Religion in International Business - Impact on Work, Teams and More October 19 2016, 0 Comments

by Erich Toll

Sign up now for our exclusive newsletter. Get monthly intercultural tips, tools and insights.

In global business, religion is a key factor in how global teams work together, schedule meetings and more.

Worldwide, religion is one of the key factors in workplace cultural diversity. Employees want religious beliefs and practices to be accommodated, including time during the workday for rituals, and time off from work for observances.

Failing to recognize different religions and respecting the needs of individual employees, can lead to team conflict, scheduling problems, and costly employee turnover

To help people from different cultures work together in harmony, it's essential for your people to be aware of different religions and key events

Here are 5 top religions, and key events:

1. Christianity

#1 religion worldwide, practiced by about 33% of the world population

The two primary Christian holidays are
• Easter (date varies)
• Christmas, set date, always December 25

These two events result in business closings in most Christian regions. In Western Europe, the days after Easter and Christmas are also holidays.

2. Islam

Islam is the world's #2 most-practiced religion, representing
23% of the world’s population.

From the Middle East to Southeast Asia, Islam has a big effect on how and when business is done. Muslim needs include time and setting for daily prayer – especially Friday noon – as well as ritual washing before eating and prayer.

Key Muslim holy days include:
• Ramadan (date varies)
• Eid ad-Fitr (date varies)

Please refer to the online intercultural diversity calendar, to find out this year’s dates for varying holidays

3. Hinduism 

Hinduism, the primary religion in India, is #3 worldwide. Because of the region’s diverse cultures, it has a large list of holidays. Some of the most important are
• Maha Shivaratri (Shiva’s Night) (date varies)
• Holi, Maha Shivaratri
• Ram Navami (Birthday of Rama) (date varies)
• Vaisakhi (New Year), April 14
• Janmashtami (Birth of Lord Krishna) (date varies)
• Dassehra (Durga Puja) (date varies)
• Diwali (date varies)

4. Buddhism 

Buddhism is the world’s 4th most-practiced religion.

In China, Vietnam, South Korea, Cambodia, and Thailand, New Year celebrations might result in businesses and government offices being closed for days or weeks. Buddhist holidays also affect countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand.

A couple key holidays include
• Buddha’s Birth, April 8
• Bodhi Day (Buddha’s Enlightenment), December 8.

5. Judaism

Judaism is a key religion in many countries. For example, it's the second most practiced in the United States.

For practicing Jews, many dates require time off from work. These include:
• first two days of Passover (date varies)
• Rosh Hashanah (date varies)
• Yom Kippur (date varies)
• first two days of Sukkoth (date varies)

In Israel, business is usually closed
• Passover (date varies)
• Hanukkah (date varies)

The global workplace sees great diversity in culture, language, and religion. An intercultural diversity calendar is the best way to schedule effectively, create harmony, and foster effective teams.

What did I miss? Please leave your comments or additional tips below.

Cultural Diversity in the Workplace - 7 Essential Tips October 05 2016, 1 Comment

by Erich Toll Cultural diversity is often lumped into diversity training programs in general. But cultural diversity is perhaps the most challenging aspect of respect and sensitivity training. After all, you’re dealing with huge cultural differences in...

Communicating Across Cultures at Work September 21 2016, 2 Comments

by Erich Toll Imagine a promising manager getting a promotion, and working with a global team for the first time. At the very first meeting, he causes embarrassment, confusion, and loss of respect. Valuable team members start eying the exit - and another job. It happens more often than you think, as shown in...

Cultural Differences in the Workplace: Perceptions of Time September 07 2016, 4 Comments

by Erich Toll

Working with other cultures: it's about time! Just as different parts of the world have different time zones, they also have varying perceptions of time. In many cultures, people live in the present. They find the western view of time strange. For example...

Intercultural Communication: Indirect vs Direct Styles October 07 2015, 0 Comments

by Erich Toll

Sign up now for our exclusive newsletter. Get monthly intercultural tips, tools and insights.

