Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Reexamining business school fundamentals – negotiations across cultures

Posted in job search and career development, reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on August 2, 2010

I have written several times in this blog about negotiating and about contexts where negotiating skills and a negotiator’s approach offer significant value. See, for example:

Job Search 15 – Negotiating the Compensation Package and When To Do This for a job search example from the job candidate’s perspective, and
Negotiating What You Can Offer as a Hiring Manager in Building and Maintaining Great Teams for a posting on this from the hiring manager’s side of the table.

Just considering these two postings, much of what I have written so far in this blog has had at least one basic assumption in common, though. When a job candidate and hiring manager reach sufficient agreement that they find themselves meeting face to face to discuss a possible job opportunity, they have already established that they have a lot in common. In this case, they probably both share experience and interest in a single industry and type of job. They probably both share if not direct hands-on experience in a same skills set, at least a shared interest in a same functional area. There are a lot of opportunities for unearthing differences, but the focus and from both sides of the interviewing table is to establish a greater level of similarity than of difference and to resolve any differences that may serve as impediments to a decision to hire.

When business is conducted globally, this same basic desire to find common ground and to reach successful deals may still apply and it usually does, but potential differences can become a lot more varied and unexpected, and complex too, and from cultural and language differences if nothing else.

Sticking to the job search example, as started with above, a job candidate from the Northeastern United States and from New York City is going to have different cultural expectations and will hold different automatic and (generally) unexamined cultural assumptions as to normative behavior and response, than would a hiring manager from Sakaiminato, Japan and they in turn would have different expectations and tend to take different approaches than this New Yorker would. It is not that either is better or worse, but rather that they can be different. A New York City oriented senior manager may take what appears to be a more hands-on approach in directly dealing with the candidate while their Japanese counterpart may spend more time observing how this candidate interacts with others on their team, and may as such hold a more ambiguous position in the hiring process as this candidate sees things.

Perhaps the single greatest potential for a need for change in the negotiating process, at least that I currently see is a need for greater awareness of the possibilities for disconnects and misunderstanding, and in both goals and priorities, and in the process of discussion and in both directions. The more global your reach in your business dealings, the more opportunity you face for developing your business and for creating new and emerging business opportunities, and for all you deal with. At the same time, the more care you need to take, and even before you reach a point where legal documentation and formalisms enter the picture.

And in this case, the Japanese hiring manager may have gone to school at the University of Chicago and be fully familiar with and comfortable with American negotiations and your networking contact who helped arrange this meeting for you may be a lot less familiar with the possible differences and disconnects and be unable to give you effective tips and pointers.

As a final thought to add here, negotiations and negotiating skills and approaches connect into all of the postings I have been adding to this series – they all deal with negotiations and the negotiating context. So this really is one of the core topics for this developing series.

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