Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

Sometimes we use obfuscation for social reasons

- because we don't want to offend some direct recipients

"We see a future using efficient automation techniques to improve shareholder value"


"we are firing the expensive useless third of staff"

- because we don't know the current opinion of people on the list

"We should investigate the options"


"We are all agreed we should use the new design so let's do that"

- we are not sure who the decision maker actually is, or if this is even a problem

All of the above may come off as lack of confidence / inability to write clearly but generally it is awareness of difficult social situations that if not handled well would derail the ultimate outcome - in short just because people are not writing "hard charging go getting emails" does not mean they are ineffective - perhaps they are more effective than the bull in a china shop

Being aware of the power structure/corporate politics going on at your workplace is really important if you want to advance.

Also when you work across cultures you need to adjust your tone/approach. As a German working with French coworkers, it took me a while to figure this out.

> As a German working with French coworkers, it took me a while to figure this out.

What examples come up the most, or had the most impact on you figuring it out?

As an American working with Europeans I've found that there is often a different tone in communication used. It seems to me Europeans are often more direct in their conversation (which in email may sound rude). It took me a while to figure out why Europeans were being rude to me via email (they weren't). After some time a pattern emerged and looking up the issue made it clear that this is just how the cultures differ in communication.

i.e.: You have to put people in "To" and "Cc" by order of importance in the company and respect the hierarchy.

I thought this was crazy and egotistical, and how could anyone even want such a thing... until I googled the topic. From what I'm reading, it's not that rare (https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/97395/in-what-...).

In my mind, order serves no purpose, so requiring it is purely egotistical. That being said, overly egotistical people aren't exactly a rarity in the business world. And the minute _one_ person says it matters, other people start thinking it does too (because someone else might see it that way, and it reflects on them).

I had an idea that there is a business in making a "widget" that just applied a alphabetical order to a list of people in To:

I just could not figure out how to write code and distribute it in outlook ... not that I tried hard

Never heard of this here in Germany.

Also "cc" is rarely used where I worked and was mostly then used to inform the people in cc about the issue, they aren't required to do something.

should this have been "e.g." or is this really the main thing needed to respect hierarchy?

That is an interesting one, thanks!

From my personal experience, Germans and French have a completely different approach to project work/management/planning. Some backround: we are a German dev team, but our product management and release planning is located in France.

Germans need a clear plan/path, how to get from A to B, with concrete steps that need to be taken. If no such plan is in place, the uncertainty makes us feel uncomfortable. We also need to know who is responsible for what, who is the point of contact for which problem and who will/can decide what. That should ideally be clarified in project kickoff meetings. Meetings in general must have an agenda, the goal and which questions must be answered must be clear. This also drives who should attend the meeting.

French not so much. They are totally fine with not having a detailed plan. They just start with the work. They feel/think that "things will get sorted out when the time comes" and "someone will do it" or "someone will remember to bring the item to the meeting". To them we Germans are way to much stressed out about the plan and project structure. Meetings will be announced where there is no clear agenda, the goal is just "to align everybody" which often results in an unproductive mess.

For a long time I thought that our product management just did not have their shit together, that it was always chaotic, with change of plans on short notice, not giving a headsup on important topics and information getting lost in the shuffle or not reaching the right person etc. Their communication style is also more indirect, not confronting people/issues in meetings, but rather sit in silence through it and then later complain/being irritated about what happened in the meeting.

A year ago I was lucky to pick the brain of an much older Begium high profile project lead (from a completely different company/field) who had worked a lot with French and German teams on many different projects. He said he preferred working with German over French teams and roughly described what I was experiencing. Then it dawned on me, that this is not incompetance, this is just how they operate. I talked with my french manager about that and he was like "yeah totally", he outright said that he loves it when the plan is fuzzy and the scope is unclear.

From there on I saw many things through a much more understanding lens and respected their way of doing things. (For example, where we might overthink and over analyse stuff, they just start and get shit done. Or where we stress out about defining in detail processes and responsibilies, they also "just do it".) And actions (or inactions) that sometimes lead to (for us unexplainable) friction became clearer to me. I also realized, that you cannot change the people (and their working style). You have to adapt to it and compensate for the things that bother you (ask for an agenda, ask who will explicitly do what or better just do it yourself, bring the items yourself, etc).

Applications are open for YC Winter 2020

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact