The Art of Cultural Communication

Challenges our Leaders Face in the Global Work Community

I was born in a rural town in the northern most part of Maine. I had little cultural awareness as our small town culture was set in its ways, and a good 30 years behind the rest of the country. I knew even less about global culture. Even though Canada was a short drive away, my first impression of that countries culture was my parents telling me to go outside on the weekends until it was time for meals, but not to journey too far into the woods, as I may never come out of them and end up in Canada speaking French.

Now I recruit future team members across all of North America, and have had the privilege to travel the entire expanse of the eastern seaboard working with people across the globe in education and employment. I have valued the many roles I have held in my career with Sitel Group,working from home for over a decade. Sitel Group “employs 160,000 employees across locations in 40 countries, serving 700+ customers in 50+ languages” according to the companies site. That is a statistic that I proudly declare to future employees. It is an amazing feat, to say the least.

I first discovered the need for cultural awareness while working with clients in the US that hired employees from across the continent. These teams were virtually organized and managed. Early on we did phone interviews, and had meetings through teleconferences. I remember one meeting in particular, where our leaders were venting frustrations concerning the written responses phone agents would send to them when they were being supported in chat rooms, and when they spoke to these agents on the phone. The leaders felt these responses were disrespectful, and had decided that the agents who were using this type of communication would receive written disciplinary action. When I heard what the written and verbal offenses were, I had no choice but to intercede.

The agents were referring to the supervisors by their first names, which was standard procedure at the time, however, they were using Mr. and Ms. prior to the first name, such as Ms. Barb, or Mr. John. The leaders were certain they were being mocked because as soon as they would tell one person to use the first name only, later that day or week, someone else would refer to them in the same manner. They felt that this was a serious offense at the level of group organized insubordination, and demanded support in their corrective action plans to discipline the offending employees.

At this time, a majority of our leadership was from the Northern U.S. Hemisphere. We had recently expanded and a large portion of new hires were from Southern U.S. states that we had expanded into. My trips to Miami, and the Florida Keys came in handy in ways I could not have imagined. I remember by first encounter with this cultural trend. A friend and business associate giving us a tour of his business had employees who kept calling him Mr. Monty. I looked at him with such oblivious confusion he had to laugh when in a puzzled voice I asked if the people he was working with knew his last name. He explained to me that in this southern culture they were showing their respect acknowledging his authority by using his first name with a prefix.

Our leaders were about to take disciplinary action against agents for showing them respect.

Should we have then educated the agents, that their way of showing respect was wrong. Should we have enforced that they do it our way, simply because we were the leadership? After all wouldn’t this eliminate future cultural misunderstandings?

Becoming culturally aware in the global and virtual work force is not about standardizing our corporate cultures. This is the first mistake often made and best avoided. Cultural identity is what makes a global company strong. Rather than standardizing our culture, we can incorporate an understanding of what makes us different and acknowledge how those differences give us the competitive edge in the global market. We can do this by understanding how our cultural identity may interfere with communications that are coming from a different cultural identity than our own.

My experience working with a team in the Philippines exemplifies our need to expand our acceptance of differences in written structure and cultural idioms. Working in a combine chat between American leaders and leaders from teams in the Philippines, the habit of team members to be social in the work environment, joking with each other and poking “harmless” fun at our selves and our teams, created a rift that again quickly escalated to the head of the Philippines team wanting to take disciplinary action against the American team members for insubordination. In this situation I was unable to make my observations known as I was at a lower hierarchical level than the Philippines leader. Any observation I made during the meeting would be seen as further disrespect. Instead I called my supervisor into a meeting, explained the cultural issue and he, being equal to the leader in the Philippines was then able to have a private conversation and properly apologize for the misunderstanding. We did not demand that the Philippines team “lighten up”, we did however move our social and jovial team building discussions to a separate format to improve communications with the Philippines team members. We respected their cultural identity for a serious work environment and were even able to invite them to events designed to be specifically social in nature where they could be more relaxed and participate in social group activities.

