Global Leadership Blog

Global Working Conditions

Five Friday Highlights: Hours, Wages, and Interculturalism

When choosing this week’s highlights, I was reminded of the wide gulf in global working conditions. Some workers in Sweden are getting an opportunity to work 6-hour days with no cut in pay, while exhausted workers in China sleep at their desks (with permission) and others in Russia have not been paid in months. The last two articles are broader: a primer on how to disagree in other cultures and thoughts about the impact of female leaders on emerging markets. I hope these selections give you deeper insight into the world around us.

By traveling throughout so many countries, I am fortunate to have a front seat to many workplace experiments, such as manipulating the number of hours per week employees are required to work. In The Six-hour Workday Works in Sweden. But What About in Workaholic North America? from the Financial Post, I was most intrigued not by the specifics of the way the government-funded experiment to shorten workdays would increase productivity, but by the rigorous data collection and investigative integrity. Without outcome data, no decisions will be made that benefit the Swedish workforce as a whole (or workforces in other countries).

It no longer surprises me to see images of workers asleep at desks or in designated rest areas as described in China Tech Workers Asleep on the Job – With the Boss’s Blessing from Reuters. I was intrigued not just by the accommodations made for issues related to work conditions (employees who sleep at the office to avoid hours-long commutes two ways each day), but by the potential productivity benefits (“For technology, it’s more of a brain activity. Workers need time to find inspiration”) and the pitfalls (“My kid misses me, I get home and he lunges at me like a small wolf,” Liu said, speaking about his three-year-old son who he only sees on weekends. “That makes me feel a bit guilty.”).

Work hours and rest accommodations are one labor condition related issue but an utter failure to be compensated is a different and more harmful problem. In Russia’s Car Workers Who Struggle On No Pay from the BBC, the author profiles employees whose salaries are being withheld by hundreds of small and large companies. “The explanations may differ: mismanagement, bad economy or plain criminality,” explains the article, “but for workers the end result is the same.”

Taking a higher level view of working globally, I found The Secret to Disagreeing With People in 20 Countries from the Washington Post both accurate and thorough. The featured chart “combines two different scales. The first scale looks at how emotionally expressive people in that culture tend to be.” The second scale “measures how confrontational people in a culture tend to be.”

Finally, as an interculturalist who also specializes in gender work, Women in Leadership Dominate Emerging Markets … And It Pays Off from Forbes was a perfect dovetailing of my two interests! The author shares, “In my global search for quality investments, I stumbled on a trend that should be good for everybody….as competent women take more leadership roles, it should raise the bar for everybody, and provide a fresh – and profitable – prospective.”

Have you read something this week that gave you deeper insight into another culture or way of doing business? Email me to let me know!

Image Credit: 123rf/Kirill Cherezov

 

Melissa Lamson

About The Author

Melissa Lamson, Founder and President of Lamson Consulting, is an author, consultant, and speaker who accelerates the business expansion goals of today’s most successful companies by developing global mindset, refining leadership skills, and bridging cross cultural communication.
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