International Employees – 3 More Mistakes With Overseas Staff


a) Task them as you would Americans.

Today’s management styles are about tasking with autonomy, getting “out of the box” and saying things like: “Here’s the job, you are the team, make it happen.”

But do foreign employees really want to take initiative? Many cultures will be paralyzed by that type of approach, and wait for leadership.

Employees all over the world are people who are tasked, not who are entrepreneurial.

Entrepreneurs leave their employers, start their own businesses and get written about in newspapers. It is uniquely American to have intrapreneurs, that is, entrepreneurs who work within an organization.

b) Pick one foreigner to do another foreigner’s job.

This is often seen when a firm hires, for example, a British country manager and tasks him with developing all of Europe. The assumption that “he’s European” is an incorrect one. Can he sell in Poland? Is he well-connected in Belgium? Does he speak German? How much does he know about Eastern Europe?

Additionally, international managers often are picked cross-functionally and given marketing, management, sales and production responsibilities. This is a unique and expensive skill mix.

c) Assume they understand you.

Barring language, do they understand the task? Many cultures need to read rather than listen.

Is your language peppered with euphemisms? Are you using jargon they don’t know? Are you saying things like “bottom line” or “ASAP” that they won’t know?

A tip: Ask your “foreigner” to write down a description of what you’ve just asked her to do. See if her description matches your wishes. It will take some extra time, but how much time will a misunderstanding take?