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I work in a US company with many international offices. The division I work with sells technology for a specific sector. We have a US team and other teams from other countries.

Our US colleagues keep claiming that they own the business and that if we have project or initiatives outside the US we should ask for their opinion and involve them. They want to lead a global strategy for our division, even when most of our work is done locally with very different customers and engagements for each country.

When we have "catch ups", it's one-way: they want to know everything we are doing, and they don't share much information about their work.

We know that the business is actually slower in the US for out sector, but this doesn't deter them - they see non-US business as part of their business.

I want to have ownership of my work and be free to set the strategy for our non-US customers, but my US colleagues are RAGING if they feel left behind. They don't really contribute, they just want to own the decisions. I can see one benefit of being on good terms with them - they are in the HQ, and it's always good to have friends in the HQ. But still, they want to own and command everything we do, even if we are peers, and I am not sure it's worth it.

The question is: how to collaborate productively with HQ colleagues who want to own and lead every decision, even when it has nothing to do with them?

Note: this questions acknowledges that cultural differences (1) exist and (2) manifest in human interactions.

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    What is your role? Are you a manager? – Bernhard Döbler Jun 20 '20 at 23:46
  • Thanks @StephanBranczyk, I updated my question accordingly. – Monoandale Jun 22 '20 at 9:49
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    "We know that the business is actually slower in the US for out sector, but this doesn't deter them..." That actually makes sense. If the company is not doing well in the US, it means the jobs of your peers in the US are going to be on the chopping block. For them, getting involved in your business, and taking credit for your business, is going to be their survival strategy. That's why it's so crucially important to them. The more it gets worse for them in the US, the more desperate they'll be in your meetings. – Stephan Branczyk Jun 23 '20 at 11:55
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    "Our US colleagues keep claiming that they own the business" - do they actually own the business, or it is just a claim? there is a big difference between the two. – virolino Jun 25 '20 at 5:50
  • @Monoandale, I really want to offer another answer, but virolino said it all. You may not like it, but I think he's right. Kilisi, too. – Michael McFarlane Jun 26 '20 at 16:55
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The behavior of HQ is absolutely normal. Think about it from their point of view: would you give a lot of money to someone on the street in another country AND give them full autonomy, hoping that after some time they will come back to you with profit?

You will get more and more autonomy, while proving that you are professional, and you understand the business, and that you can actually bring profit, and you do it enough times to prove that your initial success was not just plain chance.

I was in remote locations at my previous jobs, and I had the same thinking. But a lot of autonomy eventually arrived, when we proved with facts that we are actually reliable. And that actually took a few years. With such endeavors, companies actually risk millions of dollars / euros. They also risk their image, losing their customers etc.

In one of my projects, the project manager (from the HQ) trusted me so much that I joined the meetings with the customers, and I had the freedom to negotiate with the customer, within my area of expertize. But that happened only after my repeated successes, in the previous projects, as well as that one.


how to collaborate productively with HQ colleagues who want to own and lead every decision, even when it has nothing to do with them?

First, prove that you can at least implement their decisions. After they are satisfied, propose Ideas to them, hope they will transform your ideas into decisions. Implement these decisions too. Then have ideas, and have joint decisions - by providing pros and cons. Successfully implement these decisions too.

In time, you will be allowed to have ideas and make decisions by yourselves.


Getting practical

They don't really contribute, they just want to own the decisions.

If they do not really contribute, maybe they want to see you take initiative. At the beginning, the initiative is probably more about brainstorming and generating ideas and solutions.

So go ahead, make a list of what you want to do (according to your initiatives), and present the alternatives. Present the pros and the cons for each alternative. During the "catch ups" discuss your initiatives and ask them to make their decisions (you can send your proposals in advance, maybe by e-mail). They might want to make amendments to your ideas. Do not feel threatened, and try to understand what improvement is there is using their feedback. When HQ will see that you can think the business thoroughly, they might become willing to give you more and more autonomy.

Think about it: if it is your idea and your execution anyway, does it matter much if HQ claims that they made the decision?

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This is handled at top level by the executives. The degree of autonomy is all decided there and any issues with it need to head upwards for resolution.

Usually if an agreement cannot be reached between the local and head office bosses it comes down to who owns the local assets. So while this problem is prevalent in many countries realistically Head Office runs the show because usually they're financing it. It's silly of them to allow the locals to control the finances it takes away their control. Otherwise the locals can just take their business and do it themselves.

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    And HQ then makes all the wrong decisions because they don’t understand (or don’t want understand) the local market so they loose it... – Solar Mike Jun 21 '20 at 8:45
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    @SolarMike that can happen, it's always a risk, the other side is give too much autonomy and the locals go off the rails taking kickbacks and all the rest lining their own pockets which happens all the time in some countries. So it's a balancing act. Bottom line trust no one, and if locals cannot keep profits reasonable despite micromanagement, use them as a scapegoat and get rid of them for someone who can. – Kilisi Jun 21 '20 at 9:03
  • @SolarMike: in that case, it is the weakness of the "locals" that they do not explain the local specifics good enough - which is one more good reason for HQ to control things tighter. – virolino Jun 22 '20 at 10:10
  • @virolino you can explain to some until you loose your voice but they won’t understand if they don’t want to and HQ can be very deaf when they want to. – Solar Mike Jun 22 '20 at 10:15
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    @SolarMike: that can happen also. But while explaining is one thing, proving with facts is another. HQ's money, HQ's risk, HQ's decisions. Some times win, some times lose. – virolino Jun 22 '20 at 10:19

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