Many of us are uncomfortable speaking with people of higher status. We can feel self-conscious, unsure of what to say, and afraid what we’re going to say — or what we’re saying — is the wrong thing. After these conversations, we often replay in our heads what we said, analyze what we shouldn’t have said, or realize what we should have said but didn’t.
The fact that people from deferential and polite cultures often struggle quite significantly trying to make their way in less hierarchical cultures.
Sensitizing managers to these differences is critical for them to be able to make accurate attributions for their employees’ behavior. For example, if an employee doesn’t speak up in a meeting, it may not be because the employee doesn’t have anything to say. Or if an employee offers to take on a new assignment, but without the unbridled, “go-getter” type of enthusiasm the manager is used to from his American employees, this may just be a difference in communication style instead of a difference in motivation to do the work.
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