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flucie
06-08-2004, 15:17
Guys,

I'm managing a small team of Russian engineers and I get a little puzzled about the work culture here. I sometimes get totally mad at some of the guys. I'm terribly ashamed about that as I know I should adapt to the way people work and not the other way round. :shame:
A little bit of insight about Russian work place culture and habits would definitely help me adapt faster but I don't have a clue where to get it.

Any tips?

thanks,

lucie

pengwn9
06-08-2004, 15:26
Speed and taking personal responsibility are not their strong points.

lyndsay
06-08-2004, 15:30
- prepare everything to be done, especially meetings, 20 minutes earlier, so meeting at 4.30 actually means 5pm... same if you are leaving, Rooskies tend to ring every second out of each minute and are never early, rarely on time, but usually do arrive..

- never approach anything from a straight forward logical perspective - that don't work here (sorry)

- be emotional - but maybe not with the guys.. speeds things up ALOT

- be prepared to share your birthday (this is really sweet) buy some cakes, chocs, fruit and they'll love ya for it... and bring it into office (could help with bonding)

- ultimately, forget everything you know... watch, listen and learn...

FLEUR
06-08-2004, 15:59
Tip #1 -
There is NO work culture in Russia.

polly
06-08-2004, 16:01
shake hands with everyone all day long

flucie
06-08-2004, 16:25
Originally posted by polly
shake hands with everyone all day long

Now, that's interesting. In France you do shake hands with everyone all day long. Here I noticed that they don't shake hands with you if you're a woman until they get more familiar with you. Right now I shake hands with 50% of the office, the rest sticks on waving sweetly and saying privet from a respectable distance :)

polly
06-08-2004, 16:28
oh, well women don't shake hands. but men shake hands until the cows come home. well at least once per coworker, and then you're supposed to nod your head all day long when yuo pass someone yuo've already shaken hands with.

women just get a "hello" first time aroudn during the day. as far as i can tell, anyway...

J.D.
06-08-2004, 16:30
The Soviet mentality was to be safe.
So if they see a better way to do it they won't because that is not safe.
They will do it the old way because they cannot be blamed for doing that way. It is safe, for them.
If you want something done differently then make them understand that it is not safe to do it the old way. i.e. they will be fired if they do it the old way.
The stick seems to work much better than the carrot here.

horilka
06-08-2004, 16:30
Expect them to do very little until they are up against deadline or threats

flucie
06-08-2004, 16:47
Originally posted by lyndsay
be emotional - but maybe not with the guys.. speeds things up ALOT

Does being emotional include losing your temper when you're mad at something some has done/not done?
I sometimes get the disquieting feeling that after a wild scene of screaming, fuming, banging my fit on the table and threatening to fire the whole team things get done.
Are managers expected to terrorize their team?:confused:
Is this the good ol' Ivan Grozny stuff all over again?

Jet
06-08-2004, 17:00
Originally posted by flucie
Are managers expected to terrorize their team?:confused:
Is this the good ol' Ivan Grozny stuff all over again?

You just answered and explained the attitude that is required to ge things done. Yes, to be flucie the terrible is the way, and then you come back home and treat your bf nicely...

lyndsay
06-08-2004, 17:04
"shctraff' - fine

I first managed a tea in Siberia - sort of motivate through love.. failed... created fines after being advised by an ol 60+ manager of a factory..... worked (I really suffered the thought but realsied I had to do something)... never fined anybody once, but the fact is it changed everything and losing your temper is not seen as a weakness here -

Good luck... but be patient ..you are in a new culture and I actually prefer the way they do things ... you just get a bit less stressed once you understand that nothing will change..

polly
06-08-2004, 17:23
if you are a woman managing a team of mostly men... get out the whip, honey. you want to make sure no one thinks you're "cute" or they're just gonna shine you on and on and on...

lyndsay
06-08-2004, 17:30
maybe she looks cute with a whip:D

flucie
06-08-2004, 17:34
ok, I will be a real tigress then! :D

Sunstorm
06-08-2004, 17:36
If you are a woman-manager, you gotta be bitchy at work. The nicer you treat your employees, the less respect you gain, the less effort will they show. And guess this goes not only for Russia.

flucie
06-08-2004, 17:45
Originally posted by lyndsay
- Rooskies tend to ring every second out of each minute and are never early, rarely on time, but usually do arrive..


