What makes the transnational workforce a sensitive issue is the in-group and out-group divide
Trust is the building block of intercultural relations in transnational organizations
In the changing economic scenario, due to the ever-increasing movement of people across the globe, the international human resources community has to face the challenges of a transnational workforce. More and more people are leaving their homelands for other countries to work with people belonging to different cultures from across the world. The cultural diversity at a workplace makes the very basic people matters, employee engagement and related tasks even more challenging. In such a situation, common systems, processes and regulations followed by a company come in handy and make the task of aligning employees to the company’s objective a bit easier. But that is not all. The greater challenge is to make the company atmosphere more conducive and to bring such a diverse workforce on the same page.
Can we afford to overlook it?
An organization may have one organizational culture but it often gets sliced into different cultures at a micro level when people belonging to different ethnic groups come together to work towards a single goal. More so, because of different work related approaches and different expectations harbored by such employees owing to different cultural roots. What makes the transnational workforce a sensitive issue is the in-group and out-group divide. People tend to consider people from their culture as an in-group member and find it hard to trust out-group members.
Do people from different cultures trust differently?
More than a culture clash, which does not matter much in professional scenario, it is the to-trust-or-not-to-trust clash led by cultural differences that is a cause of concern. From team effort to productivity, a lot depends on the way employees gel together and the way communication takes place.
Tara Shankar Basu, who is currently researching interpersonal trust between superiors and subordinates of different cultural origins at MDI Gurgaon, shares, ‘For a team to deliver results, it is essential for the boss and the subordinates to have the element of trust in their relationship. To understand how one’s culture affects one’s approach to work, I talked to western superiors and Indian subordinates.’ Basu found the Western notion of trust to be different from the Indian notion. So much so that it is hard to ignore the dissimilarity in work methodology arising out of these differences.
Complexities of relationships in transnational organizations
The Western notion of trust is based on professional transactions and it is more task and work related, while the Indian notion of trust is based on personal relationships. Basu adds, ‘During the course of my research I found that the Westerners wanted their team members to perform and win their trust, while Indian subordinates said that they would want their bosses to trust them before judging them on their performance as it helps them perform well. Indians want personal connection with their superiors and won’t mind even if they are reprimanded by a trusting senior.’ Clearly, in one case the task performance was antecedent to gaining trust while in the other it was the outcome. Such differences are not linked to Western or Indian workers alone, they are so distinct that their gradual effect on company atmosphere and employee productivity is inevitable. For HR departments in transnational organizations it is essential to focus on these differences and create cultural harmony without which organizational rules are hard to implement.