Exchange of ‘good points’ in cross-border co-operation

In one of our recent cross-national comparative survey we have asked employees, mostly IT specialists   who work for large Telecommunication companies in Greece and in the Netherlands and cooperate with each other, among others,  the following question:

‘Can you think of something your counterparts in the Netherlands (or in Greece) are doing well? Something you would like to adopt within your company as well?’

Most of the participants are experiencing daily or weekly interactions  with their counterparts in the other country, though mostly in ‘virtual’ mode.

Yet, observations of both sides are specific and very much to the point. The following radar charts show the semantic clustering of the comments we adopted.

Semantic Categories of the Comments provided

Working environment

The largest category on behalf of the Greek employees we discerned comprise 29,7% of their observations , and is related to the ‘working environment’ people in the Netherlands enjoy, in the Greek eyes, like, flexibility in working hours, the fact that managers trust employees to work from home, or the levels of their salaries.

Agreeability

Dutch had no comments over the Greeks related to their working environment.

Instead, the larger category (29,7%) employees in the Dutch companies generated over their counterparts in Greece,  was on a friendly Greek behavioral style, and we termed that category, ‘Agreeability’ , (See diagram and Table 2). Employees  in the Netherland come from various countries. Thus, apart from the Dutch  respondents, being the majority, there were people from Belgium, Denmark, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ireland, Portugal, Romania, China and from Greece as well.

From the companies in Greece  all were Greeks, except for  few Bulgarians.

The two graphics illustrate the observations both sides. In the following tables you can also see some examples of the comments provided.

 

 

Two intercultural coders worked together to allocate the comments both sides.

 Table 1

‘What the Dutch are doing well’ according to their Greek counterparts (in Greece)

Semantic Categories

In %  percentages  Examples of their comments
Work -Environment (flexible working hours – financial rewards) 29,73 – Their working environment, salaries, surveys, team spirit, working hours. could I write everything?
– Flexibility in the working schedule, work day at home
Time / Planning (well-organized, efficient, pro-active) 19,37 – Keeping Meeting time frames
– They have an excellent sense of what tasks can be accomplished within the day.
Procedural / Co-ordination (clear job-roles, egalitarian structure, innovative) 18,47 – … they never overwork without a real need and they do communicate their limits to their higher in command without fear they will be regarded as week.
– … clearness in job roles.
– They all follow a similar procedure when they encounter issues which makes problems solving  easier.
Collaboration / Co-operation (team-working, ) 6,76 – They are kind with each other.
– … They communicate much better among them. They work better as a team. They are not afraid of undertaking responsibilities.
Hard skills (highly-expertised, highly-organised) 0,68 – They manage to balance work with personal time
– … each one is experts in his/her field. this is something I would like to adopt!
Soft Skills (patient,  self-disciplined) 6,08 – They have more patience than us in “difficult” situations.
– They stay focused, calm when critical / high priority issues occur
No comments 18,92
Total in % 100,00

 

Table 2

What the Greeks are doing well according to culturally diverse employees in the Netherlands (Dutch are the major group).

‘What the Greeks are doing well’ according to their  counterparts in the Netherlands.

Semantic categories

In % percentages  Examples of their comments
Agreeability (willing, supportive, friendly) 31,03 -I think they are very  helpful
-… they are  well willing. Especially if you show them the same respect.  I do think that we can learn something from this in (some) divisions within our Org in NL
Time related (fast responsive) 6,61 – Fast responsive on urgency
– They achieve their goals
Procedural / Coordination (non beuraucratic, act within contract) 10,92 – … willing to put bureaucracy and processes aside
– They are acting within the contract.
Collaboration / Co-operation (responsiveness, want long term relationships) 9,48 – The Geek colleagues are explaining everything very clear and well described
– Colleagues of both companies are working on a good long-term relationship!
Hard skills: (experts, know ‘the how’ ) 6,90 They are engineers with good technical knowledge.
Soft Skills (flexible, adaptable, hard-working, curious, attentive) 13,51 – They are customer-service oriented and polite
– They are flexible
– Greek people are very humble and naturally service oriented
No comments 21,56
Total in % 100,00

A  careful reader will notice that except of the first category, all the other categories share the title.

Different aspects in different degree

Yet,  the points employees, both sides expressed, often refer to different aspects of the same topic. The percentage of comments per category is not equivalent as well as the focus of the both sides observations.

For example, in the Category ‘Time / Planning’ (19,37%) Greeks comment on how well Dutch organize their time at work . But, employees in the Netherlands in their comments related to ‘Time’ (6,61%), do not mention time-management aspects but ..that Greeks respond fast, especially in cases of urgency (See ‘Time’ in Table 2, with ‘Time / Planning’ in Table 1). The latter thus, observe a kind of soft skill at personal rather than at the Organisational level. Dutch have also noticed that Greeks are pride-minded and very sensitivity to being respected by others.

Greeks on the contrary, observe good points at the Dutch Organizations like, time-management, transparency, clear distinction of roles and responsibilities but also at individual level like, no fear for hierarchy, self-discipline and skills for focused attention.

In agreement with previous studies

Both side observations reproduce previous Cross-Cultural observations (Hofstede,  Triandis) related to a focus on effectiveness  or one’s attitude to hierarchy. Greeks notice an egalitarian structure in the Dutch Organization while, features of agreeability, being co-operative and fast responsive come to the fore for the Greek settings.

An unconscious acceptance..

There is also another way to look at these results. A more implicit way, namely,

What you notice that the ‘Other’ is doing WELL may, indirectly, express acceptance of your ‘own’  shortcoming !

Could realisation of such acceptance comprise subtle suggestions to ourselves and to our organisations? Improvements at personal and some convergence at company’s level? Especially in distant, cross-border co-operations. Because, present-day economies are inevitably interdependent!


We were honored and proud to discuss the dynamic experience of IT experts in cross-border co-operations and analyse the individual factors that are critical in developing Intercultural Competence, at the SIETAR EUROPA CONGRESS 2017