How performance can deteriorate in an environment where foreigners are the majority

Amjad’s story

It appeared to be an amazing opportunity at the time, I embraced it fully, enthusiastic, keen to develop, and willing to learn. Working with expatriates was different and presented some challenges, I was certain I could adapt and hoped that the expatriates would also be willing to understand my cultural background and appreciate my individuality.

Now, after three months I am uncomfortable, life is confusing! During the day I feel like a minority among a diverse workforce. I try to comply with rules, procedures, instructions and expectations that are foreign to me. I desperately try to engage with co-workers and managers but I simply don’t seem to be connecting with them successfully. Meanwhile I am drifting.

Outside of work my community is traditional, tribal and conventional, I want to talk about my difficulties at work but nobody seems to understand so I keep quiet.

I feel isolated, a minority, disrespected, misunderstood a foreigner in my own country.

 When I joined the company I had BIG dreams for a brighter and prosperous future for me and the family. I tried to avoid the negativity generated by some of my colleagues in the department which seemed to suggest an US and THEM environment.  I notice that some of my colleagues have stopped respecting the rules imposed by THEM, the expatriates and seem to come and go as they please. I am desperately trying to avoid a conflict with my colleagues and THEM but it’s hard because there are so many expectations that really don’t conform to my cultural norms.  I wish there was more contact time between US and THEM, perhaps that would help bridge this divide.

Previously I worked at a Ministry, I felt safe there and there was never an expectation that I should stay late after 3pm because it was understood that I had family commitments.

The Self-fulfilling Prophecy

I had a meeting with my manager about a computer process that needed to run at 4.30pm daily, he responded by saying “yes but you people won’t be around at 4.30pm because you don’t commit to working any longer than you have to in order to get the job done!” Now I feel stereotyped, demotivated and my willingness to contribute is diminishing quickly.

I am trying not to internalise these feelings because that would mean defeat and helplessness and somewhere in the back of my mind my dream for a better life is still alive……meanwhile, I am drifting……

Expatriates: A familiar story are you failing to engage nationals through avoidance, ignorance, lack of understanding, unethical practice?  Have you considered the consequences?

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2 responses to “How performance can deteriorate in an environment where foreigners are the majority

  1. Interesting. I spend some time training in cultural awareness, but it is usually focussed on the immediate communication difficulties that people experience. This is an important post because it opens up the wider perspective that people experience when working with ‘foreigners’. Thanks for reminding me. Cheers, Pete (the unblogger 🙂

    • Morning Pete, nationalization strategies are often measured on quota and not the quality of the placement, While we all need a little attention when we join an organisation the sheer scale of activity during planning, build, commissioning and production in a project often means people are neglected …..and so you get the cry for help heard in the post. Joy

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