Don’t address

Many, perhaps most, global companies don’t address the influence of cultural differences on global teams. We see at least twelve reasons for this. And although these reasons are human, they’re not human enough. More human is to overcome these reservations.

Not Taught

We are not aware of cultural differences. We are neither educated nor trained to explore our national cultural logics. See the curricula of universities, graduate studies, and executive education.

Political Correctness

Political correctness has been a strong trend for more than twenty-five years. In the United States identity politics has become particularly strong in the last decade. There is seldom real discussion about how national cultures, also called ethnic groups, think.

People are People

“People are people” is the most common position. Companies hope that good intentions will enable collaboration to go smoothly. People are people at the level of basic needs. But from there on we are human beings imbedded in a national culture. And cultures are different, in how they think and work.

Too busy

We are so focused on the substance of our work that we don’t consider differences in approaches. We’re too busy to reflect. We’re under pressure, have to deliver results, to move fast. We’ve become too transactional. We believe that we have too little time to step back and reflect.

Corporate vs. Country

Most companies ignore the influence of country culture. They place their hopes in standardized (harmonized) ways of doing things within the company. They believe that how they work across the company, let’s use the term processes, will make country cultural differences irrelevant.


Fear is the deepest and most powerful driver of human behavior. It can be frightening to reflect on who we are. To go deep, to explore how we think and act. And it can be embarrassing to admit that we have seldom considered country culture differences and their influence on our work.

Machine Age thinking

Man created the machine. And machines have worked wonders for mankind. However, we have a tendancy to see ourselves as parts of a machine, or worse, as machines ourselves. If something is measurable, it is relevant. If it is not measurable, it is not relevant. Culture cannot be measured.

Difficult to Articulate

Often we sense cultural differences, but we have difficulty articulating them. We don’t engage with each other in discussion about the differences in how we as different country cultures think and work. Our lack of articulation makes us feel awkward and uncomfortable. We realize how highly sensitive the subject matter is.

Us against Them

If collaboration is the result of a merger of two companies, or of a merger of organizations within a company, or simply the formation of a new multinational team, we might have an atmosphere of internal competition, of us-versus-them. The us-versus-them dynamic becomes intensified when management manipulates the fears of their people.


Even if both sides are open, honest, and willing to work together, addressing cultural differences (how the work is done) necessarily means being open to the possibility that the approach of the other culture is better, more effective, faster, less expensive. And that can be felt as a threat to job security. We suddenly become vulnerable. 

“Their approach”

And even if the other approach has no negative consequences, we sense quickly that doing things the other way has its disadvantages. We become the junior-partner in the working relationship because their way is native to them yet foreign to us: processes, methods, tools, the very substance of our work. Change is seldom comfortable.


All of the factors above are very good reasons to simply avoid the discussion, to not engage in a structured and informed discussion about cultural differences and their impact on how we want to work in global teams. The risks can be seen as too great. The situation becomes unpredictable. It becomes tense. We fear losing control.

Back to Thoughts.