How to Successfully Work Across Countries, Languages, and Cultures

Here at Work/Life English, we are committed to advancing the lives of native English and English as a Second Language (ESL) speakers by improving their English comprehension and communication skills. In today’s global marketplace, mastery of the English language can make you a more compelling job applicant and effective employee.

But, let’s be honest, it’s not as simple as just learning English! Those who will truly be successful in today’s global marketplace will have certain skills, attitudes, and behaviors that help them work across cultures.

A recent Harvard Business Review article emphasizes this position. Using Japan-based multinational ecommerce giant Rakuten – which converted from a multilingual to English-only company – as a case study, the article’s author suggests a handful of skills and attitudes that workers need in order to succeed in today’s global business world:

  1. Embracing positive indifference. Employees who have the “ability to overlook many cultural differences as being not especially important or worthy of attention, while remaining optimistic about the process of engaging the culture seen as foreign” will be more able to adapt to other cultures, and the company will benefit from greater learning and openness to exploration. Both company and employee benefit when, for example, the employee is not markedly troubled by adjusting to cultural norms such as wearing a name badge or referring to coworkers by their first name.
  2. Seeking commonalities between cultures.Rather than identifying differences between one’s culture and a new one, the author suggests finding similarities between them. This draws coworkers from diverse cultures closer together, leading to more effective collaboration.
    1. Identifying with the global organization rather than your local office. Organizational identification, or feeling “at one with the organization” improves job satisfaction, commitment, and performance. Understandably, knowing and identifying with larger company goals rather than just those of your office or department heightens employees’ sense of belonging and helps everyone work towards common goals.
    2. Seeking interactions with other, geographically distant subsidiaries. When employees welcome and seek out interactions with colleagues in other locations, it’s easier to develop trust and shared vision amongst international coworkers. It also fosters greater sharing and learning.
    3. Aspiring to a global career.Whether a long standing goal or something kindled when learning English, aspiring to a global career helps employees prepare for and become better global workers.

    If you're an English-language teacher or student and need help, check out Work/Life English's wide array of tools and resources here

    About Work/Life English

    Work/Life English is an experienced provider of fun, effective English language improvement content that advances the lives of native English and English as a Second Language (ESL) speakers by improving their English competence, comprehension, and communication skills.  For more information, visit: www.worklifeenglish.com.


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