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WE ARE ALL GLOBAL WORKERS NOW
Thanks to the increasing speed of communications such as phone, fax, e-mail, you can be an international worker and barely leave your desk. All this international work requires different skills. “You need to adapt your communication skills to meet the global challenge”, says Alison Birkett, a director of relocation firm Expat Essentials “A lot of misunderstandings come about from people using email badly”, she says. “People tend to send emails without writing “Dear so and so” at the beginning, or personalizing them. This can seem rude to the recipient if English isn’t his or her first language. We need to adopt a softer style”. Ms Birkett also recommends that people use their email less and the phone more. “Speaking to people can be a far more effective way of building a relationship”.
Robert Day, of Farnham Castle International Conference Centre, agrees. “Email and video conferencing are theoretically so easy that people forget the importance of forging a direct relationship”, he says. “If you can’t visit your overseas colleagues, talk to them on the phone and get to know them. You’ll increase your chances of getting replies to your emails”. Learning a foreign language is no longer a priority since English ‘really is the international business language’. It’s far less important to learn a foreign language than to use your own language well, so that people who are not native speakers can understand you. This means avoiding slang, speaking slowly, and having the patience to listen to foreign colleagues.
“Rather than language classes what we all need is cultural awareness training to help us to understand business habits of other nationalities”, says Sue Hyde, the business development manager for Babel language and cultural consultants. A lot of Babel’s business comes from firms that have merged with or acquired a foreign business. “One firm called us in because things have become so bad that their Italian business partners had stopped speaking to them. It was all to do with the way the two nationalities communicated with each other. The British approach is to stick to a written agreement without a lot of talking. Southern Europeans take the view that if things move on, there is no point in sticking to a contract”.
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