Efficiency Or Relationship? (Lessons From The Borg*, Part 2)


A few weeks ago I posted about a time when an employee of mine experienced difficulty arriving on time for staff meetings. In my post I shared how—in hindsight—I created the perfect solution to the problem.

Or so I thought.

Several years ago I shared my story with a group of young leaders and asked them to simulate solutions to the problem. We had a great discussion. Then I shared my solution with them, expecting responses that proclaimed the brilliance of my (belated) idea.

But one of the young leaders said, “I don’t like your solution. You’re assuming the value of being on time to meetings is an absolute value. But in most cultures around the world, being on time to meetings isn’t a value at all. In most cultures relationships are much more highly valued than timeliness. You were just asking her to conform to your personal value.”

To be fair, I believe my former employee’s issues with timeliness weren’t culturally-based. But this discussion really got me thinking about this issue.

In my (albeit limited) interaction with various cultures around the world, I have yet to encounter a people group outside White Americans who value punctuality.

In my previous post I shared what I thought were biblical concepts behind my culture’s exaltation of timeliness—most prominently respect for other people’s time. But I suspect what’s really behind this value is my high need for efficiency and effectiveness.

Now I’m not knocking the good ol’ “Protestant work ethic.” But I’m beginning to wonder: When my—and my culture’s—emphasis on tasks begins to outweigh the priority of people, do we tip the scales past cultural preference on into cultural sin?

I’m still fleshing this out in my mind. I would love any insight from those of you who work in multicultural settings. How do you balance the tension of efficiency versus relationship? Is this a point of conflict between the cultures on your teams or in your families? How have you resolved this?

**You’ll have to read my former post to understand what any of this has to do with The Borg.

2 thoughts on “Efficiency Or Relationship? (Lessons From The Borg*, Part 2)

  1. Hey there, Stephanie! I like your thinking. I can say that in Russia, the issue of time is not as much an issue when it comes to punctuality as when it comes to duration. Our American mentality is that meetings, whether business or personal, last for only so long. In the Russian culture, personal meetings are expected to last MUCH longer than Americans can handle. This is especially the case with an acquaintance. If we know someone well, we have a longer “tolerance” or desire longer times together. A first meeting with a new acquaintance can last longer than 5 hours.

    I would say that is the main difference between White, American time-culture and Russian.

    I also want to bring up the instances when Dr. Bright would leave an entire conference waiting for him to arrive and speak because he was busy talking about Life with a cleaning lady. In some ways he wasn't very “White, American”. 🙂


  2. Cheryl, thanks for giving us a perspective from Russia! I might do OK with the extended personal engagements there; but the long business meetings might do me in! I'd defintely have to build up some stamina. 🙂
    And I'm laughing at your example of Dr. Bright. I think he belongs in a category all by himself!


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