A couple days ago I was working on incorporating feedback from a second round of technical reviews into my (hopefully soon to come!) book on outsourcing. The topic that was keeping me awake was related to one of the most important dimensions of managing distributed teams – communication. Let me cover one of the aspects of this topic here since I am not planning on including it in the book. This aspect is in particular important for companies with little experience in cross-cultural communications and casual work environment.
It seems that it was not so long time ago even though more than a decade has passed from a great offsite meeting my company arranged for our large implementation team in Napa Valley. The meeting was a huge success with a bunch of engaging discussions, productive breakout sessions, and provoking brainstorming exercises. Needless to say the location promoted a fun celebratory activities as well. By 9 PM the soberest members of the team were rather tipsy, the rest of us were feeling no pain. That’s when one of my brightest tech leads run to me asking for help. Sanjiv was rather disturbed, confused and irritated. “Nick, Jennifer [[one of our company execs]] just offered me a blow job! I don’t know what to say, what to do… She is obviously an executive but I am married!” Having lived most of his life in India Sanjiv was quite accustomed to large parties, but not to the likes of that one. Nor did he know the name of a popular then cocktail which Jennifer so “innocently” offered to him. It took a little of explanation and forced laughter to get Sanjiv back to normal but I am afraid the damage was done – while there was no sexual harassment in sight, there was obviously a case of making someone look stupid in front of his friends and co-workers.