Is having people arrive at a decent hour in the morning a doomed struggle as well?
It's the new objective from the big boss, based in Germany
;)

lyndsay
06-08-2004, 17:51
I, the CEO, and the GM all start at 9am..... the others 9.15 - 9.30.... sometimes 10...

We are the only foreigners.. you following me...

flucie
06-08-2004, 18:19
Originally posted by lyndsay
We are the only foreigners.. you following me...

Following you...
You know what, I think I'm going to make a nice little paper ball out of Big German Boss' early morning arrival objective and make a display of my dunk-in-the-waste-paper-basket abilities to my Russian team. :D

horilka
07-08-2004, 14:29
Forget anything you learned or applied in the West. You must lose your temper when someone screws up or doesn't do what they are supposed to. You dress them down beyond the point of good taste. Insult them personally. Remarks about their weaknesses, appearance etc are not out of bounds and are, in fact, expected and delivered in a caustic manner. If they start to cry, don't pay attention. Give it to them good. They in turn, do the same to their underlings and so on down the chain. It is true

maddog
07-08-2004, 15:05
I work with Russians all day long. As long as you get your idea or task across--it will be done. Their way and at their speed. So, just be patient. Watch, listen, and learn. They have a lot to teach.

lyndsay
07-08-2004, 16:33
Originally posted by flucie
Following you...
You know what, I think I'm going to make a nice little paper ball out of Big German Boss' early morning arrival objective and make a display of my dunk-in-the-waste-paper-basket abilities to my Russian team. :D

That is the perfect team building activity....

I think you'll be super fine:D

Phenomenon
07-08-2004, 19:09
One must engage in serious cardio vascular aerobic type exercise at least once a day to alleviate the stress of suffering the Ruski work culture.
This is the only place in the world I guess where you end up being yr secretary's secretary.

Zephyr
09-08-2004, 10:53
My wife was the chief of division in many Soviet factories and scientific installations. The way she dealt with her subordinates was with a polite and supportive authority which gave respect and justice to her subordinates. If you think that rudeness and overbearing disipline and fear will work as a motivating factor, with anyone you are wrong. If resentment is what you want , knock yourself out ..........of the country.... because Russia will soon see ( hopefully sooner rather that later) that they do not need you or your western bullshit.

flucie
09-08-2004, 11:44
Originally posted by Zephyr
The way she dealt with her subordinates was with a polite and supportive authority which gave respect and justice to her subordinates.

Now, you see, that's exactly why I'm asking for tips. I don't like the idea of screaming at people and I'm sure there are better ways to handle work in Russia. The thing is Russian don't work like French who don't work like Americans etc. Each country has their own work culture and obviously it helps when you know the rules :)
As a matter of fact "polite and suportive authority" means something totally different in different places. I had the opportunity to manage both French and US teams. Totally different experiences... Not to mention the Chinese with whom the cultural gap was abysmal.
Knowing the rules helps you understand the way things are done, what you should or should not expect/do/explain. Otherwise you're just confused and prone to lose your temper.

Jet
09-08-2004, 11:48
flucie, don't you think the corporate cultures become one? I mean people who work for transnational coprorations would try hard to adapt rather than bring their own culture to the workplace??

flucie
09-08-2004, 12:43
Jet, I think you're right about corporate culture if it is strong enough, which is definitely not the case in my company :)

Anyway I don't think it can totally erase cultural differences. And wouldn't it be a little bit sad if it did?

Jet
09-08-2004, 12:59
Well, flucie, corporate culture is strong if the company is strong. I have worked in several multicultural teams in different companies in the West, and I have to say that I didn't notice huge differences as far as work culture is concerned. Cultural differences where mostly behavioral things or the way people carried themselves. In one company branch I worked for we had an orthodox jew, gay, hindu, muslim working together - no problem.

