Note: The following article was included in our Sept. 2015 intercultures e-newsletter. Email the Editor to receive our next bi-monthly edition in your inbox well in advance of website postings. We offer fresh, intercultural information and insights for working better globally.
It’s understandable, and only realistic. We are not all in the place to act proactively—or even reactively—to the known and unknown risks and opportunities of working with a diversity of people. Individuals, groups and whole organizations have immediate business to tend to, and actively engaging in the process of developing and acting in intercultural competence may not be among the “important and urgent” quadrant of one’s “to do” list. For some, even tasks that are both important and urgent may simply be up against the triple constraint of time, budget and quality. Meet yourself, your group or organization where you are by complimenting your “inaction[i]” with a business-minded awareness.
Fine print: If you haven’t already picked up on our hint of sarcasm in the title, know that this article is shared with a humorous acknowledgement of the real circumstances at play in our global workplace where tasks, people and technology compete for our attention. If you find yourself or others in this space, the suggestions below may help make the most of what may not be happening. intercultures takes seriously our commitment to partner with clients in developing solutions to work better in global complexity. Until we may have the opportunity to collaborate (again), we wish to serve as an expert resource and attract your engagement in a collective effort to work better globally. Find yourself in a more prepared position to act when the time comes based on a mindful observation of how you have been operating.
In no particular order, here are 3 easy steps to keep calm and make the most of inaction:
Know Your Bottom Line
Wherever you find yourself, understand what drives your decisions—and why. You may or may not like your response. Either way, it’s important to get clear on what influences you and those around you so that you know what ideas have power and reliably stimulate action. As it is time to incrementally take actions toward managing and leveraging the potential of your diverse talent pool, you may strategically align the rationale, costs and anticipated outcomes of the action proposed with the bottom line you know to be true to your work environment.
Consider Your Losses & Gains
Monetary cost is an idea not often lost in translation. Consider thinking of “influence” in financial terms. Exchanging certain “currencies” to achieve desired results is a basic way to see the value of our actions—or inactions—upon others and within the context of our work environments. In a relationship-based economy, what key relationships profit you—and how? What key relationships offer profit that you haven’t yet experienced because you’re exchanging currencies that have insufficient value in one anothers’ contexts?
Hear the Trend of Conversation
Listen to hear the trend of conversation. What are people saying—and not saying—about the experience of working with others across cultural differences? When successes or conflict occur within a diverse group, how is it understood specifically by the hierarchy or generally by the whole? Identifying the storylines commonly shared and accepted among any given work group gives us a hint as to the culture of the organization, and how to best activate intercultural change when the time comes.
For those who disagree that the above suggestions are passive and represent inaction, we believe you’re right! Perhaps you are of the belief that indecision is a decision itself; that conscious thought can be more intentional than our physical actions; or, more philosophically, that simply being is an act in the world. In some of the professional realities of clients with whom we tend to work, “true” action may be considered to be that which is more obvious than subtle; more articulate than silent; more rapid than paced. Without judgment, we seek to be a resource at whatever level of (in)action that you may find yourself, and to encourage you to move progressively—even if gradually—toward a working model that makes the most value of/for the people you call colleagues.