Integrating Workplace Cultures with Graham Orr
What is intercultural training? Our video interview with cross-cultural training expert Graham Orr explores this fascinating aspect of workplace culture.
In his ProfileTree Business Leaders interview, Graham discusses how individuals from differing international cultures can integrate into a business and contribute to its success.
Graham’s own route from teaching in England to working in a very different culture for many years created a foundation for his present-day business.
The experience his children had growing up in such an international environment also mirrored his own workplace in terms of seeing the world in a much more cosmopolitan way.
“I was nearly 20 years in Japan…(my kids) went to Japanese primary school, were bilingual, and international middle school with so many different nationalities. They’ve grown up with a very broad sense of what the world is.”
Graham explained how his work today helps people to understand cultures and promote harmony in the workplace.
“I was chatting to a guy in Ballyclare the other day…and I just said ‘what’s your team like?’. He said most people are from here, but there are a couple of French guys, an Indian guy and a Spaniard. I said ‘so the French guys always want decisions to be kicked upstairs, right?’ and he looked at me and said ‘well, yeah, how did you know that?’. It’s because French people are trained and educated to deal with hierarchy, that’s how their culture is.
“He said the Indian guys ‘just say yes all the time but don’t mean it’, well yes…because that’s how a lot of countries work, countries that aren’t as individualistic ours want harmony in personal relationships…it doesn’t mean ‘I agree’, it means ‘I am on the other end of this conversation’.
“It’s going into companies like that and helping them to understand how different people work, with different values and a difference sense of how you solve a problem…if you can get the team to work together you gain far more.
“But without that you have miscommunication and misunderstanding and people don’t settle in the company and after a year they go home, and you have to bring someone else in and recruit again.
“I go in to try to provide those sorts of companies with an opportunity for people to talk to each other in a safe environment, understand where each other is coming from, smooth out some of the problems and appreciate some of their difficulties as an opportunity to grow.
Graham passed on a headline tip for those seeking to work within a multicultural setting.
“The important thing to learn is that your own viewpoint is only your own viewing; it’s not right, it’s not superior, it’s not the only way to do it. But because we grow up with one set of glasses on we see everything through one set of glasses.
“I was chatting to a Romanian girl who works as a scientist in Japan. She was having so many problems as she didn’t understand that her own cultural glasses were her own cultural glasses.
“She was looking at Japanese culture but judging it based on her own culture, and she was getting herself in a real frustrated mess as she didn’t understand where she herself was coming from.
“It’s about being intercultural…understanding how different cultures look at each other.”
To discover much more about Graham’s work see our full video interview.
Intercultural Training Solutions – www.interculturaltrainingsolutions.co.uk
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