Zephyr
09-08-2004, 13:18
A human is a human, culture is a function of race no matter how the multiculturalist would wish it to be. Learn the Russian culture and act as a human and all will be good .

Phenomenon
09-08-2004, 13:25
all will be good.....yes we hear this everyday many times ....only wish it worked.
i think our respective attitudes to the wc here(work culture i mean) depends on what responsibility we have and what work we have to get done here . For some all will be good and whatever happens is good enough. For others, what happens is rarely good though that was promised and that aint enough!

Zephyr
09-08-2004, 13:31
Originally posted by Phenomenon
all will be good.....yes we hear this everyday many times ....only wish it worked.
i think our respective attitudes to the wc here(work culture i mean) depends on what responsibility we have and what work we have to get done here . For some all will be good and whatever happens is good enough. For others, what happens is rarely good though that was promised and that aint enough!
Read Plato, what is the good. Good enough for who ? Like they used to tell in America ( and still do ) Love it or leave it!

Ned Kelly
09-08-2004, 13:49
oh, what possessed me to read this thread?

flucie
09-08-2004, 14:45
Originally posted by Zephyr
Learn the Russian culture and act as a human and all will be good .

Zephyr,

learning the Russian work culture is precisely what I'm trying to do. As I said in my first post, I am the one who should adapt and not the other way round. :)

Of course I could sit on my chair and wait for the culture to rub in but this can take a long time. In order to spare me and the rest of my team many months of mutual incomprehension, loss of time and energy, stress and resentment I prefer to try to figure out the rules as early as possible.

It's vital to understand the way people work if you want to manage them properly. Believe me, the little bit of insight I got from an American manager when managing Americans did make the difference! :)

Halyavshik
09-08-2004, 16:45
Originally posted by Ned Kelly
oh, what possessed me to read this thread?

Ned, baby, I hear you. I don't know if we're on the same figurative wavelength here, but I asked myself this very same question because this thread reeks of more bigoted, over-inflated-ego, holier-than-thou, pure bullocks than I've heard from expats in a long time.

Yeah ! Let's teach the natives how to work properly, wild and un-manageable bunch of savages that they are. There's no work ethic here ! God forbid, if it weren't for us exceptionally gifted and skilled expat managers. Thank god we can commiserate here on Expat while they reflect on our insults and sticks.

Jesus, people. No wonder you're here. I wouldn't let the narrow-minded lot of you wash my waste-basket in the US.

Flame off.

J.D.
09-08-2004, 17:05
Amanda

not sure if you are being serious or not (since you are using this nick) assuming you are I think you are being a bit narrow minded. In the US I treat differnent groups of workers differently. General laborers I generally have to take a relatively gruff tone with or they will not take me seriously. Adolesant types, who are sometimes full grown adults that often belong to unions, I give very exacting instructions. Old people often have to have their ego stroked a bit so you can manipulate them into doing it the way you want. I have found, for better or worse, that most Russians, not all but most in my limited experience, tend to fall into a category similar to that of union workers in the US.

Halyavshik
09-08-2004, 17:33
J.D.,

You're damn right I'm serious. Some of the tones and comments expressed here were downright derogatory and borderline racist, if you ask me--but admittedly inference of the written word is the Internet's bain, and I apologize if I read anything the wrong way.

I'm not commenting on management style differences, as you listed above. But to insinuate, as I felt many did, that we're amongst a lazy bunch of ethics-lacking, insult-driven nincompoops is offensive and only reflects badly on the unknowledgeable foreigners that manage them. Afterall, if there truly are serious morale/work-culture problems, then it's really the person who hires that's ultimately to blame.

I've worked amongst, above, and below plenty of well-motivated, hard-working, intelligent and dedicated Russian employees. To imply anything to the contrary is simply ludicrous.

