid with their views of time, sticking to deadlines to avoid professional embarrassment. Bearing this in mind is crucial to developing working strategies for global teams.

dubai primo associates meeting

A photo from our recent trip to Dubai 

Learn How To Rectify Mistakes

When you’re dealing with global teams, miscommunication is bound to happen occasionally, even if you’ve tried hard to avoid it. Learning how to say sorry in a way that someone from a different culture will appreciate is a vital way of ensuring working relationships are nurtured and developed. In the UK and the US, we can use humour to build personal connections and break the ice. But in places like China, they don’t find humour in the workplace appropriate. If you make a joke for example that doesn’t go down well; a sincere, brief, to-the-point apology is acceptable. In China, how you apologise totally depends on your relationship to the person you’re apologising to, so researching norms around these situations will help you rectify mistakes.

If the situation is reversed, and you misinterpret something a team member says and find it offensive, think about communication from their perspective. If something came across as overtly hostile, consider that it could just be something lost in translation and move on. If it becomes frequent, then address the communication problem with management and a solution that everyone will be comfortable with.

 

Think Of Different Ways To Communicate

You don’t just need to reserve communication to dry emails and awkward phone calls, try using visual aids to communicate clearly – think outside the box. Things like charts, info graphics and video demonstrations can make communicating something complicated much easier. Depending on the context, the placing of an emoji can help get across the tone of your sentiment much better than your use of language, especially if the person reading it has English as their second language.

 

What tips do you have for communication with global teams? We’d love to hear your thoughts on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn, where you can also keep up to date with our Dubai adventures. You can also scroll through our current vacancies if you’re looking for a new role.