Russian character: 7 character traits to get rid of if you want ANY international career

A friend of mine has inspired me to write this article. Living abroad since 2013, I already forgot, how many character traits, clichés, ways of thinking and bad manners I overcame in order to be where I am now. Every time I give a comment about a need to change any “typically Russian” behaviour, I get something like “You are a Russian hater!” in exchange. As a “Russian hater” (a hate of myself, I suppose, by definition…), I might feel free to just give it all and list here ALL “typically Russian” traits, which will make a sustainable international career almost impossible to any Russian who sees no need to change.

If you think that everybody will accept you “as you are” and you will have no need in changing yourself while building your career abroad – you are very wrong. These 7 character traits will cost you a career, no matter, how smart, talented and experience you are –therefore, just trust me and get rid of them!

  1. “Whatever”

“Whatever” is a traditional Russian condition of the brain, which comes when you are dealing with a task you are not interested in and you just send your boss “whatever” of any suitable or not suitable quality in order not to work on the task anymore. This is an official agreement with yourself that you may execute your task badly. This absence of understanding that you need to do ALL your work properly, results in bad streets, poor education and many other horrors, which you deal in Russia every day with. The reason of this, however, is the “last minute wonder”.

The problem: This trait make your work quality not reliable. However, the probation period is established in order to check your work quality. If you can’t do simple tasks perfectly, why should your boss allow you to work on larger projects? Or to work at all?

2. “Last minute wonder”

The last minute wonder is an idea that you may postpone and postpone further your task to the very last minute, and you actually MAY execute it perfectly at the last minute. If not – “whatever!”. The last minute wonder happens to every person of every nation, but it takes a completely different level in Russia.

The problem: You need to get used to very hard deadlines, which you can’t move. You will have more and more unfinished work on your desk and, yes, you will get fired because of your inability to do things good and on time. Therefore, use your ability to work under the pressure when it will be needed, but do not create this pressure yourself!

3. “I know better”

I know better is a trait of a character, which I saw mostly in the USA and in Russia. This is a high motivation of any individual to discuss any topic as if you are an expert. Even if you have no clue about it. You may invest many hours in the discussion in order to defend your opinion regardless of the arguments of your opponent.

The problem: The very minute you cross the Russian border, you don’t need to pretend that you know everything at a higher level – unless you’re in consulting, of course. Let the experts be the experts and know your place when discussing things.

4. “Here is your standard”

If you are from Russia, you usually come with specific standards, be it family, cooking, work, TV adverts..and you compare everything to it and criticize everything what is different from it. Comparing, for instance, with Germans, who are very open-minded, or NYs, who are open to any differences, Russians usually see everything “not passing the standard” very negatively.

The problem: The standards provided by the Russian propaganda (and bite me for this word, but its true!), will make you less flexible in the new world you are exploring. Every single nation has its standards – you are free to live with yours, but do not expect other people to fit them.

5. “Personal foe”

If you disagree with a Russian, you feel yourself like his personal foe. The ability of discussing things without getting too close to personalities, just by bringing realistic arguments, is often not there. I am often shocked when somebody disagrees with my point of view by telling directly that I have no competence in the subject. Can you imagine something like that in Europe? I somehow doubt that.

The problem: As Russians, we have a very dominant and direct way to express your opinion. If you like strong black coffee – add some sugar first.

6. “I am the boss and you do as I say”

If you move to a European country from a Russian-speaking one, bringing a large experience in team management, the first thing you do is forgetting everything you know about being a boss. If in Russian-speaking countries, the only thing that matters is the result of your team’s work, in the EU your management style is crucial for your career. If “motivation”, “leadership instead of management”, “open door politics” are new for you, prepare yourself for a challenge. Here nobody will tolerate screaming, creating an atmosphere of fear and throwing things onto the table. In Germany, for instance, in every large company you have a so-called “Betriebsrat” – be ready to get a long conversation with them if your subordinates are not happy with your management style.

The problem: You need to learn to play after the rules in the country you are working in. Do not expect people who know how the work-life balance look like to work overtime every week. Try to learn managing people without making them afraid of you – this is an amazing experience for you as a manager and an opportunity to advance your leadership skills!

7. “Because I am a man”

Oh, boy. I was at a hi-tech conference last week, and the only guy who allowed himself to correct my question to the lecturer was a Russian. He corrected my question in a way “your question is false by the definition” without moving his eyes away from his laptop – and, of course, without knowing that I have been working on that particular topic since 2012.

The problem: If you pay attention to the European politics, you see the raising trend of supporting women in all industries. You have “management quotes” – the proportion of women, who should take leadership positions in large companies, supported by the law. One disrespectful phrase against a woman can cost you your international career – again, no matter, which level, experience and knowledge you have. As a Russian guy, feel free to tell your wife at home that your morning waffles are too cold – but never act like that at work.

As always, I gave my best to use only simple words while writing this article. If you still need a Russian translation – feel free to write a comment below!

Kindly yours,


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