A GUIDE TO VIEWING CLUCK & CLACK’s memorable performance of “An Honorable Company” — Please view the video and then consider the following.
To help you remember Cluck & Clack’s memorable performance immediately below is the text (same as YouTube dialogue) which comes from Craig Storti’s “An Honorable Company” – see citation.*
WILLIAMS [played by Cluck]: We agreed the building would be completed by the middle of October.
PAPAS [played by Clack]: Yes. That’s what it says in the contract.
WILLIAMS: But now there’s not enough time. You’ll need at least two more months.
PAPAS: Oh yes. At least.
WILLIAMS: The only way you could finish in time is if you hire twenty-five more workers.
PAPAS: Yes. There’s no question. The only way we could meet the contract as it is now written is if we hire more workers.
WILLIAMS: But if you hire more workers, you won’t make a profit. In fact, you’ll lose money.
PAPAS: Very true. We can’t afford to hire more workers.
WILLIAMS: Then you can’t possibly meet the terms of the contract.
PAPAS: We must honor the contract. We are an honorable company.
Commenting on this dialogue, Storti suggests that Papas the Greek [aka Clack] is concerned about his honor/reputation and is trying to get Williams the American to take the lead in modifying the contract. < This is an important point.
The core value of philotimi in Greek culture is described by one Greek businessman as “the pride in being decent” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBEXkmNGgDE)
Hofstede adds this observation about Greek collectivism: “In this country people from birth onwards are integrated into the strong, cohesive in-group (especially represented by the extended family; including uncles, aunts, grandparents and cousins) which continues protecting its members in exchange for loyalty.” (https://geert-hofstede.com/greece.html)
Allow me now to set aside the “Greek-specificness” of this encounter, and focus our attention on four issues issues:
- indirect speaking, and
Papas at his core expects a similarly-“cultured” human being to be concerned about his reputation. Of course Williams, being an American is Other-cultured, and is having difficulty getting Papas’ point, which he is making indirectly. Being direct about it, as Americans would likely be, would also take a shot at honorableness.
There is a world of issues in this little conversation! Much of the world has this commonsense.
The question is how do you protect the honor of your global partner/collaborator and get the results you are both seeking? An essential value FOR YOU may be efficient cost-effective completion of the job. And while the Other guy can appreciate that, he has a near-inflexible cultural bottomline/inbred value of social honor.
Making it work means you both have to help each other. This may sound a bit like liberal kindness, or you may instead hear my point: Negotiating the difference that is “commonsense in the Other culture” is critical to “BAM cross-cultural,” or to any business among intercultural partners.
Finally (issue #4) – CONTRACTS. There are many cultural variations in the meaning of contract. How does the Other-culture conceive of the contract? (By the way, Papas does have a Western version in mind; he’s just trying to get the specific terms modified honorably.)
Hear from Richard Steers et al, who say of many Other-culture views: “A contract is thought of as a written recognition of a personal relationship between the two parties. . . As circumstances change, it is often expected that the contract will be modified to fit the new situation. After all, an honorable person would not take advantage of his or her partner if changes occur that were not caused by the two partners. Honorable people look after the interests of each other.” Steers, Richard M., Carlos J. Sanchez-Runde and Luciara Nardon. Management Across Cultures: Challenges and Strategies. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press: 2010.
THUS – If this blog entry needs revision, and we are two Americans, you might just comment: “Hey, look, you’re not right. Try this . . .” But, if I am an Other-culture person, you will consider my honor and how to propose a needed revision in a way that puts my honor ahead of the content revision. Hmm, how would you do that?
EPILOGUE — I highly recommend Storti’s book of dialogues.* Read a few, imagine yourself in the room – makes you wonder if you know anything! Folks are “speaking past each other” because of their cultural differences.
Great for cultural training, as a party game, or just to keep you humble. Yet, behind each is a wealth of knowledge. They may at least cause you to pause when you are in a cultural encounter and ask yourself:
“Are they hearing and understanding what I am hearing and understanding?”
* Storti, Craig. Cross-Cultural Dialogues: 74 Brief Encounters with Cultural Difference. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press, 1994.