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Intercultural Training : Understanding and Working With Russians


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Intercultural Training Program For International Executives and Expatriate Managers : Working with Russians, how history,values and customs impact the way of doing business with Russians.

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Intercultural Training : Understanding and Working With Russians

  1. 1. WORKING WITH RUSSIAN PEOPLE Presenter: Anne Egros Date: April 5, 2015
  2. 2. Trainer Bio • Anne Egros, a French national, is a certified professional coach and intercultural trainer specialized in supporting international managers to develop their intercultural leadership skills. • Anne Egros has over 25 years’ experience as an expat herself and has lived and worked in France, Belgium, the UK, Switzerland, Germany, Japan, the U.S. and Russia. She has an extensive experience in helping expatriates and their families during their relocation process. • Anne Egros has a PharmD degree and has worked in the pharmaceutical, cosmetic and chemical sectors. She has held various managerial positions in R&D, marketing, business management including manufacturing and finance. During this time she led and managed virtual and multicultural teams across more than 25 countries.
  3. 3. Objectives Of The Program Understanding Russian culture and values that impact mindset and behaviors of Russian people Identifying potential challenges of doing business with Russians Developing ways to communicate and collaborate more effectively with Russians
  4. 4. Program Contents • Section 1 Introduction to Russia • Section 2 Russian Cultural Values • Section 3 Russian Social Customs • Section 4 Russian Business Culture • Section 5 References
  5. 5. SECTION 1 Introduction to Russia
  6. 6. Russia Today: Geography Russia is the largest country in the world with total area17,098,242 sq km 1.8 x size of the US. It spans 11 time zones Picture Source : Academic Perspective Institute
  7. 7. Russia Today: Demographics • Population: 142.5M (2013). 190 ethnic groups Declining Population: -0.03% (2014 est.) Urban population: 73.8%, Moscow (capital) 11.6M, • Life Expectancy: Male: 64.37 years, Female: 76.3 years (World rank 151) Median age: 38.9 years • Russian Language 81% of the Russian population speaks Russian • Religion : Russian Orthodox 15-20%, Muslim 10-15%, Other Christians 2% • Education : Russia has a Highly educated workforce 88% of Russians have upper secondary education and 54% have a tertiary Sources: World bank , OECD
  8. 8. Introduction To Russian History
  9. 9. Russia History(Pre-Soviet) • 882-1237: “Kievan Rus” East Slavic tribes, Monarchy, Capital Kiev • 1237-1613: The Tatars Invasion, Moscow Emergence, Tsar Ivan The Terrible • 1613-1825: The Romanovs, • Peter the Great moved the capital to St. Petersburg • The Great Catherine • Napoleon Invasion (1812), • Nicolas II • 1825-1920: The Path to Revolution: • 1905: Russo-Japanese War, Failed Revolution • 1914-1916 World War I • 1917 Bolshevik Revolution • 1918 Romanov Family shot • 1918-1920 Civil War • 1921-1928 USSR is born, 1924 Lenin dies • 1928-Stalin takes over
  10. 10. Russia History (Soviet Union) • 1928-1953: Joseph Stalin • Collectivization, Cultural Revolutions, Cult of Personality, Purges • 1941-1945 WW II ‘The Great Patriotic War’ • 1946-1952 Cold War, Atomic Test • 1953-1964 Nikita Khrushchev • 1953-1963 Warsaw Pact, Berlin Wall • 1964-1982 Leonid Brezhnev: • Oil Crisis, Afghanistan War • 1985-1991 Mikhail Gorbachev • 1986-1988 Glasnost, Perestroika • 1989-1991 Berlin Wall falls, USSR ends Source: BBC Russia profile
  11. 11. USSR & European Satellites
  12. 12. Russia History:1991-Present 1991-1999 Boris Yestsin Privatizations, Chaos, State Oligarchs, First Chechen War (1994-1996) 2000-2008 Vladimir Putin Centralisation, Oil Enrichment, Economic Growth, Confidence, Second Chechen War (1999-2006 • 2008-2012 Dmitry Medvedev 2008 Russo-Georgian War, Global economic crisis 2012-Present Vladimir Putin 2014 Sochi Olympic Games, $51bn, 2014 March Annexation of Crimea by Russia
  13. 13. • Russia • Azerbaijan Republic, • Republic of Armenia, • Republic of Belarus, • Georgia, • Republic Kazakhstan, • Kyrgyz Republic, • Republic of Moldova, • Republic of Tajikistan, • Turkmenistan, • Republic of Uzbekistan • Ukraine • CIS are former Soviet Republics. Many of these people use Russian language in social, political, scientific, technical and cultural spheres. Russia and CIS
  14. 14. Russia and Europe
  15. 15. Russian Economy (I) • Russian Federation has 85 federal republics or regions • GDP $2.097 trillion • GDP Per Capita $14,591 • GDP by sector of origin: – agriculture: 4.2% – industry: 37.5% – services: 58.3% Sources: CIA World FactBook. World Bank Data for 2013 Russia is the 12th-largest market in the world
  16. 16. Russian Economy (II) High reliance on commodity exports and global oil prices Source: World Bank
  17. 17. Russian Economy (III)
  18. 18. Russian Economy: Forecasts • 2014 Western Financial Sanctions and falling oil prices lead to drastic Ruble devaluation (from 33$ in 2012 to 62$ in 2015) • General inflation 16.7% (Q1 2015) • Food Inflation 20.7% (Q1 2015) • GDP growth forecast for year 2015 at -3.8 % with a projected oil price of US$53/bbl Source : Russia Monthly Economic Developments February 2015, World Bank
  19. 19. The Russian Middle Class • Employees with salaries of more than $6,600 a month are considered Middle Class income • The Russian Middle Class as a social group is younger, better educated than average Russian population. Lives in big cities • Actively involved in innovative economic sector, Entrepreneurial mindset • Consumption far exceeds that of other strata of Russian society Source:Lilia Ovcharova: Russia’s middle class: at the center or on the periphery of Russian politics?
  20. 20. SECTION 2 Russian Cultural Values
  21. 21. Three Russian Co-Cultures Russian Cultural Values and Workplace Communication Patterns-Mira Bergelson, Moscow State University
  22. 22. What do You Feel About Russians ? What Russians Think About Your Culture ? Russian vs Western Stereotypes
  23. 23. How Russians See Themselves • Can Survive all hardships • Patient • Loyal • Wide Thinking Horizon • Well Educated • Flexible • Mobile • Not Goal-Oriented • “I don’t care” Orientation • No Discipline • Politically Passive • Depressed • Hierarchy • Authoritarian
  24. 24. Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions 1. Power Distance: 93 High inequality of power, Centralization 2. Individualism: 39 Russians value relationships and group rather than individual success (although great variations within age groups) 3. Uncertainty Avoidance 83: Russians are very uncomfortable in unstructured situations. 4. Masculinity: 36 Russia may be a feminine society which values caring for others and quality of life. But it depends on contexts, highly male dominant behavior politics or business 5. Long-Term Orientation 81: Russia is scoring very high as a long term oriented society that fosters future rewards, in particular saving, persistence, and adapting to changing circumstances
  25. 25. Russian Values and Attitudes • Collectivism • Emotionality • Not Having Control • Irrationality • Judgmental Powerful Instinct of survival Importance of Relationships, Irrelevance of Material World, Expressing Emotions is OK Destiny is only partially under their control, external factors have a big impact on their wellbeing. Unpredictability Expressing moral judgement, Sharing Opinion in Public
  26. 26. Russian Values: Friendship • Russians form very intense, deep, and loyal personal friendships. • Friendships take up much more “space” in personal life than in some other cultures • Russians form support networks (svyazi) to exchange resources and influence. Druzhba
  27. 27. Russian Values: Networks • A Russian’s world is separated into: insiders and outsiders. • Friends are totally in and are treated with consideration, caring and loyalty that is unparalleled. • Outsiders, receive very little attention or assistance Insiders
  28. 28. Russian Values: Soulfulness Dusha • Most Russians believe that an important part of their personal and national identity is a profound capacity for spiritual depth, expressed in many forms: love of nature, religion, and friendship, as well as poetry, art, and music. • The opposite of this value is shallowness and materialism. Accusing someone of being bezdushny (bez-DOOSH-ny, “without dusha”) is a serious insult in Russian culture.
