After a Long Day

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caseID: start
Relaxed colleagues enjoying beverages at a bar

After a Long Day

You arrive a little late to a social event that a number of your colleagues are attending after work. You stayed longer at the office to work on a project with a looming due date. It had been a stressful day and coming straight from work you’re still thinking about what needs to be done. Laura, a coworker, sees you and waves. You maneuver across the room to join her small group.
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caseID: q1
When you arrive she nods at you and points to your clothes.
Laura with amused/jovial expression
Look at you—you’re still at work. You work too much! If you’re always at work you’re going to miss your entire life!
How do you respond?
go to case 3 Laugh, and say, "You're right! This project is killing me. I'm so glad I could step away! Who needs a drink?”
go to case 4 Look at Laura and say, “I take pride in my hard work! Not to mention this is an important project. When we have an important project, we work hard to get it done.”
go to case 11 Look at the group and say, “There's a lot of work for this project. It would have been nice to have had some help.”
go to case 18 Shake your head, sigh, and say, “What can I say? I love my work. I'm going to get a drink—you want anything?”
caseID: q1c1
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Remember to maintain a healthy sense of humor. Being able to laugh at yourself in a situation where you could just as easily turn toward frustration will serve you well, especially in a culture that is different from the one you are accustomed to.
Laura with amused/jovial expression
Well, I'm glad you made it.
Laura smiles and shakes her head. By shaking off the stress from work, you’ve become a bit closer with Laura and she sees you as more easy-going than she did before.

For information on how your attitude impacts communication, review section 03 – Cross-cultural Communication: Overview.

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caseID: q1c2
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By focusing on your work ethic you have identified something that is a cultural difference and which may be a sticking point for both you and Laura. There’s a distinct difference between cultures that focus on relationships and cultures that focus on accomplishments.
Laura looks offended.
Laura with offended expression
Are you saying I don't work hard?
How do you respond?
go to case 5 I'm just saying that maybe if I had some help, I wouldn’t have to work so late.
go to case 8 I’m sorry, that's not what I meant. In the United States, we expect employees to work long hours in order to meet deadlines. It's hard to get out of that mindset.
caseID: q1c2c1
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Working hard and then showing up in a location where your coworkers are having fun and not living up to your standards can easily make you frustrated and angry. Try to take a step back from your emotions and remain open to other ways of doing things.
Laura with skeptical/annoyed expression
We're more efficient. We don't need to work so late to get our work done.
How do you respond?
go to case 6 You roll your eyes and say, “I have a lot on my plate. If I didn't work late today, I'd just be more stressed out tomorrow.”
go to case 7 You tilt your head and say, “I never thought about it that way. I know we both care about this. How would you approach it if you were me?”
caseID: q1c2c1c1
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By focusing on what you’ve been doing, you are shutting the door on an opportunity to understand another perspective. This makes the situation more uncomfortable.
Laura with indifferent/inquisitive expression
Life isn't just about finishing your work. It's about being with people. You'll miss out.
Laura comes from a culture that values productivity and relationships differently than American culture. She believes that the American tendency to put achievements above relationships leads to a less fulfilling life. Because of your rigidity in this conversation, it is likely that you will not be asked to other gatherings outside of work.

For more information on cultural awareness, review section 02 Culture: You and Other Cultures.

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caseID: q1c2c1c2
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If you state this in a way that actually seems curious, you can begin a conversation that may uncover some of the differences between Laura’s view of the world and yours.
Laura with boastful/proud expression
Well, I’m not going miss spending time with my friends in order to get stressed out by myself about something that will still be waiting for me tomorrow. The deadline isn’t now, is it?
The conversation continues and you begin to recognize more of her core beliefs. While you don't have to fully adopt Laura's way of doing things, trying to adapt to the norms of your office might help you develop solid relationships with your peers.

For more information on cultural awareness, review section 02 Culture: You and Other Cultures.

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caseID: q1c2c2
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By adjusting what you mean, you’re able to keep this from becoming more uncomfortable. Using your personal background will hopefully lead to a more open exchange.
Laura with skeptical/annoyed expression
That still leads to working too much. I was taught to enjoy my life and the people in it as much as, if not more than, my work.
How do you respond?
go to case 9 Isn't it easier to enjoy life when you're not stressed out about work?
go to case 10 You are right. Sometimes I get so in the weeds with work I have a hard time finding balance between work and life.
caseID: q1c2c2c1
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Asking questions about how Laura thinks about things may help you gain a better understanding of her perspective.
Laura with boastful/proud expression
Actually, I’m able to really enjoy myself regardless of whether or not work gets done. That’s a big difference between the people here and Americans...
Laura continues sharing what she sees as the differences between her culture and American culture, highlighting some things that you suspect already and illuminating things that you hadn’t realized. In the future, you will feel more comfortable asking her for advice about cultural differences.

