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Due to a variety of factors but mainly performance, my boss is releasing most of the offshore Indian contractors I work with. There are about a half dozen contractors there and myself, located in USA as the only non-contract team member, and the number of contractors will be cut in half shortly.

I have spent a lot of time strategically building working relationships with my team and according to our offshore manager, this has been spectacularly successful. When meeting him in person, he indicated the team had significant praise/respect for me overall. I assume that this positive sentiment will be hurt significantly by this, even though the decision was not directly from me.

I am not really sure how to relate to the remaining team members and rebuild trust. I am also not 100% sure what cultural factors are at play, related to our offshore team lead losing face, etc.

  • What can I do to rebuild trust with the offshore team?
  • What cultural factors are important to be aware of in how the team might be feeling/thinking that as an American I might be unaware of?

Note: I am looking specifically for how to relate to an India team as an American. I know I could relate to another Western team but am specifically looking for cross-cultural advice.

  • Would the remaining team members have a reason to believe you were in any way responsible for the decision? – Myles Dec 14 '15 at 15:09
  • I don't know for India, but one way in which countries differ is the expected degree of frankness. Would they feel that you should have warned them of performance issues before it got to the point of job loss? – Patricia Shanahan Dec 14 '15 at 15:45
  • Tough situation ... – AndreiROM Dec 14 '15 at 16:09
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Hopefully, this is where your work building the relationships will pay-off. While there are certainly going to be cultural issues, it is more important that you know these people as individuals. You may know things about these specific people that doesn't align with a general cultural view. If you can treat them as the individuals they are, your message will come across much better. This may even help build the respect and strength of the relationship with the developers who remain.

If this is purely a performance based decisions, they should understand. The off-shore management and the better remaining developers should already know the quality of the people being cut from working along side them. These tough decisions happen all too often, so while the announcement may catch them off guard, they should understand.

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No matter what the culture, respect translates well. Treating people as if you believe they are competent professionals tends to make things easier. This is a problem in human psychology more than it is a cross cultural problem. All professionals should know these things happen and they are not entirely the decision of one person. If you have built a rapport, then continue doing what you are doing and just add what I am discussing below.

Part of respect though also includes being honest and dealing with problems in the open. In your case, it will be obvious people got fired or laid off. It is the elephant in the room. Some of those people may be friends of the ones remaining. Going on pretending everything is the same tends to backfire in my experience. People will be stressed and worried about their own positions.

I would suggest meeting with the remaining team as soon as possible after the other people are gone and telling them what happened and why (no personal details of course, you don't need to put people down). If you can possibly arrange to go to their country to have the meeting in person, that would likely be very helpful. It shows respect, it gives you a chance to get to know each other on a more personal level, and it makes it easier to judge reactions on both parts. (and if there are still some performance problems you need to address, it is great way to train people in how you want them to work) This would very probably be the best money you spend on the contract with returns that far outweigh the costs. The company I work for spends the money to send people both directions and it is the most critical element in making the onshore/offshore relationship work.

If you can't afford to go, then at least try to set up a meeting over Skype (or something similar) where people can see each other.

Then tell them why they were retained and ask them for help in moving forward. If you are going to be hiring replacements, ask for recommendations. Make it clear what performance level they need to reach or maintain to keep their jobs under the new conditions. Talk about how the workload needs to shift to accommodate the change. Ask them how they feel and what they need right then.

What you are trying to do with this meeting is first make them feel more secure in their own jobs and second allow them to voice their fears and thoughts and be heard (this is the respect part).

Be prepared for a loss of productivity. This is 100% normal when there is a layoff and it cannot be avoided. Frightened people simply do not produce as much.

  • I disagree with telling them why they were retained. Often in these situations you are just randomly picking the cheapest ones (for an under producing center) or it is whoever that center's manager likes (in Philippines the managers quite often travel with a full staff) or just the less stale bread. I wouldn't act like they were doing anything right unless they truly were. If you tell them what is expected those who know that they can't keep up will quit and that is exactly what you want. – blankip Dec 14 '15 at 21:29
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You don't relate to the team. You tell them why their co-workers were cut in as much honesty as you can and imply that if they keep up the same lack of work they will be gone too.

The goal should be to save their jobs and yours. The only way you do this is by getting a total understanding of what happened and what needs to change. If they are good workers they will understand this and respect the forthrightness.

I have had teams in India and Philippines that are away from operational centers. In some of those centers there are contracts signed and promises made and costs are so comparatively cheap that you have a hard time pulling out - there is a let's try to make this old car run attitude. I am not saying this is the rule but it happens. If your team was half cut, then they really stunk. If you don't get the existing team working they will be out of jobs and you may be too. I would focus on everyone performing and less about building relationships. You won't have any relationship with them at all in 2-3 months if things don't change.

  • yep, keep them on their toes – Kilisi Dec 14 '15 at 21:24
  • @Kilisi - they will probably like the manager more if they realize manager is trying to save their jobs. No use being nice to the other half the group that will be shown the door soon. – blankip Dec 14 '15 at 21:26

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