Checking emails at 2:30 AM.
Trying to not doze off and miss a late evening phone or Facebook Message call.
Responding early morning to a previous evening’s urgent Text.
Waking up to a rather lengthy request for revisions on a multi-page document that the Korean team needs to finalize as is due that day in Korea.
This week we look at some of the new challenges as we’re finding more open and direct communications between Korean HQ and local teams. This is more and more commonly surfacing for teams.
By its very nature, Korean facing business is the interaction of worldwide teams operating in different zones—with Korea and North America—their working days beginning as our ends and visa versa.
Beyond the different cultures globally working together on a daily basis, which I speak of often, we have seen the advancements in telecommunications as well as more open communications between working-level teams in the West and Korea.
(BTW I can recall a time when an international call between the US and Korea was not only costly but few Korean office landlines even had international access.)
That said, it’s now common for Staff in Korea to now pick up their mobile phone and reach out via an app for a one on one with a western team member. This contrasts with the old model where all communication between HQ and local subsidiaries went through and was screened by the local expatriate team.
The new model is not without its challenges.
For one, email requests often need clarification and even a message received in the AM in the West with hopes that by the end of day (morning in Korea) there will be substantial progress—without some clarity—little may have been accomplished.
More so, even if a request is made—local teams are often stretched thin—and any new workload can be seen as overwhelming.
Also common are End of Day requests—again sent at the beginning of the day in Korea—but received as the day is wrapping up in the West. In contrast for an expat team their “second day” often begins around 4-5 PM as the Korean HQ is back on-line and their work often running late into the evening—but for western employees working late is most often not an option.
I do have a number of work-arounds—most the result of nearly 20 years working directly with teams and leadership in Korea. Here I share two among my many proven hints.
In the case of a last-minute request or a request that may require more clarity and/or substantial research….
As I learned from a senior Korean executive, in many cases Korea often requests local input so teams and leadership can finalize an important decision. They are aware of time restraints and that a comprehensive response could take days. Noting that they are looking for some input, even input limited in scope, that may help sway their decision—pro or con.
In the case of a request and not wishing to seem uncooperative—but unable to respond as requested due to commitments and workload….
Given my experience in dealing with urgent HQ request as noted in Hint 1, I suggest sharing with the Korean team that you’d be happy to assist but you’ll need additional time due to current deadlines, end of day, etc.
As a caveat, I always ask for their timeline and then share some options on when you may be able to assist. I have found what is assumed to be an urgent request often does have flexibility.
In closing, I feel the move to more open and direct communications between HQ and the local team is quite positive. It is not without its challenges as we learn to adapt, build relationships and work within the restraints in time difference, life balance and work hours.
I look forward to your thoughts and comments.