In a world that, thanks to technology and outsourcing, only continues to get smaller how are young professionals today going to tackle the task of staying in touch with their employees in global organizations? As a young MBA student myself, I see myself as ambitious and ready to take on the world, however, only recently did I realize that this might mean actually taking on the world. How can you manage people globally when they speak another language and have completely different beliefs and customs that only add to the information challenges? Suddenly the way you assess your local employees is not going to be good enough, this is a whole new dimension to management and it’s going to be one that most ambitious young managers will get to experience firsthand. I get overwhelmed just thinking about the issues that could come up with employees in global organizations so I decided to attack the issues that scare me the most and evaluate them.
First off, having global language barriers with your employees could seem like enough to make you give up before you get started, but the way the world is today, and the way it will undoubtedly be in the future, leaves no question that language barriers are something that are going to have to be continuously managed in a successful global organization. Good communications skills have never been more critical. Highlighting the issues with language barriers, a recent article in The Rio Times states, “A report by the Economist Intelligence Unit says that Brazil is among the worst at coping with the language barrier of the English-speaking world of business, and that deals are being hindered because of it. Experts are warning that, with increased international interest in businesses based in Brazil, the need to break down the barrier has never been more acute.” (Tavener, 2012). So what are some solutions to language barriers (other than Rosetta Stone)? Offhand, I would think that trustworthy interpreters are going to take a lot of the stress out of language barriers, but other aids I’ve considered would be visual aids, technology (electronic interpreters), and body language (if present or skyping with the person you’re communicating with). Language barriers are always going to be out there, it’s finding the ways to overcome them that leads to success. “Industry experts say that despite the possible setbacks caused by inefficient language communications, a multinational approach can yield the biggest gains, as long as initial cultural misunderstandings can be overcome.” (Tavener, 2012).
The second thing that scares me to death about global management is differences in ethics, beliefs, and customs. While I think that cultural differences among people are beautiful, the thought of offending or not comprehending the ethics of those I’m managing simply terrifies me. There’s no playbook for this. “Many of the ethical issues in international business are rooted in the fact that political systems, law, economic development, and culture vary significantly from nation to nation.” (Hill, 2010, p.136) As a manager, you’re going to have to make yourself particularly sensitive to and aware of these differences. The way you navigate differences in customs and beliefs is going to vary based on what part of the world you’re dealing with and defining ethical business conduct will more than likely be dependent upon that as well. As a young, unworldly MBA student this topic perplexes me, but I would have to think that there is a global ethical standard to be defined when it comes to business. Without one, we would restrict our ability to do business effectively in a world where borders have become less and less meaningful. As an effective global manager I would think my first step would be to define this shared set of global ethical values and capitalize on it.
After overcoming language barriers and ethical differences, how do you evaluate the employees at hand? However unfamiliar global business practices may seem at first, mangers with global responsibilities must be able to make a fair and accurate assessment of employees from other countries. What’s most scary about this for me is the issue of trust. Who can you trust do assess employee performance for you from overseas? You’re going to have to find dependable people to get things done, ones who can give you valuable insight into organizational issues. Personally, one of my biggest fears and biggest challenges in this scenario would be my dependence on the people immediately surrounding me to form judgments regarding employees’ performances. This, for me, would be the biggest obstacle of all in global management, and it’s probably the issue that is dealt with more often. I would imagine that communication barriers between overseas management and home base management are some of the largest factors hindering the success of global business.
As I’ve pondered the most concerning issues for myself in becoming a global manager, I’ve learned that one thing is clear; success in global management begins with an attitude of acceptance, a willingness to learn, and an eye for problem solving. I’m hoping that I, along with other up-and-coming managers alike can dominate these key issues and the infinite possibilities that come with the world’s current globalization and the management opportunities it affords us.
Hill, C. W. (2011). International Business: Competing in the global marketplace (9th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.
Tavener, B. (2012, May 15). Language Barriers in Brazil Business. The Rio Times. Retrieved July 21, 2012, from http://riotimesonline.com/brazil-news/rio-business/language-barriers-in-brazil-business/#