I recently sat down for a Zoom conversation with authors Agathe Laurent and Sabine Landolt to hear about the making of their new book, Can We Agree to Disagree?, which tackles the challenges, complexities and, yes, struggles of Americans working with the French, and vice-versa, in companies in both countries. Its format is to treat different work-world themes in sections, seasoned with real-life quotes from professionals of both nationalities on the ground. Underlying the authors' work is the idea of facilitating cross-cultural communication and understanding between professionals from and on both sides of the Atlantic. It's truly an unconventional attempt to bridge the disconnect between cultures.
The authors want to encourage companies, and specifically, HR departments, to support employees in this discovery of the other culture. To go beyond on-boarding and 1 shot workshops, but to foster consistent and in-depth cultural knowledge, to stimulate creativity on how to get there. Ms. Laurent and Ms. Landolt hope their book will whet their readers' appetite to learn more from the real-world experiences that they have organized into a highly accessible format.
They state that their ultimate goal for Can We Agree to Disagree? is to allow individuals to open their minds and work better with their colleagues from either France or the U.S. So, certainly, professionals working in multi-national and -cultural organizations and leaders within these organizations will benefit from paging through this new entry in the business and intercultural communication literary conversation.
Laurent and Landolt's conviction, based on insight they have gained from their own extensive careers and their own thorough research for this book, is simple, but one that is often forgotten: "we should all stay humble and avoid judging when we don't know the other person, their culture."
The book, through the authors' well-devised and vetted interview methods, looks to promote "cultural understanding beyond stereotypes" in the words of these two women. Normally, they have found that people in a work situation don't understand the reactions of someone of the other culture to one's own cultural mores and attitudes. They insist that you can't extrapolate your own country's working process to another's. Intriguingly, the authors consider feelings and emotions to be an important--maybe the most important--of working through cross-cultural misunderstandings.
As the quotes from French and American professionals working with people of the other nationality form the savory meat of this book, the reader will feel the intensity of the emotions expressed in its pages. Laurent and Landolt noticed that the people they were interviewing felt uncomfortable. A broad spectrum of emotions was triggered in the participants on examining their work with members of the other culture. For some, they really didn't want to work with the other again.
Can We Agree to Disagree? is purposely not a linear read. It's a "mosaic". It features topics that matter to people, to professionals. Chapters connect and refer back to each other, are multi-layered and full of subtleties. It's a book for sensitive people who appreciate the "other" and want to learn par guise de an aesthetically pleasing layout, design, printing, all of which any reader will find in this tome.
Reaching understanding for better working relationships between people of different nationalities, cultures, and really humans of all stripes, is what the two authors of Can We Agree to Disagree? are after--and this is work they genuinely and passionately enjoy.
Can We Agree To Disagree?: Exploring the differences at work between Americans and the French: A perspective on the cultural gap and tips for successful and happy collaborations.
By Agathe Laurent and Sandrine Landolt
A compelling collection of anecdotes about French and American professionals on their experiences working together. This book reveals the risks of misjudgments. It provides tips and tricks to foster mutual understanding. Its goal is to spark curiosity, encourage professionals to adopt the best methods from both cultures, and to better work together.
Release Date: June 15, 2020
Available in: Paperback, Hardcover, and soon, eBook
Paperback: 124 pages
Publisher: Tbr Books (June 15, 2020)
Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.3 x 10 inches
Shipping Weight: 10.7 ounces