Cultural Awareness in Business and Employee Relations is about acceptance, not denial or disbelief

  • The story of investment in the emerging markets, and especially Mexico, has been a long one, filled with twists and turns. Most recently, deal makers and companies have been contending with global market volatility, which is upping the risk already present.
  • High growth rates, large populations underserviced, and other factors drive a lot of institutional and private equity investments. But return on investment is affected by simple matters as well that can explode in your face, especially cultural factors that affect business models and behavior.
  • Cutting to the chase, one culture’s etiquette is another’s affront. What is one to do?
  • Traditional risks, like capricious/corrupt governments, bureaucratic and difficult to understand regulation, reliance on local managers insufficiently vetted, sudden violence or public unrest are still present
  • The manager never controls anything completely and a lot times you don’t know what you don’t know. Again, the question arises, what is one to do?
  • Beware the peril of unfamiliar customs and regulations. Many times the shortest way is the long way. This means studying and gaining an understanding of cultural practices before applying your own practices in your Mexican opportunity. Tip: do this before you get on an airplane and before the urgent, but minor items in your in-box sap awhile your time to study and prepare.
  • Doing this may feel like you are using your time on things that don’t have a clear or direct link to your business or organizational problem. You have to figure out how to work with the cultural norms in the local market. Don’t be fooled, the right way is often the “long way around”
  • Often times one is dependent on the translation skills of others; again, often not vetted or with adequate experience with the issues or the goals on the table. An executive is forced to ask, “What am I learning about my management values and style in translation?” And sometimes even while the words are flying across the tabl

Some Cultural Awareness Lessons and Cross-Cultural Ideas to confront these situations

  • Start with your own culture and then compare by asking, “What are the meanings attributed to the environment?” For example, “What is important, prosperity or family welfare?”
  • Individual differences: What are the meaning attributed to experiences?
  • What are common stereotypes of Mexicans by US citizens? What are the common stereotypes of “norteamericanos” by Mexican citizens?
  • Consider what “stereotyping” means and remember that people from the same country do not have identical values, norms, or personalities. Within each culture there are many individual ways of being.
  • Avoid equating something different as something wrong. The mere fact of difference is not a sign that it is not right.
  • The idea is to evaluate, but to respect: don’t judge, as there is no “best way of being”; rather adapt without losing your own essence and your own values regarding human relationships.
  • The US manager does not have to “go native”; they simply must acknowledge, understand, respect, and then ultimately, adapt.