Communication Is a Critical Factor in Cross-Cultural Management Issues

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Abstract The recent growth in globalization has driven organizations to expand offshore to reduce cost and increase profitability. Consequently, the issue of intercultural management becomes an essential knowledge required by international management. More specifically, in order to effectively to mange and communicate with foreign employees, it is imperative to understand national cultures. Different theories were examined to identify the differences in different culture.

Most notably, the Hofstede cultural dimension theory was examined extensively to demonstrate varies cultural norms and consequently five elements were identified; they are individualism- collectivism, uncertainty avoidance, power distance, masculinity- femininity and long-term orientation. Further, contextual communication styles and nonverbal language were also examined extensively to explain how culture has significant influenced towards our communication styles.

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Nonverbal language in Asian culture was further examined in relations their contextual communication styles since high contextual cultures rely heavily on nonverbal clues to demonstrate their hidden emotions and intentions. Ultimately, this report has illustrated the importance of cultural understanding during international management, and has also suggested several different methods for managers to adopt to overcome cultural barriers.

Some suggestions include implementing ‘corporate trainings’ orientation program in the workplace to allow workers to discuss and understand cultural differences and other behavioral role-play practices to examine cultural conflict situations. Communication is a critical factor in cross-cultural management issues, particularly those of an interpersonal nature, involving motivation, leadership, group interactions and negotiation.

Culture is conveyed and perpetuated through communication in one form or another. Culture and communication are so intricately intertwined that they are, essentially, synonymous. By understanding this relationship, managers can move toward constructive intercultural management. The ability of a manager to effectively communicate across cultural boundaries will largely determine the success of international business transactions or the output of a culturally diverse workforce. “

During the current eras, as we become more proficient with technologies, the abilities to connect and travel abroad have also become easier, and as a result these influences have driven the growth of globalisation in many countries. (Gupta & Govindarajan, 2002) Large corporations as well, are deeply affected by this impact, and many businesses have utilized this opportunity to expand overseas to source cheaper resources, and to ultimately increase businesses’ profitability.

Similarly, Qantas has recently offshore their maintenance service overseas to decrease expense. (Creedy, 2012) Conventionally, the traditional American management belief of ‘one size fits all’, or standardization management style was the typical theory managers believed to be effective during international managements; managers were generally not aware of the significant effect of national culture, local managerial attitudes and employees behaviours.

This realisation has perhaps been more evidenced in recent years when many marketing campaigns have failed to recognize the importance of local culture, most notably the recent embarrassing marketing campaign developed by Ford for the promotion of Ford Figo Compact car in India; the marketing ad has drawn much controversy among people claiming that the ad to be outrageously sexist especially during the heat of the recent announcement of the new anti-rape legislation in India; the ad portrayed drawings of former Italian Primer minister at the wheel with three women bound and gagged in the back of the car. Miersma, 2013) Perhaps after such incidents have occurred, managers are currently more appreciative of the importance of understanding national culture. More specifically, it is vital for managers to adapt their management practices specifically to the local culture in order to communicate effectively with the their employees and to ultimately develop a high performance work system in an organisation. Consequently, the purpose of this report is to analysis the influence of culture towards international management.

More specifically, this report will examine how cultural differences will affect our contextual communication style, perception and our non-verbal languages. With incorporation with different theories and examples, this report aims to also identify methods for manager to better communicate with employees to generate successful cross-cultural management. It is perhaps evidenced that cultures are significant diverse across different nations. Culture can be summarised as a shared belief or value that is learned within a certain ethnic background or social group. Kawar, 2012) These cultural values provide the society with a foundation or guidelines on how we should behave within the community. As per the iceberg concept of culture, some cultural norms, such as food taste and dress sense, are apparently physical to foreigners. However, majorities of cultural values, such as the concept of time and the contextual conversational patterns are often unknown to others unless one has been raised in such social background. (Interculturalism, 2011) As such, cultural norms can often be quite across between different countries.