In the West we say “give it to me straight.” Generally speaking, people in the United States tend to be direct, and North Europeans even more so. If confronted by a North European, it’s okay to be firm about your opinions.

But in other cultures, people believe conflict is dysfunctional and would rather be indirect and diplomatic. In indirect cultures, the emphasis is on social harmony, one of the key differences in values between cultures. Thus, people are often indirect to avoid conflict, embarrassment or hurt feelings.

In some parts of the world, people might give you directions even if they have no idea how to get there. The reason: they don’t want to disappoint you or embarrass themselves by telling you they don’t know.

1. Communication Problems - These roundabout communication styles can cause problems, from getting accurate feedback from employees, to getting a yes or no answer. For example, a South American passenger jet once crashed near New York after the cockpit crew failed to be direct about the severity of their lack of fuel.

2. No to No – In many cultures, the most difficult word is no. In Thailand, there’s no such word. In Japan, there are more than a dozen different ways to give rejection, each appropriate for different occasions. Rather than saying no directly, people might say “maybe” or “not yet.”

3. Does Yes Means Yes? Even yes doesn’t always mean yes. In many cultures, yes might mean “yes I have heard you” rather then “yes I agree with you.”

Direct vs indirect communication is one of the most important facets of cultural diversity in the workplace. Here are 4 tips for communicating effectively across cultures:

4. Asked Different Ways – To get more direct information, you might try gently asking a question several different ways.

5. Third Parties – Another strategy is to seek information through third parties, especially local associates.

6. Change Settings – Finally, try a change of setting. An Asian executive might be more open in an informal setting like a golf course, or a Latin American subordinate more forthcoming behind closed doors.

7. Diplomacy Wins – At the same time, you’ll need to be more diplomatic to avoid seeming pushy or rude. Thus, avoid forcing direct answers.

You’ll also need to give information diplomatically. For example, if you need to criticize an employee, you might make comments aimed at a group rather than an individual.

Conclusion: Let’s summarize the key points of indirect communication:

• In many cultures, people are indirect to avoid conflict, embarrassment or hurt feelings;
• Solutions for getting accurate meaning include rephrasing, changing settings or going through third parties;
• And finally, adjust your style and learn to ask for and give information diplomatically.

For more information, see this intercultural communication video.

What did I miss? Please leave your comments or additional tips below.

Intercultural Communication Differences - 3 Essentials April 06 2015, 1 Comment

by Erich Toll To communicate effectively, it’s increasingly essential to have intercultural communication skills, as evidenced from recent initiatives in top government offices, to local college campuses. One of the main differences in intercultural communication is style, or the manner in which people speak in communicate. Here are three essential differences in style:

Intercultural Body Language and Gestures - 4 Tips March 10 2015, 1 Comment

by Erich Toll Experts estimate that in the West, up to 70% of communication is physical interaction such as body language. In other parts of the world, that figure is even higher. Body language and physical gestures are one of the most important - and misunderstood - facets of communication, one of...

Cross Cultural Negotiation - Building the Best Team, 4 Essentials February 18 2015, 1 Comment

by Erich Toll

To be successful in cross-cultural negotiation, you need to put together the right team. First your crew should be comprised of people who are skilled in cultural competence. You’ll need people who are...

Intercultural Competence Training: Values and Beliefs - 4 Dimensions February 03 2015, 0 Comments

by Erich Toll

Anyone who doubts that intercultural training is an essential part of business and the workplace, need look no further than current articles in mainstream publications, from the Harvard Business Review to Entrepreneur Magazine. And a key facet of an intercultural competence training program is...

Intercultural Calendar 2015 - 7 Essential Events January 19 2015, 0 Comments

by Erich Toll

There are many facets that affect cultural perceptions of time, and one of them is calendars. Here are some key events in February from our 2015 intercultural calendar. In Asia, the celebration of the new year culminates with...