Midas
09-08-2004, 17:44
Originally posted by horilka
Forget anything you learned or applied in the West. You must lose your temper when someone screws up or doesn't do what they are supposed to. You dress them down beyond the point of good taste. Insult them personally. Remarks about their weaknesses, appearance etc are not out of bounds and are, in fact, expected and delivered in a caustic manner. If they start to cry, don't pay attention. Give it to them good. They in turn, do the same to their underlings and so on down the chain. It is true once my expat boss tried to do the same trick with me. I was that close to punching him in the face, and trust me, if he had said another word, I'd have knocked him out. You are stupid if you think that you will get things through with insults.
1. There is no shortage of employment here, there is shortage of personnel. Most people will tell you to fcuk off (which I did) and you will lose your personnel, screw the project and will lose money
2. You never know who you are insulting. Some people are vindictive

Banker
09-08-2004, 17:54
Cher Flucie! Ce sujet me semble tres interessant.
Je suis russe, travaille a Moscou, mais j'ai des contacts assez etroits avec nos partenaires a l'etranger. Je peux t'assurer - aucune difference, partout les memes problemes avec la motivation de l'effectif et l'optimisation du "business process". A mon avis, toutes les discours des "specialites de l'ame russe" passe mieux a la literature classique , mais pas au monde d'affaire. (Je veux souligner - c' est mon avis personnel , peut etre j'ai tort).:)


Sorry for writing french, just because have had modest results in english in the school.:D

polly
09-08-2004, 18:10
Originally posted by Midas
once my expat boss tried to do the same trick with me. I was that close to punching him in the face, and trust me, if he had said another word, I'd have knocked him out. You are stupid if you think that you will get things through with insults.
1. There is no shortage of employment here, there is shortage of personnel. Most people will tell you to fcuk off (which I did) and you will lose your personnel, screw the project and will lose money
2. You never know who you are insulting. Some people are vindictive

i agree with you, Midas, to a certain extent. You are younger and of the new generation of non-Sovoks. On the other hand, it has been my personal experience in Russia and elsewhere with Russians, that people born and/or raised in the Soviet Regime really have a kinky thing for seriously negative reinforcement -- it goes against all our nice western touchy, feely, hug-a-tree positivism and it makes us cry (one Russian teacher drove me to tears in front of everyone in class). so some people still think it works, probably because with some people it actually still does.

interesting topic, anyway.

am4rw
09-08-2004, 19:00
Surely you're not advocating treating Russians as human beings? Such a concept!

Forgive my impertinance. I don't live in Russia, have never managed Russians in the work place. I have only my experience with Russians in America, and the fact that the majority of my family lives in Russia. Oh, and I happen to have a master's degree in managment and 25 years experience managing people.

Russians are people.

Some people demand a firm hand, some require coercion, some will bust their butts just for a thank you. All of them deserve respect. If you want workers to respect the boss (you), then you must deserve their respect.

I've fired my share of employees - some for attitude, some for aptitude (or lack thereof). It never comes easily, but sometimes it must be done. Each employee requires a unique approach. Knowing what their motivators are, what they hope to gain through their work, helps this immensely. Sometimes people just don't fit in with what you need to accomplish. This doesn't make them bad people, just someone that needs to go elsewhere.

I think it's instructive to note that the major theories of management current in the U.S. were either bred or refined in Japan. The old-style yelling and coercion that were prominant 50 years ago were proven to be less productive than participative management and facilitation. I don't know why you would think that the dictatorial, off with their heads, style would work with any work force.

An illustration:

My wife is a teacher in U.S. public schools. When she was interviewing, she kept getting asked about her "classroom management" skills, i.e. how she handled disruptive students. She said that she didn't have such problems, and potential bosses didn't hire her. Now, after 3 years in one of the poorest schools in the country, she still doesn't have such problems, though many of her fellow teachers do - with the same kids. These are 90% minority, many with Spanish as a first language. Test scores for her kids are far better than those of other teachers. Her students have the highest rate of check-outs from the school library. How? She tells students starting at day one that they will be shown the same respect that they show her and each other. And never waivers from that.

Sermon over. Flame away.

