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MBA April 2010



Topic: How might a better understanding of cross cultural communication assist managers in modern organisations?

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Abstract Introduction Cross cultural Communication Cross Cultural Communication and increasing cultural diversity at workplace Significance of understanding Cross Cultural communication

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Challenges and hurdles in cross cultural communication Conclusion Bibliography


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The following study aims to analyse and understand the importance of the fact that it is imperative for the managers to acquire proficiency in developing cross cultural communication system to achieve success in the constantly evolving global business environment. Today in this globalised, technologically advanced world, we are interacting and working together with individuals from a multi cultural backgrounds and diversity.

Culture: In words of Kroeber and Parsons (1958) Culture refers to transmitted and created content and pattern of values, ideas and other symbolic meaningful systems as factors in shaping of human behaviours and their artefacts produced through their behaviours. In words of Hofstede culture can be defined as "software of the mind that guides us in our daily interactions and a combined programming of the mind which distinguishes a category of people from another. Hofstede identifies six dimensions of national culture based on research conducted within IBM in 72 countries: 1. Small versus large Power distance This enables to measure how the co-workers act in response to command and power. High-power distance prevails in countries like (US, France, Spain, Asia and Africa), junior employees have a propensity to be scared of their superiors, and bosses tend to be paternalistic and domineering. In counties with low-power distance as (US, UK, Europe), juniors are more expected to confront bosses and the superiors have a propensity to use a consultative style of managing a team. 2. Collectivism versus Individualism Counties which are more individualistic in culture like (France, Germany, South Africa, Canada, etc.), the team workers work together to achieve a common organisational goal while focussing on personal achievement and growth. In these countries, the group values individual achievement and contribution as a path to their success.

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In counties with a collectivist culture like (Greece, Mexico, Japan,) individuals are bound together through loyalty and strong personal ties to the group during ones lifetime. An example is in Asia, sense of belonging to a group and their devotion is important. 3. Femininity versus Masculinity As recommended by Hofstede, there are differences between the goals of men and women and these differences can be articulated on the poles of being masculine or feminine. In countries (like Indonesia, France, Israel, Denmark, Sweden), feminine values are more crucial where people value the significance of maintaining a good work relationship with their supervisors; working within team through mutual co-operation, are more family oriented, and believe in job security and long term commitment towards work. In cultures with a high masculine index (like Japan, India, US, Mexico, UK, Italy, Hong Kong), people value the significance of prospects for higher earnings, achieving recognition at work, having opportunities for progression and job promotion, and having a challenging job to achieve a sense of achievement. 4. Weak versus strong Uncertainty avoidance In countries with a strong uncertainty avoidance, culture tends to perceive unidentified situations as threatening which makes them avoid. Examples are South Korea, Japan, and Latin America. Americans are more risk taking as compared to Asians. Countries with weak uncertainty avoidance like (the US, UK, Singapore, Netherlands) people believe that they are less threatened by unknown situations and are more open to innovation, risks etc. 5. Long-term versus Short-term orientation The major characteristics of long term orientation are perseverance and determination, a mutual respect for a status hierarchy, and a feeling of shame. Countries include China; Hong Kong; Taiwan, Japan and India Whereas the primary characteristics of short-term orientation are a sense of security and stability, protection of an individuals reputation, respect for tradition, and a reciprocation of greetings; favors and gifts. Countries include: Britain, Canada, the Philippines; Germany, Australia 4
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For a better understanding of differences in cultures of various countries, we can analyse and study differences of cross cultural communication within India and Japan: India: With reference to Hofstede analysis, India represents a high power distance culture with inequality of wealth and power. There is a wide gap between men and womens values which leads to masculinity as a rank and has a lowest levels of uncertainity dimension. In business, men generally wear formal dresses and women must wear conservative dresses. is no scope of saying no in business. Japan : In terms of Hofstede analysis, masculinity is the highest factor, with lowest levels of individualism and high uncertainty avoidance. Japanese culture is collective in nature where people tend to avoid taking risks and dont value individual freedom. In business, the customary greeting is a bow followed by exchanging of business cards called meishi which is done with both hands. While communicating, it is important to address people by their last names and Japanese do not use no 4 which represents bad luck. While communicating in business, addressing people by titles is important and there

Cross Cultural Communication:

