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Foreign Relationships

With so much global expansion it has become commonplace for people to have interactions with fellow employees from other countries. Obviously this presents challenges such as with language or cultural differences, but there is another deeper rooted dynamic also at work that can be quite problematic.

However before we get into defining what this is and potential fixes, let’s explore a particular scenario to better understand the problem under review. Company X based in the US, highly successful for 10 years and it is acquired by Company Y from Germany. Notwithstanding the aforementioned language and cultural challenges the following might form the thought process of both these entities:

Company X

  • We have been independent for 10 years and like making decisions
  • We know what to do and don’t need outside help
  • We have been successful and will continue to be so

Company Y

  • We want to get a return on our investment and be involved
  • We want to help make you better and have new ideas
  • We want to leverage other capabilities to make you more successful

Both sides have a genuine set of ideals which unfortunately puts them on a crash course because they are in conflict; independence v interdependence. Many organizations upon acquiring a company do not put sufficient effort into this aspect of the integration process. To both companies their respective positions make absolute sense but emotional elements fuel territorialism and protectionism (what we have we hold). Eventually this leads to frustration, resentment, bitterness, and inevitably a lack of commitment and engagement. Not a recipe for positive progress.

When you strip away the facts the underlying issue is that any acquisition is just like a new relationship. Quite often the problem becomes exacerbated due to geographical boundaries, which limit communication and familiarity. Here are 6 useful tips that can help better understand and more effectively deal with this.

1. Common Purpose – what is the big picture or the collective why of the organization that you both have in common?

2. Awareness of Others – walk in their shoes and try to understand from their perspective. Be empathetic with what they are trying to achieve and hopefully they might reciprocate.

3. Self Awareness – check your own emotions, such as ego or pride that might be blinding your judgment and subsequent actions.

4. Compromise – pick your battles on what really matters and recognize that relationships are all about give and take.

5. Be the Change – become the influencer by helping the other party see things differently; they might just modify their perceptions in your favor.

6. Learn to Cope – inevitably there will be some things that you will not like and cannot be altered; how can you learn to accept and just move on?

This is a challenging journey and speaks to the fundamentals of human relationship. But like any other challenge it takes some work and very often somebody to take the first few steps. Why can’t that be you?

About Bill Sex

Bill Sex is President of New England Coaching and specializes in supporting personal, professional and organizational advancement with specific emphasis on coaching skills, emotional intelligence and employee engagement / motivation.

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