Leadership Crossroads Newsletter

In Focus:  Resistance to Change

Over the past forty or so years, Change Management went from a largely ignored leadership aspect to becoming a field in itself. Practitioners and researchers developed com-prehensive process definitions, there are now numerous models analyzing indicators of and reasons for people resisting change, and you can apply countless recommended strategies for overcoming such resistance and managing change effectively.

One question, though, largely remains unanswered: "What do I need to do differently when trying to manage change effectively across cultures?"

After all, cultural differences are hard to overlook when it comes to resistance to change. Compare the way the Japanese deal with their nation's long economic decline and the 2011 tsunami and Fukushima disasters with the Greek reaction to that country's severe economic crisis: the former respond with great patience and stoic attitudes, the latter with angry protests and forceful resistance. Or contrast the way in which Germany raised its man­datory retirement age (from 65 to 67) to how the French dealt with a similar change (from 60 to 62): a few weeks of rather tame pro­tests here, several years of sometimes-violent resistance there.

Make no mistake: we're not discussing 'good' or 'bad' here. The point is that just as individuals respond differently to change, there is an often strong cultural component to the ways people in different countries and cultures deal with it. As always when it comes to working globally, one cannot assume that the strategies that are most effective in one place will be equally effective elsewhere.

Below are four helpful questions to ask yourself when managing global change. To be sure, they have as much do to with your own behaviors  as they do with the values  and  practices  of the  cul­ture(s) you are dealing with:

Are you making the reasons for, and the implications of, the change clear enough?

Ambiguity, whether it is about costs, equipment, jobs, or other aspects, can trigger negative reactions among those affected by change. How intense those reactions could become depends to no small degree on how people deal generally with uncertainty.

You'll want to spend much more time helping people understand upcoming changes when dealing with members of cultures where uncertainty is viewed a strong negative.

Did you consult those affected by the proposed change to the appropriate extent?

Most people like to know what's going on, especially if their jobs may be affected, and are generally happier when 'in the know' about upcoming changes. What constitutes appropriate involvement, however, may look different across cultures, both national and corporate.

Members of egalitarian or particularistic cultures (see also 'Order, Please!') tend to expect greater involvement in decision making than those of authoritarian and universalistic ones, where decisions are generally made at the top and/or follow processes, rules, and established practices.

Does the change threaten to modify established patterns of working relationships between people, and if yes, how relevant is that?

Nobody likes seeing their work relationships disrupted. How much of an issue it creates when that happens, though, is influenced by cultural views of the importance of business relationships. Such views must be carefully considered before making change decisions.

Does the change threaten power or status in your organi­zation?

Job worries tend to be universally intensive. That's not necessarily the case for power and status. The relevance of status and respect varies greatly across cultures.

Saving face may be crucially important to some, while little more than an abstract concept to others. Accordingly, changes that may be deemed minor in one culture could elsewhere be viewed as a major attack on some, or even all, of the players' pride and self esteem.

This article is also available in PDF format  (requires Adobe Reader ).

Book Of The Month
The Global Soul


With national and cultural boundaries becoming ever more blurred, globalization leaves many of those who don't 'clearly belong' aching for a sense of home.

(click title for full book review)


Web Site Of The Month
Centre for
Intercultural Learning


In addition to offering Country Insights for almost 200 countries, this Canadian go­vern­ment website provides valuable information and use­ful links.

(click title to visit this web site)


Quote Of The Month

The only person
who never makes mistakes
is the person
who never does anything

Dennis Waitley





Kindle E-Book edition
now also available!

Negotiating International Business book

All 50 individual Country Sections from Negotiating International Business are available online  for free.

Download Country Section PDF files now!


Leadership Crossroads
is a competent resource for

  • Global Business Coaching & Training
  • Negotiation Training and Assistance
  • Cross-Cultural Project Management
  • Organizational Learning and Development
  • Executive Coaching
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Business in the Americas

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New:  "Business In ..."  Android Apps

You have an Android-based pad or phone? You're doing business internationally?
Here's your perfect way to prepare: a new series of business references, covering cultural characteristics, business practices, etiquette rules, caveats and pitfalls, telling you what time it is there, how the weather will be, how much the currency is worth, relevant statistics about the country, and, and, and...
There simply is no easier way to get up to speed quickly!

Lothar Katz

Lothar Katz is the founder of Leadership Crossroads.  He has helped many clients achieve productive cooperation across cultures and drive business success on a global scale.
A seasoned global executive, he regularly interacted with employees, cus­tomers, out­sourcing partners, and third parties in numerous countries around the world.

Contact : info@leadershipcrossroads.com
Leadership CrossroadsSM, 2012

Global Business Practices:
Ten Tips for Doing Business in Colombia

  • Try to find an enchufado, a local intermediary, to help you make initial contact.
  • Dress carefully and maintain a somewhat formal style when doing business here.
  • Invest substantial time and energy to establish strong relationships prior to entering into negotiations and other serious business interactions.
  • Don't change company contacts unless you absolutely have to, since doing so could mean having to start over with relationship building.
  • Remember that bribery and corruption are fairly common in Colombia and come prepared to deal with such requests.
  • Always communicate disagreement tactfully and somewhat indirectly.
  • Do not criticize someone in front of others, as Colombians tend to be easily offended.
  • Never show signs of impatience or anger if you are kept waiting.
  • Keep frequent eye contact, almost to the point of staring, as doing so conveys sincerity and builds trust.
  • Keep in mind that crime rates in the country are very high, so do not display your wealth openly.

Our newsletter is a bimonthly publication about all aspects of International and Cross-Cultural Business Management.  Past issues can be found in our  newsletter archive.

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