Cross cultural communication in simple terms can be defined as a process in which an individuals cultural dissimilarities and differences are exchanged or resolved through verbal, non verbal language or actions. An effective management system of cross cultural management within every organisation is a crucial aspect of communication. In simple terms, cross cultural communication refers to a channel of communication between individuals from different cultures. A strongly developed channel of communication between the work groups from cross cultural backgrounds enhances the performance and effectiveness of communication within the organisation. Halls (1976) introduced the concept of low- and high-context cultures as an important dimension for studying communication strategy. Low context cultures are more inclined to communicate in a direct manner, where 5
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information is contained in the communication ( Americans, Europeans) whereas high-context cultures are more inclined to communicate in an indirect manner where information is coded and not spoken(Indians, Arabs, East Asians). There is indeed a close relationship between the use of communication strategies and intercultural dimensions. It is imperative to learn and understand about differences in culture in todays corporate industry for national cultures vary significantly. Business has today become more global and communicating across various cultural groups within an organisation promotes harmony and productivity at work. Communication process comprises of three major elements which involves a source, an audience and a channel. In business communication would involve interaction with customers, suppliers and employees. Two types of communication:
1. Differences in body position and movements. For eg: In America,

cultural differences have been identified as affecting

maintaining an eye contact is essential in business whereas in counties like Indonesia, maintaining an eye contact with seniors is considered disrespectful. Another example can be in businesses Japanese bow to the group as a greeting whereas Americans greet the group with a handshake.
2. Differences in individual beliefs, values and practices concerning various

factors of human relationships. Eg: In US, UK people tend to be monochromic, they adhere to planned schedules and time plans. Whereas in Arab, Africa, people tend to be polychromic, view time in a more stress-free manner and are easy-going at making decisions. Another example is that in American culture, people are expected to change several jobs in their career whereas in Japanese culture, job service with an organisation tends to last for a lifetime.

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LONDONS FOREIGN WORKERS BY NUMBERS Official total of foreign employees from various countries working in London (September 2010)
Afghanistan Australia India Bangladesh Canada China Congo France Germany Greece Hongkong Iran Iraq Ireland Italy Jamaica 7,000 37,000 157,000 37,000 5,000 15,000 5,000 28,000 25,000 7,000 18,000 14,000 9,000 42,000 20,000 37,000 Lithuania Mauritius Sweden Nepal Nigeria Pakistan Poland Portugal Romania Russia Sri Lanka South Africa Zambia Turkey USA Spain 21,000 20,000 7,000 13,000 68,000 35,000 83,000 26,000 27,000 11,000 32,000 52,000 2,000 20,000 30,000 20,000

Cross Cultural Communication and increasing cultural diversity at workplace:

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With increasing cultural diversity at workplace, due to differences in individuals on the basis of culture, race, ethnicity, religion etc, it is important to understand and embrace the cultural diversity at a workplace. A manager needs to understand that each and every individuals contribution is important for the growth of an organisation. A successful manager must recognise and celebrate cultural differences and realise the importance of the contributions of the people within a workplace. A corporate manager of todays globalised economy must realise that investing in a multi cultural and diverse workforce creates a pool of talent: 1. Diverse workforce from various cultures and backgrounds tend to me more innovative and productive and can help an organisation achieve competitive advantage. 2. A business manager must communicate effectively with individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds through a desire to connect with others and be proactive while approaching a new culture and strive to develop their skills to respect individuals preferences to create unity and mutual trust.
3. People from various cultural ethnicities and backgrounds would have

altering experiences and perspective of life and can recommend creative and distinctive solutions to work problems. These may not be recommended from groups who think in a similar manner.
4. Businesses at an international level; will present diverse approaches and

philosophies which a multicultural and a diverse workforce can deal with efficiently and effectively which is an integral component of success in todays market place. "We didn't all come over on the same ship, but we're all in the same boat."- (Bernard Baruch) Through the rapid expansion of the business environment, it is true that workplace today involves workforce from various geographic locations and numerous cultures. The most difficult task for todays manager is to understand effective communication with people from various nationalities 8
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and cultures and enable them to achieve common organisational goals. A classic example is London, U.K which has today achieved super diversity, a melting pot of more than 270 nationalities, ethnicities and300 languages. A diverse workforce has now become essential to the citys workforce in almost every industry from banking to restaurants, neuro-surgery to office cleaning, IT to childcare etc.

