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Dealing With Manager Who Is in a Different Country

Company Culture
Cultural Differences

24 August, 2021

Aravind Valloor Mana
Aravind Valloor Mana

Engineering Manager at Broadcom

Aravind Valloor Mana, Engineering Manager at Broadcom, explains his satisfaction with the team members working in different time zones and what solution he exercised.

Problem

Managing up is not easy, and understanding your boss along with your team members can be quite tough — sometimes a team might get pretty irritated by the way their managers treat them. It is also one of the primary reasons why people shift companies; they are not happy with their managers. Once you understand the manager's whereabouts, it becomes easy for you to understand the bigger picture. At times when you tell your manager about some of your expectations and desires, they might feel that it is a negotiation, which ideally should never be the case.

In my company, I had managers who had been managing for a few years. Fortunately, I did not receive any negative feedback from my manager apart from a few constructive criticisms. Hence, when I joined the team, one of the team members was doing everything that his manager was telling him to do. He did not push back. He was quite old, and not-so-diligent in delegating tasks. However, the company did not want someone who would blindly follow orders and complete tasks. It should be more like a two-way street, which involves adequate communication, discussions, and understanding how we could collaborate to do better.

A bigger part of the problem involved my manager residing in the US. Therefore, they had little to no idea about the culture and people working in India. Although they had visited the office based in India a couple of times, they might not have realized what actually motivated people here. They had always been working with the team in the US, and in their mind, they thought that the processes were the same as theirs. Therefore, my challenge revolved around trying to make her understand as to what motivates people in India vs in the US. What is worth highlighting is that in India, the younger generation wants to earn as much as possible, experience more, and work on different aspects of a project.

Actions taken

We bought a complete change in the team. We were open to doing things and being the change agents. We introduced new ways of thinking about problems. After some time in a company, everyone will have limited focus on the vision and not think differently. There were many shortcuts that we could bring in, which got a lot of value in less time. In our company, people in their 30s or 40s probably did not like doing things the way someone else told them to. They would allow challenges, and by default, they live with problems and welcome more problems that anyone throws at them. Simply put, challenges encouraged them and helped them to commit more to the project. Therefore, giving them a situation to solve with their own new ideas was a much better way than showing them how it is done.

We came up with 3 - 4 ideas, then sat together and selected a hybrid model. The change did not convince our manager because they felt it was a complete disruption. We introduced and called it a proof of concept, where we came up with some model in a particular way, and we solved that problem. By taking different aspects of different ideas from other people, I created ownership in them. I was able to convince my manager that it was a disruption in a positive way and we could do things much better.

Most of the companies that were operating in India have a corresponding office in the USA. Thus, time was a big problem here. I made sure that we do not have daily late-night meetings. I avoided it because people, after some time, will get frustrated with it. I added and confirmed that everyone agreed to work late nights at least once a week. It was not to be given as an option, but they do indeed have to take turns to make sure that everyone was fairly treated. So that one person does not get into that bad situation of having to stay late.

Lessons learned

  • Do not assume that your manager knows everything. Just because they are doing something in a particular way does not mean that your way is wrong. It’s the art of being able to convince others to your way. Make others comfortable with slight adjustments, instead of changing things completely. There are heaps of moving parts, lots of new technologies that come up now and then. Manager should review the work at regular intervals to see whether there is anything that we can take advantage of.
  • Do not be scared about challenging the way things are being done. It is not a fight with your manager, but it is how you want to represent your work. Instead of concentrating on how to do the task, the benefit of the change process was essential. It created a bit of improvement over time and got better and better.
  • If people are ready to learn new technologies, then they should give it a try. Why not try it because the technology is evolving like anything, and it is unwise to do the same thing for 20 - 25 years in the same way now. In that way you will have a much better way of doing things.

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