For instance, China as a nation has over different 50 ethic groups and over 200 living languages spoken in the country. The Lewis Cultural Types Model can be further utilized to demonstrate the distinctive differences between different cultures. (Mclean, 2010) The model summaries cultures into three categories, they are linear active culture, multi-active culture and reactive culture (Appendix 1). Firstly, the linear active culture (U. S. A) explains that people are often task-oriented and direct with their communication.

Secondly, the multi-active cultures (China) demonstrated that people generally values relationship and are often strongly driven by emotions. Finally, the reactive culture, which represents countries like Brazil and Greece, are cultures that value discussions and respect for other’s opinion; they are often perceived as good listeners who are respect-oriented. (Mclean, 2010) As demonstrated, culture can be vastly diverse between different nations. The multiplicities in culture can be further examined through Hofstede’s cultural dimension theory.

This concept identifies five different significant cultural values that assist organisations to understand varies national cultures; they are individualism- collectivism, uncertainty avoidance, power distance, masculinity- femineity and long-term orientation. (Hofstede, 1984) Firstly, individual-collectivism is an evaluation to which determines the importance of individual achievements in a community. In a collective society, the accomplishment of a group is often more valued, whereas in an individualistic society one’s achievement is a better representation of their success in an organisation. Newman & Nollen, 1996) This can be further clarified through the experience of Laurenz Melchers, a European luxury motor vehicle businessman who has recently migrated his business to Mongolia during the recent mining boom. He discussed the differences in management styles he had to implement in Mongolia as he illustrated that Mongolian workers have a stronger collective mentality and individual incentive performance was not the best method to motivate employees to achieve monthly target sales. Rowlatt, 2013) Secondly, uncertainty avoidance is the study to which determines how people cope with uncertain, unknown situations. People in high uncertainty culture tends to become more emotional during uncertain conditions; they prefer rules and guidelines to minimize unforseen circumstances, whereas low certainty culture tend cope uncertainties as challenges and are more comfortable with changes. (Kawar, 2012) Thirdly, power distance is the study to which determines how people perceive the power distribution in society. U.

S is perceived to be a nation that has a low power distance culture, where people are expected to question the authority and their decision-making. In comparison to a high power distance country like China, senior figures are perceived to have command significant authority and respect over lower personnel. (Hofstede, 1980) Fourthly, masculinity-femineity is a study to which examines the idea of failure and achievement in society. (Hofstede, 1984) In a Masculinity culture such as Germany, achievements and competitiveness are dearly admired while failures are abhorred by society.

In comparison to a femineity culture such as Sweden, relationships are perceived to be more vital to society. Further, failures are less important as they perceived these actions as great learning experiences. (Newman & Nollen, 1996) Finally, long-term orientation determines how a culture perceives times and long term planning. In a short- term orientation culture such as U. S, people often demand ‘quick fix’ and companies measure their financial performances on a short term based. Hofstede & Minkov, 2010) This can be further quantified during the global financial crisis and the recent American presidential elections, where people were demanding ‘quick fixes’ to the economic and social problems; presidential candidate Mitt Romney went on further to promise to restore 12 million American jobs in 4 years. (Stoller, 2012) In comparison to a long-term society such as Hong Kong, people prefer more long- term investment planning. Consequently, the Hofstede’s cultural dimension theory demonstrates to organisations that cultures from different nations are vastly diverse and different.

