Expectations, assumptions, and habits about vacation are often tied to local rhythms and seem to go without saying. Most people have a good sense for what is appropriate in their own context in terms of when it is okay to be away from work, for how long, and what responsibilities and processes are involved. Although most of us know on some level that every country probably does things differently, we often don’t stop to think about this reality because our own norms are so obvious (to us) that we take them for granted.
Unfortunately, ignorance about other cultures’ vacation patterns can cause major headaches on a global team. Even managers who consider themselves to be culturally-sensitive may be caught unawares when individual team members’ calendars collide with workflows and deadlines. This may be especially true for leaders from the U.S., who may be surprised and miffed to learn that someone from, say, the U.K., feels entitled to go off-the-grid for two weeks in the middle of a major project roll-out.
Rather than set themselves and their teams up for inevitable clashes and disappointments like this one, is there is a better approach? After interviewing intercultural experts and global managers from around the world, Andy Molinsky and I identified best practices that are easy to implement in any country or company culture:
- Create a master team schedule in advance to avoid surprises before they happen
- Create a work coverage plan so that everyone knows what to expect
- Be consistent with general expectations – but adjust in practice as necessary
Much more could be written about the complexities of managing a global team, but together these suggestions offer a starting point for keeping everything on track. Interested in learning more? Check out our article in Harvard Business Review, or contact me to discuss the particulars of your situation.