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
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
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
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 www.eanj.org).
"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
Some of the most important things to keep in mind when documenting:
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
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.
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."
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.
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
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.
John J. Sarno, Employers Association of New Jersey. Camden College,
the Selection Process," To 12:30 p.m. Middlesex County College,
and Difficult Employees," John Sarno. County College, Jersey City.
Resources Function or Department," John J. Sarno. Burlington
John J. Sarno, Department of Labor building, Trenton.
Handbooks," John J. Sarno. Raritan Valley College.
Selection Process," To 12:30 p.m. Camden County College,
and Difficult Employees," John Sarno. Georgian Court College,
and Absenteeism," To 12:30 p.m. Labor Building, Trenton.
John Sarno. Bergen County College, Paramus.
Handbooks," John Sarno. Gloucester County Library, Mullica Hill.
Appraisal," Raritan Valley College.
Resources Function or Department," John Sarno. County College
of Morris, Randolph.
John Sarno. Stockton State College, Pomona.
and Difficult Employees," John Sarno. Union County College,
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