The complexity inherited within different culture, demonstrated previously by Hofsede’s theory, further clarifies that international managers are required to implemented different communication styles in order to effectively communicate with foreign employees. This can be demonstrated through the communication model. The model illustrated that when a conversation occurs between a sender and receiver, there will often be a combination of different influences (noises) that would distort the intent message (Appendix 2), and cultural difference is often a significant contribution towards cross-cultural miscommunication. Shrivastava, 2012) Cultural norms will often be tools that we utilize to decode a message. For this reason, what a sender perceive in a message will likely to be different from the receiver’s perspective. The perception of power distances in different cultures can further demonstrate the influences of cultural noises in the communication model. As per mentioned previously, U. S is perceived to be a low-distance culture, where organisations encourage participation and questioning from employees. However, if participative management was implemented in an Asia country, the U. S. anager may perceived to be incompetent in his role and may generate fear in the workplace. (Newman & Nollen, 1996) To further illustrate the effect of power-distance in the perspective of international management, a study has demonstrated that when an organisation initiate change management in a foreign country, it is essential for the manager to be aware of the cultural values inherited within the organisation. More specifically, when adopting operational changes in a high-power distance society, it is imperative for senior staffs to exercise authority to communicate and initiate changes with specific instructions.

However, when adopting changes in a low-power distance society, a participative management would be more appropriate to utilise influencing skills to involve employees to discuss and be involved in the change. (Granered, 2006) This example furthers establishes the significant influence of power-distance in the manager’s communication style. Even further, a study that examines the ethical behaviours of accountants from different culture further illustrates the influence of power-distance in their decision-making.

Accountants who operate in the high-power distance culture (collective) were more likely to abandon their personal principles for the benefit of the company, in comparison to accountants in the low-power distance culture (individualistic), they were more compelled to uphold their personal value over organisation’s benefit. (Smith & Hume, 2005) Consequently, these examples further demonstrate the diversity in cultural values, and the importance to select appropriate communication style to effectively communicate with employees.

Likewise, different contextual norms are also significantly influential towards one’s culture; it is imperative for international managers to select appropriate communication style accordingly to ensure successful business relationship between foreign personnel. Globally, people will communicate differently depending on the national culture to which they live in. (Larsen, Rosenbloom & Smith, 2002) In a low-context culture, people will generally communicate in a straightforward and precise manner. Further, messages are often explicit and agreements will place heavy emphasise on a written format; U.

S is a prime example that represents culture that illustrates this form of communicate style. U. S culture also has a strong value on time and is less concern with relationship building during communication. (Dulek, Fielden & Hill, 2001) In contrast, high-context communication style is a form of culture to which people strongly values relationships and social hierarchy, people will also converse in an indirect and implicit manners where symbolism and non-verbal language plays a vital role in their communications. Dutta, 2008) Chinese culture is an example that demonstrates such values. (Dutta, 2008) A study, which examines the relationship between U. S exporters and other high-context foreign distributors, further illustrates the difference in communication style between both parties. (Larsen, Rosenbloom & Smith, 2002) More specifically, high-context foreign distributors ‘were more heavily engaged in initiating, as well as receiving, information and directions’ to the U. S exporters; these behaviours demonstrate their desire (high-context istributors) to first establish a friendlier relationship with the business partners before transactions occur. (Larsen, Rosenbloom & Smith, 2002) The study further emphasised that the U. S. exporters need to adapt their behaviours and be consistent with the communication style of the high-context distributors in order to create a successful business relationship. Even further, (Koeszegi, Vetschera & Kersten, 2004) illustrated that contextual cultural norms have some effects towards our communication style in an Internet environment.

The study examines over 2000 web-based negotiations worldwide and result demonstrated that high-context users often exchange more messages and offers during the negotiation in comparison to users from a low-context culture; this behaviour may further illustrates the desire (high-context user) to establish stronger relationship. (Koeszegi, Vetschera & Kersten, 2004) Consequently, it is clearly evidenced that there are a distinctive differences between the communication style between a high-context culture and a low-context culture.

In other words, not only do managers have to communicate differently in order to deliver the correct message, they also cannot apply their customary communication style to decode the sender’s message. If incorrectly doing so, this may causes anger, misstatement and disagreement between both parties. International manager should also be aware of nonverbal communications when communicating with employees so that effective relationship can be established. Nonverbal communication is a form of interaction without the use of words or writing.

