Adjusting to a New Corporate Culture

Adjusting to a new corporate culture can be extremely difficult, especially for experts in their field. Often the very expertise that allowed you to accept your new position is not called upon. This is especially true for expats working abroad. A lot of countries have expected, but not communicated, acclimation-to-the-company periods, this is especially true in Japan. This time can be extremely stressful because there is a fine balancing act of knowing when to remain silent and when to speak up. There is also the dilemma of how many questions one can ask to be perceived as willing to learn the “company way” without giving the impression of inadequate expertise in a specific field.

I find that expats from countries with a “go getter” mindset can find this period of acclimation to be quite challenging. Finding a good sounding-board friend who is not a coworker can help ease the transition from “new employee” to expert in the field. Also, observing the communication patterns of other experts in similar fields can help. Watch and learn how expertise is asserted and the kind of language used when doing so. There is a dance that must be done to be respectful while giving an expert opinion. It is challenging, especially in a multicultural work environment hosted in a homogenous society.

The difficulty is being recognized as an individual, rather than as a reflection of your country of origin’s culture. Be aware of cultural stereotypes and avoid behaving like one whenever possible. Find a way to blend characteristics of the new culture with existing personal culture. Be open to adopting new body language, eating new food, and doing things in a new way. Flexibility and an ability to adapt are often the quickest ways to gain the trust of new colleagues. Be careful not to overdo this, because this risks becoming a caricature of the new culture. Instead, ease into the customs that feel right. Above all else, remember that letting go of things that aren’t working in the context of the new culture is not selling out - it’s adapting.

Posted on 07 Jun 2015 04:25

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