Even common idioms can cause cultural rifts in team communications. One Operations Management meeting was cut short when one of the leaders from a brick and mortar complex stated they had to leave early in order to “put out some fires”. The Philippines team reacted with genuine concern for the safety of our employees, thinking that the building itself was on fire. This brought about jovial laughter from the American team and further insult to the Philippines team. They went silent and the meeting became non-productive. Due to our insensitivity and unintentional blindness to the cultural identity team members from this other culture valued, this also required follow up meetings to alleviate the damage caused.

My last example, I have learned while working with my Canadian team. Due to the benefits that working from home brings to future employees, we have had the opportunity to tap into human resources from many different cultures and areas, both locally and with immigrant populations. North America is constantly evolving as people from all over the global community settle here and seek to join our work force. Something as simple as differences in accents can manifest itself as a barrier preventing qualified people from promotions or hindering support, even preventing qualified candidates success at the hiring stage. This is due to our unintentional bias and cultural tendency to favor people whose mannerism and speech is similar to ours. Holding employees to correct grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary, when not directly related to job requirements is culturally insensitive.

We are the leading standard for excellence in Business Process Outsourcing for both Work from Home and as a global corporate community. Learning about other cultures so that we do not project our values onto other individuals on our team is essential to the development of a healthy global corporate community. Culturally diverse teams are often more innovative and offer creative results that benefit the team as a whole. Our goal should be to create a culturally diverse and inclusive work environment through understanding and cultural awareness. This is the art of cultural communication and challenges our leaders face in the global work community.

About the author:

Salie Davis has worked as a virtual employee for over a decade with Sitel Group under Legacy Sykes. Starting as an agent she has served in many roles, working with many diversified teams and clients.

She has three degrees earned through distance learning with active contributions to the global educational community and has shared her creative and written talents through virtual conferences and global communities.

Ethics Statement

Wopoli.com is a public website. For the sake of transparency please be aware that all comments, once accepted are also made public. This site may be viewed by children. All posts will be monitored and content that is not family-friendly will be blocked. No personal information is collected by myself or shared with others unless you or a child of yours is a student I am working with. Please be aware if you choose to sign into WordPress as a registered member, they have their own policies and it is your responsibility to research these policies. Viewing the site does not require a WordPress subscription.

Wopoli.com has been designed as a learning resource environment. When I make available research-based methodology, proper citations will be included. It is my goal to adhere to copyright and attribute material to the original authors. Please respect copyright and attribute any resources you post to the author as well.

I have been teaching for over twenty years as a parent and for private institutions. I am not currently certified in any state as a teacher. I have an associate degree in Creative Marketing and a bachelor’s degree in Media Communications. Many posts were created to fulfill educational requirements for my master’s degree in Learning in Emerging Technologies, and my certificate for Teaching in Emerging Technologies through Empire State College, part of the SUNY network. Much of my work is also based on personal experience and exploration and serves as examples to guide others.

Wopoli.com is an access point for my student(s) and is made public to specifically provide examples and resources for other parents and educators. Wopoli.com has curriculum examples that have self-guided as well as guided activities. The lessons are intended to be adaptable or serve as examples and may not be appropriate for all ages or students. This environment maps out expectations in the formulation of achievable goals and motivational rewards through participation in virtual environments.

It is my goal when using technology as a teaching and learning tool to help students and educators understand how emerging technologies can enrich the learning experience for younger students and help achieve future student success in the real world of higher education, employment, or life goals. It is also essential to educate on the risks and best practices for online safety by exploring and sharing resources. It is also important to educate other adults within my network to the process involved as well as the reasoning behind the methodologies that I am incorporating on this site and companion sites. Please use the resources provided as well as your own inquiries to educate yourself concerning the benefits and risks involved with new technologies, especially when working with children.

