Mala Subramaniam's Blog

Mala Subramaniam's Blog

My thoughts about leadership, communications and career development

Cultural awareness influences business outcomes

Many USA-based companies outsource work to India. Some are disappointed with results and wonder why. A critical reason cited for disappointing results is: Cross-Cultural Communications. We don’t understand “their” behavior, actions and reasons! I travel all over the United States speaking to an audience of puzzled Americans in major companies. A repeated comment I hear: We wish we heard this speech before we started working with Indians. Would have meant a smooth work-flow!

Here are 3 TIPS I give to Americans interacting with Indians:

Don’t assume agreement when an Indian smilingly nods his head up and down, and says, YES. In Indian-English YES means: “I am listening. I hear you,” NOT ”I agree or I will do what you request.”

Don’t get hopeful when a person from India says I’LL TRY. It could be a polite way of saying NO to a persuasive client or someone in power.

Don’t conclude ignorance. Just because Indians are quiet in meetings, you cannot assume that they know nothing or that they cannot speak. It is a show of respect to manager, client or other people of power. Indians who are in IT outsourcing do have technical expertise and some are engineers.

These puzzling behaviors are only seen among persons who have recently come from India. Over time, these individuals adapt to practices in USA.

My advice to both Americans and Indians : Seek cross-cultural training, if you wish to succeed in this global economy.

Mala Subramaniam has the unique distinction of being raised in India, educated and trained in USA, certified as a trainer and speaker, and worked in MNCs like GE, IBM, Dun & Bradstreet in influential roles. She has run multicultural sessions for both Indians and Americans for over 6 years in large firms like The Hartford, ESI, NASDAQ, Comcast.

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