Why is it difficult to work in a multinational team?


    I have been working in a multinational team for almost two years. Dutch project, front office in the Netherlands, plus a couple of back offices: Russian and Czech. Holland is a country where people from all over the world move to work, and this company itself is no exception. In Czechs, Russian and Dutch, it doesn’t end; Romanians, Poles, Mexicans, Indonesians, Macedonians, Indians work in projects and these are only those with whom I have already managed to work. As you can see, we have a complete set here. Of course, one must also take into account specific character traits of each person individually, but some features are clearly manifested precisely depending on nationality. In this article I want to share my experience about such teams and some discussions on the following topics: soft skills and technical skills, misunderstanding in the team due to the difference in mentality.

    I'm not perfect either, so add a picture of a case from my life:

    Soft skills - not our everything

    In most cases, soft skills are valued above technical. It catches your eye almost immediately at the beginning of work. The culture of politeness in communication in many countries of the West is part of the mentality. After the greeting, you need to ask “How are you doing”, and in my case with the Dutch, it would be nice to discuss the weather in a couple of suggestions. For us Russians, this is at odds with the usual “Hello” and the subsequent question on the topic. In addition, we ask about affairs, as a rule, from comrades with whom we have a good relationship and tell in detail about the weekend, vacation or something else, and not just “Fine, thanks”. Sometimes it's a little annoying when this typical dialogue even follows during a release. The team has unclosed tasks that need to be urgently solved, and here you are wasting time discussing the weather:

    Of course, the software skills do not end there. But nevertheless, the consideration of these skills, as one of the main ones, in my opinion, is erroneous. The fact is that having technical skills helps to find common topics in a team, participate in technical meetings and even just solve common tasks. It is thanks to them that even quiet team members can open up differently for you.

    I want to give an example from my old work. In the team, one employee did not even consider it necessary to greet everyone. At this, his level of social skills does not end there. When talking to some of your questions, he might not answer right away, but simply begin to reason and then leave. But he always came back, he just had such an approach of thinking to complex questions for which he did not immediately have answers. Sometimes he went for a walk on the floor, and sometimes he went to work, and only then after some time (within half an hour) returned to you with an answer. Of course, at first glance, the case with the absence of the usual mutual greeting seems rude and disrespectful, but he still talked with someone from the team. The answer was simple - he is not interested in talking to me.

    I had to find an approach, and decided to participate in several conversations on the intricacies of C ++ and still managed to tell something that he did not know. The guy went to the workplace, we sketched out a few quick examples, that's all. After that, you are also considered interesting.

    That is, on the one hand, these are completely different soft and hard skills, but on the other hand, they are closely related.

    Therefore, technical teams and architects in our teams often have problems. It was here that I met with such that a former programmer in another language, with 2-3 years of programming experience, can become the architect of a C ++ project, and this is good if there is any programming experience at all. Of course, you seem to realize that the architect is the same role that does not oblige you to write code, but on the other hand, you have to explain that it is impossible to implement in C ++, and if micromanagement still begins and you don’t get into your code with tips in the case, the eye begins to twitch slightly. Still, a person with C ++ programming experience has at least two languages ​​for communicating with programmers: English and C ++.

    So, working in multinational teams, everyone will have to adapt.

    Misunderstanding even when using one language for communication

    Mentality plays a large role in understanding the same actions and even ordinary statements. Take, for example, a couple of aspects.


    Many topics that seem very personal to us are commonplace for others.

    Yes, we do not want to discuss our trip to the doctor or tell that the gamal last night is personal. We are used to discussing such things in a certain circle of people. Moreover, I’m not sure that anyone likes to talk about a doctor’s visit at all. At the same time, openness disappears somewhere when it comes to some technical things. By the way, this does not always depend on personal qualities. Keep in mind that in some nationalities it is not customary to directly ask if something is not understood during a conversation, even if there is actually discussion about it. For some reason, it is considered completely normal after a discussion to google all the heard concepts and terms and try to figure it out on your own. Moreover, after all, sometimes the same words have different meanings depending on the context, which adds more misunderstanding. So get ready read on the face of the interlocutor, where you need to explain and tell more. But it’s really difficult to do in a Skype call, if only judging by an uncertain uncertain voice.

    Feedback approaches or how feedback is given

    It is customary for Russians to give feedback in person, whether positive or negative, comments on team behavior. The Dutch do it in a group. I call this a “public flogging” when it comes to a negative rating expressed publicly in a team. My colleagues are laughing that I see this action, but it is. If you think about it, the approach of “public flogging” is also used here, but, as a rule, this is if it did not come to pass after two or three times the comments made. Someone can generally perceive the feedback in the group as a personal insult, but from the side of foreign colleagues everything seems to be normal.


    I heard complaints about the features and complexity of working with Russian programmers not only here, but also in other companies, you can read about this in articles on the Internet. Of course, by this I did not discover America. But not everyone understands that we also have to look for special approaches and make efforts to gain respect from the same Russian colleagues. Take into account that this is a big plus for you if you can achieve this. And when working with foreign colleagues, try to overcome the stereotype of "these rude Russian programmers."

    I want to end my story with advice on reading a book on cultural differences, which I personally have not read yet, but many colleagues over the past half year have begun reading as must have:

    “The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business” by Erin Meyer

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