Examples of companion sites and resources are included in the site such as YouTube, virtual world viewers, other blog sites and other educational websites. My use and recommendations of these sites are based upon my own research, experience and opinion. Please independently research these sites, their privacy policies and security practices before using them with your students.

My mission statement

SalieDavis

Throughout my varied careers and experiences is a thread of commonality, the desire to see others achieve their goals. This desire has manifested itself in my pursuit of leadership and teaching opportunities in my careers, personal pursuits, and in volunteer work. Removing barriers such as the limits poverty and distance have on individuals is a focus of mine as these are personal barriers I have faced. Technology and distance learning as well as virtual employment have been beneficial in this. I myself have achieved my education only do to the availability of distance education. In addition, my virtual employment has overcome the barrier of limited local resources in employment.

Through self-reflection and analysis of my experiences key words that express my personal goals, how I wish to impact others are: to uplift and inspire, broaden horizons, deepen understanding, enlighten, strengthen and support, inform, increase awareness, protect human dignity, share beauty and joy, challenge people to think – to examine their beliefs and the effect these have on themselves and others, and to minister on a spiritual level of truth. This is likely why my future goals fall into a desire to teach and to express myself in creative fields through technology.

Words of wisdom from a virtual student and a virtual employee.

For those who do not know me I have been isolated by poverty and distance since childhood. Technology has freed me from those bounds. I have been a virtual student since 2001 and have been a virtual employee for almost as long. I am forever surprised at the fear of technology that exists in our schools and in our professions. I worked for five years as a teacher and was daily faced with having to defend technology and argue its value and importance. Even as a Masters student I am still shocked at how slow educators and professionals are to accept technology due to misconceptions and fear. So here are my thoughts on the benefit of hybrid meetings using technology to facilitate networking and engagement.

While students and employees continue to benefit from face to face networking in a function room, new technologies are increasingly advancing with the ability to draw in participants who would otherwise be isolated. New technologies, not subject to physical boundaries are becoming increasingly more accessible.

This can be accomplished through personal mobile devices or virtual meeting environments, technology is the key to expanding outreach and the way content is communicated, both in conjunction with and separate from face to face communication. Not only are people who are limited by distance or other boundaries drawn into the discussion where they would otherwise be excluded, but those within the physical environment have access to a more engaged degree of interaction.

Overcoming fear of new technologies as taboo has always been a challenge. From the onset of telephonic conferences, rejected as impersonal, to video conferences rejected as intrusive, the taboo of having any electronic device in a classroom or meeting, all these taboos have been overcome and can now be looked back upon as the fear of change that slowed networking progress. 3D environments is the current taboo that professionals face in all fields that require networking and collaboration.

Mobile technology and social media are the current most active trends. 3D environments are quickly catching on, from virtual worlds to the development of walk in 3D web pages. The use of 3D environments are proving to increase engagement with the ability to learn and collaborate in meeting spaces. It is becoming common place to see layered meetings, even with face to face interaction, combined with distance communication and participants, live streaming, recording, gamification within the presentations, and multiple levels of interaction with links, slide shows, and even independent exploration of all of these options inside virtual environments.

Virtual meeting technology is efficient and cost effective. It eliminates travel, saves time, reduces expenditures, and increases convenience for the participant. It is also more environmentally friendly and quickly being adopted in the business fields, even as an alternative to the brick and mortar work space for all of the reasons mentioned above.

Companies have virtual employees using adobe rooms, Skype, Zoom, messenger, virtual networks and remote desktops because it is cost effective and convenient on a global scale. Colleges are needing to help students embrace virtual technology not only as a social and educational venue, but in career preparation in order to encourage future success.

Hybrid or blended meetings are the bridge for those still uncertain when it comes to improvements that require open mindedness towards newer technologies. Hybrid meetings have real time face to face components as well as virtual components, such as live streaming a conference or meeting with a group to experience a 3D immersive tour and discussion. Back channel conversations on social media, twitter, Facebook, or even meeting platforms such as Zoom, can work in conjunction with live events or live virtual immersive events.

Virtual meetings and immersive environments will never replace face to face interaction but they can greatly enhance them. We are social beings and physical proximity will always be a major aspect of networking and engagement. Emerging technologies merely enhance the experience and remove the boundaries that prevent many from participating. Those individuals who would otherwise feel isolated due to financial, physical, distance or other challenges, through blended environments are able to contribute and collaborate. The exploration of these interactive and immersive formats challenge us to become more relevant and more engaging. What a great opportunity to continue developing relationships that may start at a college or business event and be able to be nurtured and continued through the use of virtual and immersive technology.

A life of learning

I have spent my life learning and still have library fines to pay.

I speak daily on philosophy, sociology, and psychology; and if my cat could talk he would meow about psychiatry.

Yet. I will spend my life learning and no one will know what I know, but if they did, would they care for who I was, and will they care for my cat when I’m gone?

Decisions

I’ve come to a fork in the road and I don’t know which way is the right way to go. I could go right but maybe right is wrong. Maybe the right road is the road that I’m on. Or maybe I should just turn around and the road that I’m on go back down. Or maybe the right road is left unless the left road is the road I just left. What if the left road is wrong? How many roads do I have left to go on? Before I come to the end maybe I should begin all over again. Then when I come to the fork in the road, stay there until I am old. Neither turning right nor left. Then I’ll neither be right nor wrong and there I’ll be left at the end of life’s song.

Stay the path

Stay the path. No matter how slow. If you turn from it you may never know where it may lead or how far you may go. So stay the path, no matter how slow.

Seeing Failure as future opportunity

Life is about failures, frustrations, and yet, through self-reflection we can come to understand where we have been in our struggle to grasp our own personal goals, that goal just out of reach, where we are now and were we are going.

I would like to start by letting you know something very important about myself. I Fail. I have such a long record of failures that each one could be a drop in the sea and fill all seven seas… Now that is something to relate to isn’t it? Not necessarily the failure part, but the sea.  I live by the sea. I love the sea. I love sea stories. I love the romance of the sea.

I respect the sea. It is a fearsome and dangerous place after all. We as a culture, see equivalence of the sea to our emotions, a sea of emotions, like the emotions failure often brings, frustration, anxiety, anger… and we are a ship on that ocean, tossed by our emotions and yet we set a course for the winds of fortune… hmm sounds like a song I once heard… (Kansas)

However, though I love the ocean, I am not a sailor. I once tried to be a sailor. I failed. I almost killed my husband in the process too. When I and my husband first met we bought a sailboat. A twenty seven foot Catalina named Blue Moon. I barely knew how to swim, but sailing “builds character” and the best way to learn is just get on board and sail right? Isn’t that what we always tell ourselves when we are faced by a new challenge? We set ourselves a goal and think; the way to get this accomplished is to just do it. Eventually we will succeed.

Wrong.

Even the simple act of holding the rudder straight,  headlong into the wind while my  husband put on the jib sail was a task too much for me to handle. Actually it was a task to  much for my husband to handle the resulting head injuries. As the boom continually swayed back and forth it caused him to repeatedly duck its turns in the wind, not always  successfully. We went out on that boat almost every day for weeks that first summer. I never learned how to keep that boat headlong into the wind. To this day I cannot sail, but I did come up  with a few boat jokes.  What is a sailor’s favorite game?… Duck, Duck, Boom, and… what was  written on the sailor’s tomb?… He went out with a boom.  Alright , I am not a successful comedian either.

