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Case Studies

1. Jims Mistake
A case study on virtual teams, hierarchy, and direct versus indirect communication styles.
Based in Cleveland, Ohio, Jim is has been managing a software development team in Pune for
the past two years. He has been working closely with Aruna, the Indian team leader, to develop
a new networking program. While Jim has over 25 years of experience in software
development, Aruna knows the program inside and out.
While reviewing his work from the previous week, Jim discovers that he made a mistake in the
programming code. He notices that Aruna corrected his error, but wonders why Aruna did not
bring it to his attention so that he could avoid delays and keep from making the same mistake
in the future.
Should Aruna have informed Jim of his mistake? Why or why not?
If Jim wants to be notified of his mistakes in the future, how should he proceed?
Possible solution
In this situation, Jim and Aruna are unaware that their expectations are being heavily
influenced by their cultures. Both of them assume that the others method of communicating is
similar to their own.
In most Asian cultures critiquing your supervisor is unacceptable. Aruna is following her
cultures norms by avoiding direct communication about Jims mistake. Jim, on the other hand,
expects more direct communication regarding the technical aspects of the project.
Moving forward, Jim should assure Aruna that communicating directly about programming
errors is encouraged. He should understand that it will take time for Aruna to adapt his
communication style and should recognize her when she points out mistakes directly. Jim
should also make efforts to recognize when Aruna is communicating more indirectly about
program errors.

2. Sandeep is out of the office
A case study on miscommunication in multicultural teams.
Sandeep has just joined the Banglore office of a New York based MNC. As part of his training he
will be spending 3 months in the US, but has already been assigned to a team with members in
New York, Tokyo and Banglore. Sarah, the New York based project manager, has scheduled a
teleconference meeting for Tuesday. Sandeep will be traveling to Delhi to get his US visa over
the meeting time. Heres their conversation
Sarah: Can we do the teleconference tomorrow, 7 pm for you, or should we wait until you get
Sandeep: Better if we can wait, but I can do it if you like if its necessary.
Sarah: Do you want to postpone it? Tell me, yes or no?
What cultural and/or personality traits are influencing the communication?
What is Sarah likely to be thinking/feeling?
What is Sandeep likely to be thinking/feeling?
Possible solution
Sandeep is in a difficult situation. As a new team member he is unfamiliar with the team culture
and Sarahs communication style. While he is attempting to communicate that he would like to
postpone the meeting, Sarah is not picking up on his indirect messages. Since Sandeep is new to
the team and to the company, he should adapt to a more direct communication style and not
interpret Sarahs bluntness as rudeness
As a project manager, Sarah should seek to understand the different communication styles of
her virtual team members. She might consider inviting a consultant to facilitate an open
dialogue about cultural differences and the work culture of the team.

3. Promotion
A case study on cultural conflict and the values of status and community.
Mayank has been working as an Information Officer at a foreign consulate in New Delhi for
several years. His boss, Hendrick, wants to reward Mayank for his hard work and offers him a
promotion and pay raise to become an Information Clerk. Mayank politely declines the offer,
leaving Hendrick confused.
Why would Mayank refuse the promotion?
How should Hendrick proceed?
Possible solution
It is likely that Mayank refused the promotion because the title of Information Officer sounds
more prestigious than Information Clerk. This may seem strange to Hendrick, who might
assume that everyone values a higher salary over status and position. Mayank, on the other
hand, would like to have a pay raise but is concerned about how the change in title would affect
his familys position in their community.
If he is unable to change the job title of Information Clerk to something more prestigious,
Hendrick should look for other ways to acknowledge Mayank for his hard work. Perhaps he
could increase his salary in his current position or have the embassy give him an award which
he could display at home.