  29. 29. Russian Values: Fatalism • Most Russians believe that they have very little, if any, control over the course of life events • Younger generation show more ownership over their circumstances in life. • Russians have the ability to accept the given circumstances and keep going.
  30. 30. Russian Values:Perseverance • Russians are famous for, and very proud of, their ability to endure. • The history of invasions, famine, political repression and gulags, along with legends of survival and perseverance, are a deep part of the Russian psyche. • Russians have high potential limits of patience and acceptance; in a situation that might be unacceptable for someone from another culture, the Russian will act as if nothing is happening. Westerners live to enjoy; Russians live to endure.
  31. 31. Russian Values: Self-Reliance • Self-reliance means rejection of the system’s bureaucratic, incompetent, or controlling form of problem solving. • Integrity is seen as a mutual rather than an individual quality—being true to those who are also true to you—rather than to rules or to a system • Taking the official route to get things done is considered folly. With insider networks this attitude can be powerful and display impressive creativity.
  32. 32. SECTION 3 Russian Social Customs
  33. 33. Russian Pride • Russians are VERY proud of their country. • Russians expect the rest of the world to admire its cultural heritage: famous artists, writers, scientists etc. • Russians pride themselves on being able to flourish in conditions that others could not.
  34. 34. Russian Greetings • Firm handshake with direct eye contact • When female friends meet, they kiss on the cheeks (three times) • When close male friends meet, they may pat each other on the back and hug.
  35. 35. Russian Smiles • Russian smile is often performed with the lips, not showing the teeth. • In Russia, a smile is not a sign of respect and it is not conventional to smile at strangers. • Among Russians it is not acceptable to smile while performing one’s job or important business including customs agents, waiters or cashiers • The smile must be a genuine reflection of a good mood and good relationship. Source: 10 Varieties of Russian Smiles, RBTH
  36. 36. Russia: Gift Giving • Gift giving to family and close friends on birthdays, New Year, and Orthodox Christmas. • Gifts are also common on the working place: Don’t forget to bring flowers to your female colleagues for their birthday or on March 8, the International Women’s Day • If you are invited to a Russian home remove your shoes ! Bring a small gift. Flowers is always a good choice • Do not give yellow flowers. • Do not give even number of flowers. Traditionally, even number of flowers associates with death because on the funeral people bring 4, 6, 8 flowers • Do not give a baby gift until after the baby is born. It is bad luck
  37. 37. The Russian Superstitions • Look in the mirror, if you had to go back. • Avoid gifts of sharp objects, like knives or scissors • Don’t put money into someone’s hands • Don’t put empty bottles, keys or change on the table • Don’t sit on a table • Don’t stand, talk or hand anything across the threshold of a house or apartment • Do not carry an empty bucket • Source:
  38. 38. The Russian Family • Dependent upon all its members. • Most live in small apartments, often with 2 or 3 generations sharing little space. • Families are small, often only one child as women work in addition to bearing household and childrearing chores. For 70% of Russians, family and marriage are among the five most important life goals. 88% of Russians support the anti-Gay legislation
  39. 39. Personal Space • Russians usually stand very close to each other for conversations or when standing in line. • It is considered rude to speak loud, so standing close to each other allows you to speak more quietly and privately. • Touching, hugging, and kissing friends and close acquaintance is common. • You may find this closeness uncomfortable
  40. 40. Topics To Avoid • Do not talk on the topics of homosexuality: Russians think that the West are in part in the decline of their civilization especially in legalizing Gay marriage • Avoid extensive discussions on the history and science unless you really know it. General knowledge of Russians are much more advanced than you can imagine, especially those who studied during the soviets. • Don’t talk about Soviet gulags, “Democracy” or Ukraine “invasion” • Do not insist on Russian corruption. Russians are much more aware and bothered by it than you and think it is a national shame • Never say that the Russian WW2 was won by the Americans! Russians are strong patriots and believe Russian Red army defeated the Nazis as the Soviet Union sacrificed more to defeat Hitler than any other country at that time.
  41. 41. SECTION 3 Russian Business Culture
  42. 42. Russian Communication Style • Ты: TY “Familiar You”Solidarity Politeness • Вы: VY “Polite You” Hierarchical Politeness • No Deference Politeness • Direct Communication • Not reaching Consensus “nyet” • Judging/Advice Giving • Mix of High and Low Context • Bad Listening at Meetings
  43. 43. Personal Connections • You need to develop a network of personal relationships to achieve your goals • Tendency for teamwork, which has its fundamentals on a history of collectivism (not necessarily true for younger generations) • People work for you because they like you and enjoy what they do
  44. 44. Russian Leadership Style • Leaders have a top-down approach to solve conflicts and take important decisions. Hierarchy and status are important. Russians respect age, rank position and technological expertise. • Extrinsic rewards and pressure to perform increase performance • Participative techniques decrease performance • Russians see negotiations as win-lose and compromise as weakness. Negotiation Style
  45. 45. Time Perception In Russia vs US Americans Time is “material” • “Time is money” • Being late is very rude, deadlines are fixed. • “Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed” (Peter Drucker) Russians Time is “elastic” • “People” come before time • Being late is not perceived as rude • Planning is not rigorous • Deadlines are flexible • Multi-Focus: Russians do several things at once • Interruptions are considered as standard • Problems are solved under pressure at last-minute
  46. 46. Managing Meetings, Tips • Spend more time than usual to establish personal connections before talking business. Frequent contacts should then be maintained. • Do not rush the call and make sure to allow extra time for unplanned topics that could emerge during the discussion. • Always send minutes or a summary of what’s been said just after the meeting. However, with Russian partners what has been discussed and perceived as agreed by their foreign counterpart may be challenged and rejected at any time. • Often employees work late until 11 pm or 1 am (the direct consequence of dealing with things at the last-minute), They arrive late in the morning at work too. Don’t be frustrated but plan accordingly
  47. 47. Attitude Toward Women • We say sexual harassment, they say gallantry… • Russian women managers are perceived by foreign firms as more serious, harder working, more creative than Russian male counterparts • Foreign businesswomen should dress conservatively, modest demeanor and a serious attitude • Women should keep a certain distance and avoid being too friendly with Russian men at work
  48. 48. Russian Women and Power • Russia, has 40% women in senior management • The U.S. is among the bottom 10 countries with just 22%, along with • Spain (22%), • the UK (20%), • Denmark (14%) • Germany (14%). Source:
  49. 49. Other Manners & Politeness  Don’t swear, don’t forget to leave your coat in the cloakroom  Don’t stand with your hands in the pockets  Do not shout in public  Do not start a presentation with a joke  Keep your presentation serious, include facts and technical details.  Keep Constant communication through visits and phone calls  Monitor performance frequently  Re-negotiations are always present, so even though you will have a contract, expect the unexpected.  Bring gifts with you: Good gift ideas are brand-name products of high quality.  Avoid cheap products, they can have a negative impact in your relationship
  50. 50. Questions ?  What Was Your Best Experience With Russians ?  What Was your Worst Experience ?  Can You Explain How You Resolved A Conflict ?
  51. 51. • BBC Russia Profile • History Channel: Russia • Russian Monarchy • Understand Russia ( • Russian Cultural Values and Workplace Communication Patterns MIRA BERGELSON 2012 • Russia — Insights from a changing country European Union Institute for Security Studies 2012 • Viewing the Ukraine Crisis From Russia’s Perspective FLOYD RUDMIN, MARCH 2014 References