#WFH: What Are Cultural Differences Online?

Cultural differences do not just exist between people from various countries or those living on separate continents. Such differences can exist within geographical boundaries, organizations and companies. Cultural differences become important to consider when they create a mismatch of meaning. If the culture is Western, it is probably more interested in facts, deadlines and data. If it is Eastern, perhaps group relationships and roles are more important. Losing face and problem solving are dealt with differently in varying cultures. Hierarchies of roles and authority have culture-specific meanings. Awareness helps you understand these clashes. Education and training can help overcome cultural gaps, but so can creating a new virtual culture that is unique to your team or organization.

Before the virtual workplace, when we went to work we checked our culture of origin at the door. We assumed the corporate culture and we took on its DNA. We internalized the expectations, meaning and behaviors necessary to succeed. Now, the organization must convey to the virtual worker the values, mission and purpose of the business. Each role must be defined as to what constitutes appropriate interactions, and when.
Establishing norms and rules that serve your unique virtual community helps to establish unique bonds. Success in the virtual world takes a strong commitment. The job of remote leadership is to communicate the mission, get commitment to the vision and to each other.

Leadership has a great deal of responsibility. The leadership is responsible for setting the tone of interactions. If leaders are untrusting, disorganized or unyielding, virtual workers might reflect the same. Clarity is essential to the virtual worker. Clarity begins with a clear sense of self and purpose. This clear purpose enables virtual workers to take timely and appropriate action. All personal requirements, selfish motives and individual perspectives are inconsequential if the mission and purpose are clear.

Unclear communications and misunderstanding can happen easily with everyone sitting around a conference table. When you have people in far-off places, different time zones and multiple native languages, the situation can be even more challenging. It is important that you give the person who is speaking your attention…total attention. Misunderstanding and miscommunication are more common when attention is unfocused. When
communicating with others, background or back-channel tasks and conversations are not helpful to you or the goal.

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