Luckily I didn’t kill my husband that  summer. He still loves me even though I failed at sailing. It is important that we understand that instead of seeing  failure as not acceptable we can reframe failure as “…a natural byproduct of a healthy process of experimentation  and learning” (Cannon et el p. 18) I guess having a ship on the ocean just wasn’t in the winds for us. After all failure “leads individuals to question their taken-for-granted beliefs and assumptions and reframe their appreciation of the situation (Argyris & Schön, 1978; Ellis & Davidi, 2005)” (Fang He et el 16).  From that experience I have an even greater treasure than that of being a sailor, I have a story, and

I still Love  the ocean.

Cannon, Mark D., and Amy C. Edmondson. “Failing To Learn And Learning To Fail (Intelligently). How Great Organizations Put Failure To Work To Innovate And Improve.” Long Range Planning 38.Organizational Failure (2005): 299-319. ScienceDirect.

Fang, He, et al. “Why Do Some Entrepreneurs Fail Forward (While Others Do Not?).” International Council For Small Business. World Conference Proceedings (2012): 1-49. Entrepreneurial Studies Source.

Kansas. “Carry on my wayward son.” Sony Music Entertainment. 1976.

About me

I offer extensive experience managing virtual teams in educational applications as a consultant and in the private sector, as well as in corporate applications. I have worked in the ever-emergent remote workforce for over ten years, as a web author, content creator and as a coach/mentor supporting remote workers in customer care fields. I have volunteered as an academic coach and mentor while earning my degrees at Empire State College via distance and currently serve as the President of the Graduate Student Collaborative, organizing online seminars and meetings. I have worked as an Operations Management Division Analyst (OMDA) for Sykes, a completely remote position. Prior to this position, I piloted several programs at Sykes, creating procedures and supports in these emerging programs as well as training employees, and creating training manuals and videos. Both my degrees in creative marketing and in media communications complements my ability to address the specific challenges that learning and teaching through technology interfaces creates. I worked as an educator, teaching art, music and computer for five years at a private school. I designed all the curriculum for these classes. My current studies in learning and teaching in emerging technologies have kept my knowledge of educational applications cutting edge.

I develop curriculum for my autistic daughter and have been working with educational design in virtual worlds. I develop open source curriculum that I provide access to on my blog and websites. I am a founding member of the think tank, the Institute for New Paradigms. One mission of this organization is to serve as consultants to organizations seeking to grow in rich, often technology mediated, forms of learning and communication. I routinely help organize and present at seminars on leadership, emerging technologies and education. I have organized college diversity discussions that bridged students across the state through technology conferencing. I also supported students during a pilot program of an immersive virtual residency conducted by Empire State College.

My education and work experience make me especially adept in working with teams and individuals through distance technology. I worked in the health and human services fields for ten years before switching career paths. These positions included intensive work with special populations of all ages and training in behavioral techniques and communications. My interpersonal communication skills enable me to deliver results in a person focused environment. By proactive analysis, I anticipate needs to provide information, resources and communications. I remain professional and respectful in high stress conflict situations with empathy and diplomacy to provide resolution. This is more challenging in a virtual environment than in one that is face to face. My passion for supporting and motivating people to be the best that they can be. This is what drives me.

Education:

SUNY Empire State College, New York, Master of Arts, Dec 2019

Learning in Emerging Technologies

SUNY Empire State College, New York, Dec 2019

Certificate Teaching in Emerging Technologies

SUNY Empire State College, New York, Bachelor of Arts Degree

Interdisciplinary Studies: Creative Marketing and Media Communications, June 2015

SUNY Empire State College Associate’s Degree

Interdisciplinary Studies: Creative Marketing. June 2011

Certifications:

Down East Horizons

Sign Language Certification, 2003

Care and Comfort

Behavioral Specialist, 2003

Community Health and Human services

Certified Medications Technician, 2002

Residential Councilor, 2001

United Technologies Center

Activities Coordinator, 1998

Mount Desert Island Adult Education

Certified Nursing Assistant, 1995

Presentations (Oral and Poster):

