4 C’s of the Week: Culture, Communication, Concierge, and Coffee

Welcome back! This is my second blog post as I continue on this journey of accomplishing the Plus3 Global Project. It has only been around one week of this program, but it has certainly been an educational one. From lectures about cross-cultural communication to interactions with my new teammates, I have already experienced many new perspectives and ideas that I look forward to applying throughout the next two weeks. 

Some of my favorite concepts we have encountered thus far include:

  • Cultural Competency: Learning about the culture map provided me with the awareness of how to handle working with my cross-cultural team on this consulting project. 
  • Brazil’s Background
    • Healthcare System: One of the articles I read for this program discussed the Family Health System. This healthcare system provides healthcare in a very different way compared to the United States. Overall, Brazil has universal healthcare provided by the SUS with the help of community health agents, which is a unique way to approach providing healthcare and seems effective.
    • Socioeconomic Inequality and Health: Being a fan of statistics, economics, and psychology, I feel Professor Neves’ lecture captured all three of these subjects, making this lecture interesting to me. The lecture highlighted Brazil’s Gini Coefficient and demonstrated The Great Gatsby Curve; I enjoyed seeing these numbers apply to Brazil as it gave me a perspective of the country’s well-being.
  • Meeting Marcia Sena: The opportunity to interact with the CEO of a real company that is seeking consulting assistance is unforgettable. I have gotten to do consulting for a company that was not real, so this opportunity is truly a hands on, real world experience. My team and I have many ideas on how to assist Senior Concierge and cannot wait to share our plans with Marcia.
  • Cultural Coffee Workshop: I love coffee, so getting to learn about the history behind coffee was a unique and fun experience. I have yet to try affogato, but I have known about the “drink” for quite a while. I hope to make affogato at home when I have the right ingredients!

Going back to my first bullet point, Ms. Hillary Koller discussed cross-cultural teams and cultural competency, which is something I have covered in a course at Pitt. However, Koller highlighted different topics that I have yet to learn about that I can directly apply to this real experience of working with students from Latin America.

One topic I would have enjoyed exploring more is the culture map, as we only had time to go over trust, communication, and schedule. Since we got to discuss these three topics in detail, I feel I have a better understanding of how to apply these to the challenges that are involved with establishing and maintaining effective communication among my cross-cultural team members. 

For example, the United States and Latin American countries differ on the spectrum of task-based and relationship-based trust. Having grown up in the United States, I have been raised in an academic and workplace environment where our tasks define whether we can be trusted. In school, it is quickly evident of the students who do not do their share of the work, which translates to them being less likely to be trusted with major parts of the assignment. 

As for the workplace, I have had experience with task-based and relationship-based trust. My first job was at a family friend’s restaurant. I was the new employee that had to gain task-based trust from my coworkers, as they were all family members. However, I had some relationship-based trust that assisted me with establishing my credibility because I was friends with this family who owned the restaurant. I developed trust with this relationship, along with doing my job properly to gain task-based trust.

With respect to my second job, the type of trust was quite different. I worked at a restaurant chain that had new employees coming in and leaving every week. Therefore, I never knew who I would be working with as I would meet new employees every day. Having this type of work environment made it seem unnecessary to establish relationship-based trust. Obviously, there are some workers who I did develop relationships with solely because they continued to work. However, before I created these relationships, I created task-based trust because I needed to see if they could be responsible enough to do their own job. 

Regarding my group for the Plus3 Project, we come from different countries with different ways to establish trust. During our first meeting outside of class, I could tell who wanted to develop relationships and who wanted to discuss the project. These two approaches to trust were easily noticeable, which makes the differences among group members relatively difficult. We as a team must communicate effectively to overcome this difference in trust. The members from the United States will have to develop relationships with our fellow team members by talking about our lives and who we are in order to gain their trust. 

Concerning the communication aspect of the culture map, two group members from the United States come from a low context culture, while our other group members come from a high context culture. The challenge with our group having different backgrounds makes it more difficult for us to communicate effectively. One main way I can ensure I understand everything my high-context culture team members tell me is to always be actively listening and to understand that their nonverbal communication is almost as important as their verbal communication. To ensure effective communication, I will always ask for clarification if I am confused and will attempt to recap our discussion at the end.

The third and final part of the culture map I will focus on is schedule. In the United States, time is very linear and monochronic; we take time very seriously. In Latin American countries, they lean more toward polychronic and flexible time. This difference in view of time can be a challenge when coordinating meeting times and conducting the meetings. 

Being from the United States, I am used to meeting times being very concrete, not flexible. So far, our team has been great with meeting on time, which I greatly appreciate. However, I will understand if some of my team members are late because of their perspective of time. Additionally, our meetings themselves have gone smoothly. We have accomplished the tasks we needed to while getting to know one another. Typically, I would not stay on the Zoom call to get to know my teammates, but some members wanted to stay and talk, so I did. These members are actively seeking to develop relationships, which shows they tend to view time as flexible and aligns with a relationship-based trust.

On top of all these existing communication challenges, being virtual adds a whole new level of complexity to effective communication with our team members. Zoom meetings are the best we can do given this pandemic, so I am grateful for the opportunity to even meet students from Latin America. However, the disconnect is greater online than it would have been in person. As a whole, trust, no matter task or relationship-based, is more difficult to establish while online. Whether it be personally or professionally, it is much more difficult to tell what each of my team members is like. 

Moving on from the communication challenges, I have gained some knowledge on the unique perspectives about global business. In order to do business in a new country, it is important to understand the country’s economy, politics, and much more. Before doing international business, it is always important to do research so that we know how to approach the business. Specifically with Senior Concierge, our team did some reading on Brazil to comprehend the company’s cultural and business environment, which affects the company’s business model.

As I mentioned earlier, I enjoyed learning about Brazil’s background. Professor Nagai provided us with an overview of Brazil where I learned that the distribution of income is unequal. Obviously, this is true of many countries, but it is especially evident in Brazil. It was unfortunate, yet interesting to learn about the income distribution in Brazil. In the presentation, there was an image that clearly demonstrated the divide between the wealthy and the poor, which was quite memorable. 

Overall, I have learned much about cultural competency, which ties into my cross-cultural team communication and my views on global business. Thanks for reading my second blog post of my Plus3 Global Project Journey! I will be back next week with another update about what I have learned academically and personally.

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