For more practical tips on how to respond to difficult questions, review section 04 – Engage: Get Out There.

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caseID: q1c2c2c2
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Being able to see flaws in how people from the United States tend to do things shows that you are open to other perspectives and that you’re being open about your own preferences.
Laura with amused/jovial expression
Right! Your work won’t be who you go to when you need someone to talk to, or if you’re sick. It’s the people that travel alongside you! Work can take over everything and what does it leave you with?
You continue discussing differences in beliefs with Laura and you both come away realizing that there are benefits and detractors to both sides. At the end of the discussion you both agree that if either of you wholly subscribed to the other’s beliefs, you would wind up feeling somewhat unfulfilled.

For more information on American values, review section 02 – Culture: Understanding Your Own Culture.

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caseID: q1c3
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You may be off to a rocky start, since this response displays some frustration with how she does things. But by turning it back to Laura, you have the opportunity to learn more about her culture.
Laura shrugs.
Laura with skeptical/annoyed expression
It’s not worth getting that worked up about. Tomorrow is tomorrow and the work will still be there.
How do you respond?
go to case 12 But the deadline is coming up. Doesn't that matter to you?
go to case 15 Yeah, I guess so. I wish I could just let things go.
caseID: q1c3c1
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Posing a question turns this into a discussion and shows that you are interested, but this approach could lead to further frustration, depending on your attitude.
Laura with skeptical/annoyed expression
Sure they matter, but apparently not as much as they matter to you.
How do you respond?
go to case 13 Apparently not!
go to case 14 I'll never get promoted if I start missing deadlines.
caseID: q1c3c1c1
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By holding fast to your frustration, you are unable to gain any new insight into how Laura operates and she is unable to gain a better understanding of your positions.
Laura with offended expression
Laura rolls her eyes at you. You have frustrated her and she continues to believe that you are too invested in work outcomes and not as concerned with the people around you as you should be. This mindset makes a number of interactions more difficult as the culture you are in values the people and their relationships over their accomplishments and work ethic.

For more information about adjusting your communication style, review section 04 – Engage: Prepare.

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caseID: q1c3c1c2
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Letting her know why you are concerned about the deadline might make Laura see why you’re stressed.
Laura with amused/jovial expression
Listen, we all want to be making the big bucks. It's not the end of the world—we'll get it done.
Laura laughs. She understands where you are coming from, but you haven't taken steps to be closer outside the office.

For more practical tips on how to respond to difficult questions, review section 04 – Engage: Get Out There.

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caseID: q1c3c2
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Agreeing with Laura about her point of view will likely create a friendlier atmosphere and allow for the discussion to deepen.
Laura with boastful/proud expression
I haven’t let anything go, though. I’ll return to it when it’s time to work again.
How do you respond?
go to case 16 That's a nice perspective. I'll try to remember that.
go to case 17 How do you do that? Next time you see me working late will you help me get out of the office?
caseID: q1c3c2c1
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By being empathetic and acknowledging her position, you’re able to keep your own position and not create any undue friction. Sometimes people just want to know that others are hearing them.
Laura with amused/jovial expression
Okay, so let’s enjoy the evening!
Laura pats your shoulder. Through your empathetic response, Laura comes to see you in a better light. You don’t discuss anything too serious for the rest of the night and it is pretty enjoyable.

For information on how your attitude impacts communication, review section 03 – Cross-cultural Communication: Overview.

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caseID: q1c3c2c2
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Expressing curiosity about how Laura is able to compartmentalize her work and her life will lead to further discussion, and hopefully further insight and sharing of ideas.
Laura with boastful/proud expression
Of course, it's not that hard. If work has to wait until tomorrow, work will wait until tomorrow.
By questioning Laura directly, she responds openly. Over the course of the night you come to understand that even though you have different perspectives, you can recognize each other’s motivations—your drive to accomplishing work goals as well as her interest in maintaining solid relationships.

For more practical tips on how to respond to difficult questions, review section 04 – Engage: Get Out There.

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caseID: q1c4
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By choosing not to engage you can save yourself from difficult interactions, especially when if you feel engaging would not be fruitful.
Laura with amused/jovial expression
Yeah, I'll go with you.
She doesn’t bother to bring up the topic again and seems to appreciate your answer. You were able to avoid any uncomfortable conversation, and in turn spend more time getting to know your coworker.

For more practical tips on how to respond to difficult questions, review section 04 – Engage: Get Out There.

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