4. And Also Meet with Others
A case study on cross-cultural partnerships, intercultural communication and high-context
versus low-context communication.
Mark is an American living in Delhi and is meeting with Ajay, who is a government official that
frequently deals with the public. Mark is interested in forming a partnership with Suresh, a local
businessman with whom Ajay has worked in the past. Mark wants to know if Ajay thinks
partnering with Suresh is a good idea.
Mark: Do you happen to know Suresh?
Ajay: Of course, I have worked closely with him on a number of projects over the past 10 years.
I know him very well.
Mark: I was thinking about meeting him and seeing if there might be a possibility for
collaboration. What do you think?
Ajay: Yes, you should meet with him, and you should also meet with others.
Mark: Thanks. Who else should I meet with?
Ajay: You know there are some girls who fall in love with a boy who is very popular, well
dressed, and good looking. After they get married, they realize that they made a mistake
because the boy has no substance. Other girls will look for a guy with good character checking
out his family situation and talking with his friends about him. When she gets married, she is
much happier than the girl who married the popular guy.
Should Mark meet with Suresh? Why or why not?
Why does Mark ask about other people to meet with?
Why does Ajay talk about a hypothetical marriage?
Possible solution
Many Americans in Marks situation would misunderstand Ajay and think that he was
encouraging them to meet with Suresh. Many Indians in Ajays position would think that they
clearly communicated the exact opposite: do NOT meet with Suresh.
There are at least two cultural dimensions at work here. The first is the preference for direct
versus indirect communication. Americans tend to prefer direct communication, wanting
speakers to tell it to us straight, say what they mean and not beat around the bush.
Indians tend to favor indirect communication, preferring a more polite style, especially when
communicating negative information.
The second cultural dimension influencing Marks conversation with Ajay is the difference
between high-context and low-context communication. Cultures preferring high-context
communication rely heavily on the context of a situation to communicate meaning. The speaker
assumes that the listener is intelligent enough to understand the message in the context of the
situation. Cultures preferring low-context communication rely heavily on words to
communicate meaning. Using precise language is a sign of good communication and they often
state the obvious just to ensure understanding.
5. Monsooned
A case study on project deadlines, the Indian yes and high-context versus low-context
Rebecca works with United Technologies, a Chicago based company. She is talking on the
phone to Abhinav, the manager of one of United Technologies vendors for customer service
Rebecca: We really need to get all of the customer service representatives trained on
our new process in the next two weeks. Can you get this done?
Abhinav: That timeline is pretty aggressive. Do you think its possible?
Rebecca: I think it will require some creativity and hard work, but I think we can get it
done with two or three days to spare
Abhinav: Ok.
Rebecca: Now that our business is settled, how is everything else?
Abhinav: Alls well, although the heavy monsoons this year are causing a lot of delays
getting around the city.
Two weeks later
Abhinav: Weve pulled all of our resources and Im happy to say that 60% of the
customer service representatives are now trained in the new process. The
remaining 40% will complete the training in the next two weeks.
Rebecca: Only 60%? I thought we agreed that they all would be trained by now!
Abhinav: Yes . The monsoon is now over so the rest of the training should go quickly.
Rebecca: This training is critical to our results. Please get it done as soon as possible.
Abhinav: I am certain that it will be done in the next two weeks.
o Did Abhinav agree to the initial timeline requested by Rebecca?
o What might Rebecca be thinking about Abhinav?
o What might Abhinav be thinking about Rebecca?
o How will this incident affect their future interactions?
Possible solution
After the first conversation Abhinav feels that he clearly communicated to Rebecca that the
training would not get done in the time she requested. On the other hand, Rebecca feels that
Abhinav clearly communicated that he would meet the deadline. How can this be?
This is an example of miscommunication due to differences in communication styles. Abhinav
prefers high-context communication, relying heavily on the context of the situation to
communicate meaning. In this case, he hints that the timeline is too aggressive and implies that
monsoons are causing work delays. Most Indians in Rebeccas position will understand
Abhinavs message loud and clear.
Rebecca, however, is used to low-context communication, relying heavily on the precise
meaning of the words exchanged. From her perspective, Abhinav agrees to the timeline when
he responds ok. Most Americans in Abhinavs position would understand that Rebecca is still
expecting the training to be completed on time.
Both Rebecca and Abhinav need to seek to understand the aspects of their communication
styles which are impacted by culture. Rebecca needs to be careful not to judge Abhinav as
unreliable and Abhinav needs to be careful not to judge Rebeccas response as rude and