OSCC Challenging Goliath, Bringing Virtual Reality into Higher Education………October 2018

https://youtu.be/hTiOque8GE0

CUNY Games Conference 4.0,  January 2018

https://gamesconf2017.commons.gc.cuny.edu/day-1/

SUNY Student Wellness Retreat, April 2018

https://www.esc.edu/student-affairs/health-wellness/swr/step-by-step/

SUNY poster contest presenter, April 2010

SUNY Undergraduates Shaping New York’s Future: A Showcase of Scholarly Posters

http://www.suny.edu/Files/sunynewsFiles/Pdf/PosterProgram.pdf

Grants Received:

Otter Creek Park and Playground Construction Fund Town of Mount Desert, 1996

Grant awarded for 10,000 dollars to construct a village recreational area

Acadia Christian School art program Garelic Farms, 2014

500 dollar grant from for the purchase of supplies

http://www.garelickfarms.com/promotions/pure-happiness

Institutional Service:

SUNY Graduate Student Collaborative President, 2017-Current

https://sunyescgsc.wordpress.com/executive-board/

Institute for New Paradigms founding member, 2018-Current

https://sites.google.com/site/inpworkinggroup/home/mission

Empire State College tutor, 2010-2012

Telephonic conferences and written communication for distance learners

Created online learning videos

Conducted virtual learning screen share activities

Empire State College CDL Connection student reporter, 2010-2012

Conducted interviews and submitted articles for publication

Community Involvement:

4H V.O.L.T. trained leader, 1996-2011

Co-led 4h groups

Supervised at major 4H event including overnight and extended conferences

Created a pilot initiative for a virtual 4H group

Summer Camp counselor, 2005-2007

Developed and implemented camp activities for photography classes

Supervised and engaged a cabin of 6 girls in daily activities and overnight

Otter Creek Park and Play Ground Project Coordinator,  1997-2002

Responsible for designing a park and a playground

Project coordination and managing construction

Fund raising for 15,000 separate from town grant

Otter Creek Aide Society Director, 1996-2002

Village improvement society serving 1000 plus people

Responsible for running annual village events and holiday celebrations

Management of village owned properties

Town of Mount Desert, 1995-1997

Traffic Safety Committee

Relevant Experience:

Technology

Virtual Reality platforms / Zoom conferencing / Adobe conferencing/ Microsoft Office

OSX software/ Linux open source software/ Windows software/ Adobe Creative Suites

RTM / RTA/WFO/ EWFM /Kronos / Aspect /Avaya /Spark / Skype/Messenger/ Social media platforms and other web based tools.

Content Creation

Home school Instructor all grade levels, 1997-2009 / 2014-2019

Researched, designed and implemented custom curriculum

Alpine Access/Sykes serving high profile clients with a virtual workforce, 2012-2019

Corporate Operation Management Division- America

Productivity team and Technology team

Program support, coaching, training, and supervision

Sales, customer service and support

Acadia Christian School: Art, Music, and Computer Science teacher all grade levels, 2009-2014

Supported the program through solicited donations and supplies

Researched, designed and implemented custom curriculum

Wrote and designed curriculum and Art book

Web Content Writer and Photographer for acadianationalpark.com, 2010

Travel and leisure article and photography

Acadian Otter Corporate Manager, 2003-2010

Oversaw marketing and operations of rental and land management

Down East Horizons, Residential Specialist and Job Coach, 2002-2003

In home care and training of combative adults with physical and mental disabilities

Sign language communication

Facility care, job training and coaching for developmentally challenged adults

Care and Comfort Behavioral Specialist 1, 2002-2003

Home based intervention of emotionally challenged children

C.H.C.S. Residential Councilor and In-service trainer, 1999-2002

Supervision and life counseling of 6 teenage high risk youth

Bar Harbor Times, Otter Creek Correspondent, 1994-1999

Weekly village news article/editorial

Sonogee Rehabilitation and Living Center, Activities Director and In-service trainer, 1997-2000

Management of 36 patients afflicted by Dementia and staff training

SalieDavis