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Apr 7, 2012

How to Deal with the Intricacies of Business and Culture

Culture and business go hand-in-hand. From the industry you’re involved in to the different nationalities you work with, your social etiquette will need to be top-notch for you to succeed. Business owners need to make sure that their employees’ cultural intelligence, also known as CQ, is of a high level in order to avoid cultural goof up and corporate derailment.


Understanding each other’s interpersonal differences can either make or break the corporate culture / environment and dictate the type of interaction occurring within the office. From how we dress, to the foods we eat, and the religious holidays we take; these factors will partly determine the way we address and treat our fellow employees. An extreme example of a business culture faux pas would be calling your French client a frog or referring to your Spanish partner as a bull fighter. These types of ethnic stereotypes are frowned upon and should be drilled out of you from day one of starting your contact.

International business culture should take up a large section of an employee’s training. If your company has foreign clients with whom your staff workers will need to communicate from time to time, it is very important that they are able to mimic diverse customs and adhere to differing notions of respect.

Harvard Tips for Approaching Cultural Intelligence in Business:

  • Head: Awareness about differences in behaviour, attitudes, and preferences is integral to preventing negative reactions on either side of a business interaction.
  • Heart: The desire to accumulate more cross-cultural skills could benefit your career as well as come in handy should you decide to travel in your own time. Learn to converse with individuals who come from different backgrounds and you’ll find yourself positively impacted by the ins and outs of business culture.
  • Body: Your body language needs to mimic those around you. Depending on who you’re dealing with, your respect of a business partner of client’s customs will affect the success of your venture.
The need for CQ became apparent in the US after they encountered difficulty in the global market. US businessman realised down the line that they were misreading their counterparts' more intentional form of negotiations. From marketing bungles to trade misunderstandings, the US was in dire need of business culture intelligence training.

During your career you will work in companies of varying size with people from different ethnic or religious backgrounds. Being able to communicate and relate to your colleagues is a skill that only you can work on. Be diligent about increasing your cultural intelligence and success will be yours for the taking!

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