The Challenge Ahead

When I first landed this job in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, a Russian girl I’m friendly with told me to expect a lot of frustration when working with Russians.  So far it’s not been too bad, although there have been one or two things which have made me roll my eyes and bite my tongue to prevent me saying something I shouldn’t.

Firstly, I must say that they are all pretty smart.  Even though they have their fair share of idiots like everywhere else, nobody can say that the average Russian is thick.  But when it comes to taking initiative I am left wondering if the word translates into Russian.  Some of them seem incapable of looking at a task in its entirety and completing the individual steps necessary to complete the whole task.  You need to ask them to do each part individually.  I get the impression that if you asked one of these chaps to take a shower, he’d call you after a few hours asking if he could get out and dry himself.  Motivating this lot into taking responsibility for anything more complicated than ordering lunch is going to be tough.

That said, one or two of the women are ruthlessly efficient at getting stuff done.  They run their departments like Stalin ran Russia, through fear, intimidation, and violence.  Okay, I made the last one up.  But although this type of management style has its uses in the sense that we need to achieve the results it brings, it also upsets a lot of people along the way and carries with it a lot of unwanted side effects.  Like resignations.  So I’ll have to temper them slightly.  However, it is quite nice to be able to wheel out one of these women to give an unreliable supplier or two a damned good bollocking in the middle of the office.  It’s impressive to watch.

Then I’ve also had a girl come to me with a complaint that her entire department is speading malicious rumours about her, and she is unhappy about it, and the only one she can trust is her friend, who is also in the same department.  Sound normal?  It would, were the department not consisting in its entirety of just four people.  I’ve promised I’ll deal with it, but have no idea how.

I’d like to see what the management gurus in the West who write all those books would do in an environment like this.  Flee in panic, I expect.


3 thoughts on “The Challenge Ahead

  1. Surely you’ve heard the infamous Russian proverb ‘Initiative is punished’. So, well, the word is easily translated, the way of life isn’t.

  2. This type of juvenile behavior exists in all cultures. I manage a fairly large group (~110 workers) in the US; mostly hourly employees with a small team of engineers. I recently had a case where one lady gave one of my worker a hard time for flirting with a married man. Too much exposure to Desperate Housewives!

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