Culture Clashes In Communication: Beverly Leach

Documenting Hiring And Firing: John Sarno

Labor Seminars

Corrections or additions?

These articles by Caroline Calogero and Tom Brotzman were prepared

for the September 13, 2000 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper.

All rights reserved.

Beverly Leach and John Sarno

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Culture Clashes In Communication: Beverly Leach

Sometimes the wrapping paper is just as important as

what is inside the box. "How we communicate in business can be

just as important as what we communicate. It’s very easy for


to take place when you go from culture to culture," says Beverly

Leach, who will teach four sessions of "Communicating in Global

Business Styles" at Mercer County Community College starting


September 20, at 7 p.m. Cost: $85. Call 609-586-9446.

Leach believes both proper form and good content are necessary for

effective communication among business people of different cultures.

When cultural differences are not recognized, misunderstandings


She describes a meeting attended by Asian pharmaceutical chemists

and their American counterparts.

The Asian scientists each had a boatload of post docs and impeccable

academic credentials. But, oh, their behavior during meetings. They

sat still as statues — feet planted on the floor, hands in the

lap, eyes focused on the table.

The Americans displayed different, more expansive body language. They

leaned back in their chairs with legs crossed, nodded, and made eye


The supervisor opened up the floor to ideas. The Americans jumped

in with suggestions. The Asians remained immobile — to the


of the boss who wrote them off as bored, spaced out, and inattentive.

Leach explains the Asians’ behavior can be attributed to different

cultural standards of what respectful behavior to coworkers and paying

attention looks like.

The difference between American and Japanese conversation styles is

like the difference between basketball and bowling. "The Western

style of conversing is kind of like basketball," she says. Someone

grabs the conversational ball and starts dribbling. They may toss

it to a teammate who runs with it and passes the ball again. Every

so often the other team grabs the ball and runs off in a totally



"That’s the way we talk. We interrupt. We jump in. We show our

enthusiasm or support by adding to what somebody is already saying.

And all of a sudden, someone will change the subject."

"Asian conversation is much more like bowling," Leach says.

Each person singly assumes the floor. Others wait quietly for their

turn watching the player make their point. There are definite pauses

between bouts of action.

To be assertive, goal oriented, direct, punctual and not emotional

is the North American approach to a business situation. These American

signs of having it all together are "signs of immaturity, lack

of education and self centeredness" to those from some other


says Leach.

The no-nonsense, grab-a-copy-of-the-report, turn-to-page-one, and

get-down-to-business style of a typical American meeting would not

be appreciated by many Japanese. "It will come across as immature,

as pushy, as not thoroughly prepared because they haven’t addressed

the other issues of the relationship," says Leach.

Leach contends even the management perk of a private office with a

door is a cultural construct in keeping with the American preference

for appointments with no unplanned interruptions. The French often

locate the boss in the middle of the room, a better spot for observing

the behavior of employees.

The course will use case studies and role playing exercises to


cultural differences. One class meeting will be spent reviewing the

work of linguist Robert Kaplan, who reduces different cultures’

communication patterns to simple symbols. These telling graphics


the conversational patterns of an entire culture.

A simple arrow pointing downward, depicting a style that cuts to the

chase scene and gets straight to the point, represents American


A zigzagging Z attached to a downward arrow shows the European style

where each lateral point of the Z represents the historical,


or economic precedents to be considered in reaching a well thought-out


Leach adds a pattern of her own origin to symbolize Latin Americans.

It is a series of loopy cursive upper case Ls, linked vertically.

The curlicues symbolize the flowery personal inquiries about health

and family, a necessary preface to the actual subject to be discussed.

Leach has a degree in English from Smith College and has done graduate

work at Northwestern University and taken courses with the Institute

for Intercultural Communication. She has taught English, worked in

publishing, marketing, and market research. At Princeton Adult School

she teaches English as a second language.

Leach has run her own business for the past dozen years. She


worked with American companies cultivating Asian clients. "More

recently I have come to work for companies that have non-native


employees who need to adjust their styles — or whose supervisors

need to understand the differences," she says. Her clients include

Ciba Geigy, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Nettech, and a Presbyterian minister

from Korea who is seeking to jazz up his sermons to make them more

appealing to the first-generation Korean Americans in his


She is emphatic about the need to understand national differences

and work with them. Whether selling a product, impressing the boss,

or proposing an idea to coworkers, clear communication is the basis

of business. "It’s extremely important in business to understand

where we’re all coming from, culturally speaking."

— Caroline Calogero

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Documenting Hiring — And Firing: John Sarno

Write it down. That is what an Irish comedian named

Hal Roach used to say every time he told a joke that went over

well with his audience. According to John Sarno, a former corporate

lawyer and president of the Employers Association of New Jersey, the

same advice applies when it comes to documenting employee situations

in the workplace.

Sarno speaks on the importance of proper documentation in his


Document! Document!" course being held in conjunction with the

New Jersey Department of Labor on Wednesday, September 20, from 9

a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Camden County College in Blackwood. The course

will also be given on Tuesday, October 10, in Trenton. Cost: $10.

Call 609-984-3518 (or

"The primary reason for documenting in the workplace is to help

employers justify personnel decisions," says Sarno. "The


that is created by supervisors and managers is the key piece of


in disputes relating to charges of alleged discrimination."

Managers and supervisors should spend between three and five percent

of their time documenting, says Sarno, who has a BA in psychology

from Ramapo (Class of 1977) and a law degree from Seton Hall. The

time spent on documenting will vary depending on the time of the year.

"Obviously, if a company has performance appraisals once a year,

that is the period when supervisors and mangers will be spending most

of their time documenting." Managers and supervisors should work

closely with human resource personnel during this process. "The

employer is responsible for whatever supervisors and managers do,

so the prudent thing is to have them partner with the HR department

or someone else in the firm who is skilled at documenting."

Sarno says there have been numerous cases that have gone in favor

of employees because of inconsistent documentation on the part of

the employers. "These cases were lost by the employers not because

of poor documentation, but because the documentation was not


with the reasons for the employee’s dismissal. In many of these cases,

the reason for dismissal was poor performance, yet the documents


the employee was performing up to standard at all of their previous

performance appraisals."

Some of the most important things to keep in mind when documenting:

Include factual information. The manager or supervisor

must remember to include objective information and not speculate or

guess about anything. "You should not draw on supporting


says Sarno. "Your documents should be factual and clearly written

because a third person, such as a judge, has to understand what the

document says."

Always document allegations of employee wrongdoing.


there is one thing that needs to be documented 100 percent of the

time, it is allegations of employee misconduct," states Sarno.

In such cases the employer has a legal obligation to conduct a prompt

and efficient investigation. "Documenting what actions were taken

and when during the investigation is the only way to defend against

a Negligent Investigation claim," Sarno says.

Have a rationale for documenting. "The documentation

process should be part of the usual and customary operations of the

firm," Sarno states. "You should not begin documenting when

you start suspecting a wrongdoing by the employee. Documentation


be done for every performance appraisal conducted, good or bad."

Sarno also warns against going overboard suddenly. "There never

should be an instance where an employee has nothing in his personnel

file for years, and then every little action is documented."

Always document performance improvement plans. Sarno feels

that the amount and type of information to be documented depends on

the culture of the firm. Nevertheless, all employers should be sure

to document performance improvement plans and performance appraisals.

"Nine out of ten times, an employee’s daily routine does not have

to be documented, but anything related to the employee’s performance

should always be documented." Items to include: employee


problems, and complaints within the context of selection interviewing;

discipline; grievances; exit interviews; and investigations.

If employers want to have a solid documentation program, they

must also consider how their documents will be retained and how long

to keep them. The average time to keep documents after an employee’s

dismissal is two to three years, according to Sarno. Some software

packages can help with retention and formatting, but — except

for any documents that relate to an investigation — most documents

are still kept in a personnel file.

More and more employers are becoming aware of the importance of


documentation. Says Sarno: "A good documentation program is one

way employers have to protect themselves."

— Tom Brotzman

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Labor Seminars

All New Jersey Department of Labor Human Resource


seminars run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., unless otherwise noted, and cost

$10. Call 609-984-3518.

Wednesday, September 20, "Document! Document!


John J. Sarno, Employers Association of New Jersey. Camden College,


Tuesday, September 26, "Selection Interviewing and

the Selection Process," To 12:30 p.m. Middlesex County College,


Tuesday, October 3, "Managing and Supervising Troubled

and Difficult Employees," John Sarno. County College, Jersey City.

Thursday, October 5, "Establishing/expanding a Human

Resources Function or Department," John J. Sarno. Burlington


College, Pemberton.

Tuesday, October 10, "Document! Document!


John J. Sarno, Department of Labor building, Trenton.

Thursday, October 19, "Policy Manuals and Employee

Handbooks," John J. Sarno. Raritan Valley College.

Tuesday, October 24, "Selection Interviewing and the

Selection Process," To 12:30 p.m. Camden County College,


Wednesday, November 1, "Managing and Supervising


and Difficult Employees," John Sarno. Georgian Court College,


Thursday, November 9, "Managing Employee Turnover

and Absenteeism," To 12:30 p.m. Labor Building, Trenton.

Friday, November 17, "Document! Document!


John Sarno. Bergen County College, Paramus.

Tuesday, November 28, "Policy Manuals and Employee

Handbooks," John Sarno. Gloucester County Library, Mullica Hill.

Thursday, November 30, "The Art and Science of


Appraisal," Raritan Valley College.

Tuesday, December 5, "Establishing/expanding a Human

Resources Function or Department," John Sarno. County College

of Morris, Randolph.

Thursday, December 7, "Document! Document!


John Sarno. Stockton State College, Pomona.

Tuesday, December 12, "Managing and Supervising


and Difficult Employees," John Sarno. Union County College,


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