What would you think about a person who told you they could get a job done by Friday, but when Friday arrived the job wasn’t done? In North America this is the greatest way to lose someone’s trust and suggest you are incompetent, but in some cultures it is actually a way of being polite.
Consider the Canadian engineer who is working virtually with his Indian colleagues. Generally speaking, Canadians working in multi-national corporations are used to being able to ask each other closed questions like, “Can you get this job done by Friday?” and getting direct responses of either “yes” or “no” from one another. If someone says no, they both plan accordingly and nobody thinks twice about it.
According to Sam Ramesh, Indian Cultural expert and owner of several manufacturing plants, this is not the case in India. Ramesh explains, “Saying no is considered incredibly rude in India. For an Indian to say no is one of the greatest insults they can give someone. When working with non-Indian colleagues, this is usually where the problems starts.”
Once we are fluent in each others culture, the world of difference between yes and no does not have to create a cultural divide that keeps us from working together effectively.