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How should you communicate effectively with Sri Lankan software developers

Keith Tan
January 13, 2019
Some context on how Sri Lankan software developers will probably communicate:
  1. Sri Lankan software engineers are polite as a general rule. And their communication style will be geared towards avoiding conflict. You will find that you dev team may have an ambiguous and indirect manner in communicating, especially when it comes to non-technical details
  2. Sri Lankan developers want to save face for you and for themselves. Saying “No” to you may make you lose face and so sometimes they may end up saying “Yes” even though they mean “No”. A direct “No” can be interpreted as very abrupt to and damaging to the relationship of two parties - especially between a technical supervisor and your software team.
  3. Your Sri Lankan software developers may communicate in soft voices. This is a measure of respect for you and should not be interpreted as weakness or non-confidence. 
Now that you have some context on the communication styles that you may encounter when managing your software developers from Sri Lanka, here’s what you can do or should not do:
  1. Check for clarifications several times when it comes to deadlines. Instead of asking for a YES/NO answer to your preferred deadline, ask open-ended questions to give your devs the chance to give you the unvarnished truth.
  2. You should not speak too loudly, as this will make you lose “face”. Always maintain cool and calm.
  3. Do not put your feet up on the table as this may be interpreted as rude. Even if you are communicating with your software developers via video conference, this rule should apply too!
  4. Do not point with the index finger. This may be considered impolite by your developers.
Regardless, we are here to mediate any of these cross-cultural issues. One of the things we do at is to train our developers in understanding that their technical supervisors may come from a variety of other cultures. Also many of the top-notch software developers from Sri Lanka have also worked for many different foreign companies in the past.

Today, Sri Lanka is one of our fastest growing talent pools of software developers globally because our clients recognize great talent when they see it. Schedule a no-obligations technical interview and I think your mind will be changed.

PS: This is an opinion piece by Keith Tan, Group CEO of Wonderlabs. Wonderlabs is the leading service provider helping companies build and manage software development teams in Indonesia, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. Across our various shared and dedicated centers, we have over 350+ active software developers. Since our founding in 2015, we have grown rapidly through innovation and our relentless mission focus - Connecting you to success and productivity. Alumni of Wonderlabs have gone on to work at some of the biggest companies in Southeast Asia.

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"I started Wonderlabs because I experienced the problems of building and managing a distributed software development team in Indonesia from 2011 to 2015. I wanted to make it seamless and frictionless for companies to build and manage teams. On the other hand, I found that there are so many amazing software engineers in Indonesia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and wanted to connect them to employers in Singapore, Hong Kong and Jakarta" - Ivan Chang, Executive Chairman, Wonderlabs Group

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