Critical Incident Analysis Case Study


In this paper we will discuss a situation that happened because of cultural differences. We will analyze and discuss how to avoid the situation. We will find the best suited framework that fits the situation. Then we will discuss about what I would differently if I were the manager.

Keywords:  cultural intelligence,

Describe what essentially occurred, and how a culturally sensitive reaction could have been achievable if you or someone you know had used CIA.

            One of my co-worker in Kolkata, India got an international assignment for a few months and got a transfer to the United States. I saw him back in Kolkata sooner than we were expecting him. We shared the same manager. So I asked my manager, why was he back so soon? I got to know, he was sent back, because he could not show up in time for meetings. Essentially he was late every morning for meetings.

            In India, getting late to work is not a critical offense (at least in the city where we were). So this coworker of mine, could not really understand that the culture was different and he probably thought it was ok to show up late for meetings. As a consequence after 3 strikes, he was sent back. The whole project faced a problem because this one employee could not understand the local culture and could not show up on time. He had to be replaced. And finding replacement, training him takes time. And that becomes a concern to meet the project deadline.

            We know about the event or circumstance that led to a critical incident. We understood the behavior of the agent and the outcome. Now let us consider the possible future outcomes if behaviors remain unchanged. That person’s career growth took a hit because he was unsuccessful in his assignment. And, possibly he would not be sent to any more foreign assignments. In case he goes out of the country assignments, and repeats the mistake, his career will take a hit again. And I think losing a job might be another possibility.

But in case the behavior change, the person might get foreign assignments where cultures are different and he would do just fine. Overall that will be the best outcome because the organization will benefit from it too. Sending an employee overseas is expensive and if the assignment fails the organization not only loses face but loses financially too.

Applying CIA, the organization had to make sure that the employee understood monochronic culture since he was from a polychronic culture. He had have undergone a cross-cultural training to understand basic cultural differences and what changes he had to make. They should have arranged someone overseas to assist him and mentor him for a while.

Look at the theories and suggestions in the readings regarding having success in cross-cultural settings and within your response, explain in detail what can specifically be done to ensure that these behaviors do not take place in the future.

            Before leaving his country the organization should have made sure that this person goes through some cultural training to understand what is expected. This cross-cultural training should have given him a realistic expectation regarding what is expected from him.

            And for the first 6 months, someone could have assisted him. Assist him to understand the culture. Like what time to come, how to come to work on time. What he is doing wrong or how it should be done, things like that.

Use one of the theoretical frameworks of cultural interpretation (Hofstede, Hall, etc.) presented in our readings and apply this approach to the situation.   

            Edward T. Hall in his 1976 theory described culture as an iceberg that has two main components, the internal and external. In order words, the visible or tangible and the invisible or intangible components (Constant Foreigner, 2013).Also Edward T. Hall found out the differences between polychronic and monochronic cultures. To a monochronic person, time is actually tangible and highly valuable while schedules are of extremely high importance, hence can sometimes be very stressful because of the time views (Duranti & Di Prata, 2009). Polychronic cultures could be said to be “multi-task,” in the sense that it loves doing quite a handful of tasks at the same time (The articulate CEO, n.d.). “Polychronic cultures view time as being more flexible because life isn’t entirely predictably-scheduling and being precise is seen as simply not that important” (Duranti & Di Prata, 2009). This case I have described, most probably fit into that framework. My co-worker was from a polychronic culture and he came to a monochronic culture. And, unfortunately, with his polyphonic mindset, he could not realize how important it was to be on time for the meetings in monochromic culture.

As a manager, how would you have handled that situation differently? What could you do as a manager to ensure that you are able to adapt to multiple cultures?

            As a manager, I would have made sure that every employee gets a cross-cultural training before any foreign assignment. Which would be tailor-made and will tell them specifically about the culture they are going to be in. This training material would be extensive, it will be a guideline about what is expected in the workplace.

            Then, I will make sure, this expat gets assistance for the first few months to settle down. Talking from personal experience, finding a commute in a new country becomes a big deal, so is to find a place to live. And in this specific case, if I were with the person, I would have asked him to find out why he was coming late. Maybe he was jet-lagged and could not wake up at the time or maybe he did not get a ride. I would have helped him with those issues.

            Coming to the second part of the question, as a manager first thing – I will try to learn the local language. So that I can overcome the communication barrier. Next, I will find out someone at work or through my contacts who have been to that country or culture and get as much as information from them. Then, I will try to get a cross-cultural training that will tell me what I need to know. Finally, I will work on my cultural intelligence skills. I will practice mindfulness, active listening, observing, so wherever I go, I would be able to adapt sooner.


Saylor Academy (2012). International Business. Creative Commons by-nc-sa 3.0

Constant Foreigner. (5 Jun 2013). Edward T. Hall’s Cultural Iceberg. Retrieved from

 Duranti, G. & Di Prata, O. (2009). Everything is about time: does it have the same meaning all over the world? Paper presented at PMI® Global Congress 2009—EMEA, Amsterdam, North Holland, The Netherlands. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.