J.D.
09-08-2004, 22:22
I don't see anything racist in this thread. It's all culture based. From my, biased of course, point of view Russian/Soviet culture has some serious failings. On the other hand it has some excellent points. Go on the metro and what do you see, a gross disrespect of each other BUT at the same time you will see EVERYBODY bending over backwards to help out small children. Seems like a dichotomy to me but that's because of my cultural bias.

Midas
09-08-2004, 22:37
Originally posted by polly
i agree with you, Midas, to a certain extent. You are younger and of the new generation of non-Sovoks. On the other hand, it has been my personal experience in Russia and elsewhere with Russians, that people born and/or raised in the Soviet Regime really have a kinky thing for seriously negative reinforcement -- it goes against all our nice western touchy, feely, hug-a-tree positivism and it makes us cry (one Russian teacher drove me to tears in front of everyone in class). so some people still think it works, probably because with some people it actually still does.

interesting topic, anyway. Polly, dignity and self-respect have nothing to do with Sovok. I was born in the USSR and was raised in that culture up until I was 12. Changes nothing. Yes you can shout at people, you can show dissent. But if you lover down to insults expect to get the same back.
Plus, haha, expat top managers. I've seen so many of them - bullsh*tters, good for nothing losers who expect to get 5 grand a month just because they speak native English and think everyone else around is an idiot. To most of them I can give a good lesson on management.

flucie
10-08-2004, 10:31
Guys,

Had I known about this "women don't shake hands in Russia" business earlier, it would have spared me an embarassing scene with a customer.
For me this is also part of work culture, or maybe just culture, it's not the kind of thing they teach you at school but it's worth knowing.
In France if I don't shake hands I'm a rude snob lady. In Russia if I shake hands I'm embarassing everybody.

:confused:

cheers,

lucie

Midas
10-08-2004, 10:36
Lucie, don't worry. The general rule is like this:
1. Men don't stretch out to shake women's hand unless a woman does that FIRST
2. Due to the ongoing westernisation this rule is generally disregarded and everyone is shaking everybody's hands.

I always shake women's hands no matter who gives the hand first.

pengwn9
11-08-2004, 09:37
Originally posted by J.D.
Amanda

not sure if you are being serious or not (since you are using this nick) assuming you are I think you are being a bit narrow minded. In the US I treat differnent groups of workers differently. General laborers I generally have to take a relatively gruff tone with or they will not take me seriously. Adolesant types, who are sometimes full grown adults that often belong to unions, I give very exacting instructions. Old people often have to have their ego stroked a bit so you can manipulate them into doing it the way you want. I have found, for better or worse, that most Russians, not all but most in my limited experience, tend to fall into a category similar to that of union workers in the US.

JD, normally you seem to be a reasoned and sensible thinker, but I'll have to say, I resent the prejudices in your statement. I'm a "adolescent type, full grown into an adult who belong[ed] to a labor union" for many years. I'm also an "older worker". Both of your assumptions about how such employees should be handled are disingenuous. Neither gruff browbeating nor manipulation are successful strategies from a good manager. Good management makes it goals clear, supports it's employees and treats them with dignity, and expects everyone to have pride in their work and accepts no less. It is when 'management' waffles on any of the above, and/or treats certain employees with favoritism or disrespect, that the workplace ethic breaks down.

In my experience I've seen plenty of managers like the one you describe. We hung them out to dry.

flucie
11-08-2004, 09:42
Midas,
thanks for the explanation. This is the kind of data I'm missing. I'm not an expat top manager coming to Russia to bring the light to barbarian hords. As a matter of fact I'm at the other end of the management hierarchy, let's say a "bottom manager" :D
My subordinates, colleagues and managers are all Russian. I see myself as a foreign worker trying to fit in.
cheers,
Lucie

Graffiti
11-08-2004, 11:21
I am a Russian female. I always shake hands with business partners/clients whether male of female. I never shake hands in the office - this is not a corporate culture for our company whether here or in HQ. Usually, you have to do it first - not all women are yet accustomed to shake hands so the guys are just uncertain. And over the last year I had only one incident when the guy refused to shake hands - he kissed my hand instead. :p Have to say that was outside of the working environment. My advice - just do whatever feels comfortable for you. And do not go that much into the cultural differences stuff - business is business.

Jet
11-08-2004, 11:39
Originally posted by Graffiti
just do whatever feels comfortable for you. And do not go that much into the cultural differences stuff - business is business.

That's what I was talking about!! Let me kiss your hand! :)

J.D.
11-08-2004, 12:28
Sorry I offended you Pengwn. I realized that I was over generalizing when I said it but that's what you have to do when you try to make some generalizations. I have met reasonable and intelligent union workers but in my experience I have mostly found them to be unmotivated and would use the contract to determine the least amount of work they could do. When one would try harder the others would often berate them saying that they were making the rest of them look bad and screwing up their negotiating position for the next contract. This 'contract' would also impede me from motivating them because all of the motivation factors were already spelled out and if I excedded it for one good worker I would be required to give it to the slackers also.

Again sorry. I know not all union workers are unmotivated.

Jet
11-08-2004, 12:37
Originally posted by polly
people born and/or raised in the Soviet Regime really have a kinky thing for seriously negative reinforcement -- it goes against all our nice western touchy, feely, hug-a-tree positivism and it makes us cry

sovok?? hug-a-tree?? Have you worked for large corporations in the West?? You are simplifying a great deal here. I grew up in the Soviet Union and nobody shouts at me, not here, not in the West.

pengwn9
11-08-2004, 13:43
JD, since we're on the topic I find myself in a new position for which I have little experience. Maybe you can help me out.

I have a small number of employees to schedule (about 8) for a limited number of work hours at above average pay. Naturally all of these people want the maximum hours. I have the freedom to use any system I see fit. I come from a union backround (Teamsters). Everything went by senority. Senior employees got first shot at all promotions, job openings, extra work. In some ways it's not altogether fair to new employees, but as time goes by they reap the benefits of hanging in there.

Some of my new charges seem to be taking a dim view of my system. Predictably, less senior people. They want to see the work hours divided equally by the number of employees. I think the senority system works well when used. Always the same way, working from the top of the list down for every opening and opportunity. It has consistancy. Like I said, I like consistancy in the workplace. Everybody understands the rules and they don't fluctuate for this whim or that favorite or any way the wind blows. Everybody knows where they stand.

What are your thoughts?

J.D.
11-08-2004, 15:29
Personally i hate the seniority system BUT it is the most transparent and easiest to implement. No system is perfect and/or fair to everybody. I would be afraid to make a suggestion without knowing a bit more about your work circumstances. I'm planning on an evening at OBI Project tonight so you're welcome to join me and discuss it over some liquid inspiration.

pengwn9
11-08-2004, 17:56
Ok. I said why I liked the senority system. You don't like it but didn't say why. So why?

J.D.
11-08-2004, 19:43
first because there are some people at the top who will not leave until they die. Therefore there is no real incentive to stay just to build seniority. Second because it is not a 'team building' concept. It pits people against each other and gives cause for resentment. maybe third because I was never at the top?

polly
16-08-2004, 17:12
Originally posted by Jet
sovok?? hug-a-tree?? Have you worked for large corporations in the West?? You are simplifying a great deal here. I grew up in the Soviet Union and nobody shouts at me, not here, not in the West.

did i once again fail to put in the "in my personal experience" disclaimer???

if so, then jet i ask that you please reread my post after saying to yourself out loud "in polly's personal experience..."

OK?

jeebus!

canuck
17-08-2004, 08:42
I've enjoyed reading this thread, and am curious about the type of enterprise and company structures that you are all working in. Joint ventures? High tech? NGOs? Domestic? Export oriented? etc. etc.

flucie
17-08-2004, 11:06
I work in the Moscow office of a French high-tech company. I work with programmers and IT specialists. Maybe I'd better ask questions about the geek culture? :D

Midas
17-08-2004, 11:07
French hi-tech? Is there such a thing? :D

flucie
17-08-2004, 11:13
huhu... :D