As said, nonverbal communication actually carries a lot of hidden emotions and signs that is not delivered when communicating verbally. It is also evidenced that 60% of our communication derived from nonverbal clues, even further, different cultures have different perception of varies nonverbal gesture, and therefore organisations need to be conscious of these signs in order to prevent offending others during conversations. (Cruz, 2001) Nonverbal communication can be separated into four main areas; they are kinesics, proxemics, haptics and oculesics. Cruz, 2001) Firstly, Proxemics is the study of space during conversing in interpersonal relationships, more specifically; it is the distance/personal space to which two people maintain during a conversation. Different cultures have different perception of the personal space they require during their interactions. For instance, in the Latino culture it is normal to step closer to demonstrate their friendliness and to also illustrate their attention towards speaker. However, when compared to the Anglo’s culture, whom prefers larger personal space, the Anglo may feel uncomfortable and may perceive that the Latino is sending a sexual message. Cruz, 2001) Secondly, Kinesics is the study of facial expression and body movements during a conversation. (Marsh, Elfenbein & Ambady, 2003) Thirdly, haptic is the study of touch in nonverbal communication. (Archer, 1997) In some culture, such as Frenchs and Italians, it is often normal to demonstrate physical contracts during interaction; for instance, they often greet others with a kiss on the cheek to display friendliness. However, in an Asian culture it is often more conservative and therefore physical contracts should often be prevented during early relationships. Galanti, 2008) Finally, oculesics is the study of eye related nonverbal communication. In American culture, it is often important to hold steady eye contact to display respect and honesty to the speakers. (Madelyn, 2011) Lacking directly eye contact will often be perceived as lack of confidence and untruthfulness in the American culture. (Madelyn, 2011) However, in the Asian culture, in order to demonstrate respectfulness to the senior members, one must not look directly into their eyes. (Galanti, 2008) As mentioned above, nonverbal-language plays an important role during communications with high-context nations.

Communications will often be interacted in an implicit manner, therefore nonverbal clues will often provide listeners with the necessary information to understand speaker’s hidden though and emotions. (Salleh, 2005) As demonstrated, each culture has different perception on their nonverbal communication and therefore it is important to managers to be aware of these differences when communicating with foreign personnel. This report has attempted to examine how our national culture has a significant influence towards our contextual communication style, perception of society and our nonverbal languages.

Hofstede’s cultural dimension theory has been utilised extensively to demonstrate the differences between different cultures. More specifically, the perception of power distance in various cultures, contextual communication styles and nonverbal language has also been examined extensively to highlight the importance of managers to be aware of cultural influences during intercultural-management. Studies in this report demonstrated that cultural influence is significant; even during our interaction in the web our communication styles are deeply linked with our cultural norms.

Furthermore, nonverbal language is also significantly different across cultures. Consequently, if a manager lacks the understanding of cultural differences and apply his cultural understanding when communicating with foreign personnel, conflict and misunderstanding may occurred. Therefore, in order to effectively monitor international management, managers must first be mindful of the difference between different cultures; once we are self aware of the diversity in culture, we are more likely to be able to appreciate and notice other’s culture.

However, organisations may also implement ‘corporate trainings’ orientation program to educate employees on methods to deal with cultural differences. (Al-Lamki, 2002) These trainings allow employees to participate in discussions with foreign employees to examine the similarities and differences between two cultures. Further, there is also experiential training where employees are involved in role-playing practice to examine culturally conflicting situations in foreign countries. Ultimately, these training will allow employees to develop an understanding of the different perceptions and attributions between two cultures. Al-Lamki, 2002) After all, being effective in cross-cultural management is imperative to global organisations, as this would ensure maximisation in businesses’ profitability and successful international business relationships. Reference List: Archer, D. (1997). Unspoken Diversity: Cultural differences in gestures. Qualitative Sociology, 20 (1), 79- 105 Al-Lamki, S. M. (2002). Orientation: The essential ingredient in cross-cultural management . International Journal of Management 19(4), 568- 575 Creedy, S. (2012, May 21). Qantas to close Tullamarine Airport base, axe 500 engineers. The Australian.

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