Significance of understanding Cross Cultural communication:

Managers must deal effectively with cross cultural communication due to the following factors: 1. Cross-Cultural Communication The New model Through the technological advancements and the internet business can be promoted across a wider geographic location and across cultures. To work together as a team in a multi cultural work environment, effective cross cultural communication is an important tool for managers to succeed. Despite the fact that English language reaches to people from several cultures, good cross cultural communication is important to avoid any misunderstandings. Organisations which understand differences in cultures of various people are better equipped in decision making and build stronger team relationships at work. 2. Understanding Cultural Diversity The cultural diversity should be understood to optimise communication across people from different cultures. Eg: to communicate effectively we need to understand that correspondence between US and UK people will have cultural differences. It is crucial to study differences in an individuals culture and language to communicate effectively. Another example can be in Japan maintaining silence during conversation is a sign of thoughtfulness whereas in US long silence is not appreciated in conversations. 3. Developing an Awareness of Individual Cultures 9
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It is important in business to acquire atleast the crucial understanding of how to engage in suitable greetings and physical contact, which can be a complicated area to understand on an inter cultural level. For example a firm handshake is an acceptable greeting in North America whereas a bow is customary in Asia. Kissing an associate is an acceptable greeting in Paris, but not in U.S. As a team manager of a diverse cultural team, one needs to increase knowledge and understanding of various cultures. In countries like UK, US humour is an important tool for building rapport whereas in Japan humour is treated as unprofessional. 4. Demand Tolerance It is crucial for managers to comprehend employees needs and enable them to achieve goals through open mindedness, acceptance and tolerance. For eg: In IBM staff must explain to the team that a part of the team is working in US office which is on a different time zone and explain them that phone or electronic communication would be delayed due to this reason. India would have holidays on Diwali whereas US office would have more holidays on Christmas. 5. Keep communication Simple When you communicate, we need to consider the fact that even though English is treated as the international language of business, we need to make meticulous efforts to keep the communication clear and straightforward. Cross cultural communication helps to break barriers in language. Managers must avoid using slangs, jargons, accents, code words etc even though communicating in English. For example: in Uk, the word to table means to discuss straight away whereas in US it means to postpone the discussion. As a successful manager, one must take responsibility communication : When using language: Managers must use simple words, send clear messages whether oral or written, avoid slangs, idiomatic expressions, be careful with pronunciation, simplify speech, adapt the voice tone, speaking style and manners to what is culturally acceptable to the audience. One must observe 10
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for effective

the other person to avoid any miscommunication or misunderstanding and be ready to provide feedback.

6. Effective non-verbal behaviour: Cross cultural non verbal communication is also important in business to avoid barriers in communication. For example: in Budhist culture you should not touch someones head for it is considered sacred, in Muslim culture you should not pass anything or eat with left hand which is considered unclean. Chinese stick their tongues out to show feelings of surprise and scratch their ears to show happiness. 6. Impact on Profitability of Business: In a fast paced globalised economy, it is important to account for and understand cultural differences to ensure profitability of business. Failure to do so can lead to expensive mistakes which is evident from example of Walmarts failure in Germany. Walmart in an effort to expand in Germany sank into debt of $1 billion for the task of expansion was handed over to an American who didnt even speak German. Walmart failed to account for cultural differences in communication channels and business practices of US from Germany and thus failed.

Challenges and hurdles in cross cultural communication:

However, despite the significance of cross cultural communication, the real challenge for the managers lies in dealing with cultural clashes among the team or cultural disharmony which may arise in certain work situations no matter how amiable is the work environment. Lack of sufficient cross cultural communication training being given to the employees often leads to internal team conflicts, misunderstanding, stressful situations, lack of unity among team and loss of customers and business resulting due to decreased productivity. A highly diverse multi cultural workforce faces challenges from the differences in values, language, behaviour and work ethics, business 11
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etiquettes etc which can further negatively impact the productivity and hamper team cohesion.

To meet these challenges effectively, there is a dire need for an effective manager to communicate with diverse workforce in a cohesive and a productive manner and use their expertise to achieve business success. To conclude we can say that study of cross cultural communication and interaction of individuals from various cultures is indeed an important factor in the current era of globalisation and change. A better and effective understanding of cross cultural communication will help in improved interaction among team members, efficient customer relationships, effective client management and a productive and a united work force working together to achieve organisational goals of success and profitability. It is imperative to improve an understanding of cross cultural situations for effective organisational management. The managers face daily challenges of dealing with cross cultural differences between various customers and employees which can be resolved by broadening the inter cultural competence of the organisation and educating the customers to behave in a way which is compatible with the expectations of their co customers from different cultural backgrounds. There is an urgent need to conduct further conceptual and empirical research into cross cultural communication management.

Prepared by:Miss Shivani Malik

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