BUSINESS COMMUNICATION IMPACTED BY CROSS-CULTURAL FACTORS

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Freshman (College 1st year) ・Business ・Harvard

In the present century, multinational corporations are becoming more prevalent. Globalization is constantly posing obstacles to management of cross-cultural workers by multinational corporations. In particular, linguistic barriers, cultural labels, verbal and nonverbal contact and the organizational conduct are a major concern of the intercultural business communication process. These problems can influence the ability of an organisation, which increases performance and results. Cross-cultural influences are also necessary to be discussed.The report recommends improving the staff's verbal and non-verbal communication skills, enhancing international etiquette and improving organizational learning in a bid to ensure effective business communication. To achieve this, it is essential that organizations develop communication workshops and cross-culture knowledge training programs. Furthermore, it is essential that leaders and team members learn to adapt to new cultures. It is so because a workforce that acknowledges their diversities and adapts their behaviours to suit the patterns of a different culture is more likely to experience success.

Table of Contents

Executive Summary

1.0 Introduction
1.1 Background
1.2 Aim/Thesis Statement
1.3 Scope
2.0 Cross-Cultural Issues That Impact Business Communication
2.1 Language Barrier
2.2 Cultural Etiquette
2.3 Organisational Culture
3.0 Effective Intercultural Communication
3.1 Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication
3.2 International Business Etiquette
3.3 Organizational learning
4.0 Integrating Effective Intercultural Communication
4.1 Communication Workshops
4.2 Cross-Culture Knowledge Training
4.3 Adaptability
5.0 Conclusion

Cross-Cultural Issues That Impact Business Communication

1.0 Introduction

1.1 Background

As businesses continue to experience both economic growth and globalization, a majority of companies are expanding their operations in international territories. The fact that global business practices have become more prevalent has presented new challenges to managers with regard to cross-cultural communication. A multi-cultural staff is associated with different benefits, for instance, the increased capacity to participate in the international marketplace. However, differences in culture and language can impede effective business communication. For example, employees who are not proficient in the language used in the office may experience difficulties conveying their thoughts, responding to their colleagues’ requests, or serving customers. On that note, cultural and language barriers are an important aspect of a diverse work environment that have to be addressed.

1.2 Aim/Thesis Statement

Different situations can create issues when it comes to effective business communication in a cross-cultural setting. For example, this report will address some of the important factors including language barriers, cultural etiquette, verbal and non-verbal communication and organizational behavior. Each community has a specific way of communicating; ranging from individuals from English speaking backgrounds to the workforce whose first language is not English. Therefore, acknowledging the differences in culture and developing strategies to overcome them is essential.

1.3 Scope

The report covers different aspects of cross-cultural business communication. The first section identifies the issues that impact intercultural communication while the next segment provides recommendations for enhancing effective communication. Lastly, the report addresses how to integrate the recommended strategies into the work environment.

2.0 Cross-Cultural Issues That Impact Business Communication:

2.1 Language Barrier

Language barriers do not only involve people speaking in different languages, it is also about how people communicate with each other within in their countries. For example, in countries like the United Kingdom, United States or Germany, people commonly speak loudly with each other, on the other hand, people from Japan or Korea, they usually speak softly, sharing ideas reflectively. So, when people from Japan travel to the U.S to work or with a business proposal, and are spoken too loudly, they might deem this to be rude and take offense. As a result, for fear of embarrassment, they may not feel free to share their ideas with their colleagues or business partners. In this way, it may be harder for them to maximise their effort.
Often people know how to communicate in a foreign language, but their pronunciation may be lacking. Co-workers may find this amusing and laugh at their attempts to communicate with them, causing them to feel ashamed and too embarrassed to speak with their colleagues or present their ideas in front of others. Another instance of language barriers in the workplace is phrases or spoken abbreviations used in the course of the day to day operations. For example, phrases like "ahead of the curve, ASAP or a tough break" etc, are difficult for non-English speakers to understand.

2.2 Cultural Etiquette

Each culture is diverse and has their own unique etiquette. This can lead to instances of Cross-Cultural misunderstandings. For instance, in Bangladesh, formal dress is not a requirement in the workplace; however, in countries like the United Kingdom or the United States, one is expected to dress formally for day to day operations or meetings. Should a person from Bangladesh take up employment in the U.S, where a professional appearance is required, and failed to dress appropriately, this may count against them.
One of the biggest obstacles in the context of cross-cultural etiquette is the act of greeting. Different cultures have ways of greeting each other. In a cross-cultural business environment, this can lead to embarrassing or awkward situations where one colleague embraces the other when due to their colleague's cultural background; a handshake is the appropriate method of greeting someone. For instance, in a country like Bangladesh, one cannot greet a woman with a handshake or a hug as this is deemed inappropriate, and should a woman from Bangladesh work in the UK and was greeted in such a way by a male colleague, this would be inappropriate for her.

2.3 Organisational Culture

Organisational Cultures is a set of principles, beliefs, and attitudes that contribute to the social and psychological organizational environment. In Australia, one can freely share their emotions with each other within the workplace. Because in Australia there is rarely an organizational hierarchy. One can use a swear word in front of anyone etc. However, in a country like Japan, which culturally follows social pyramid-like respect for elders, organizational hierarchy exists. As a result, out of respect for elders in the workplace, one cannot perform rude or offensive gestures, such as the use of bad language. Respect must always be shown to senior co-workers.
In many countries, employees to a large extent, have the freedom to express their thoughts and views in the workplace. Conversely, in other countries, employees do not enjoy the same freedom of expression, preventing them from sharing their thoughts and ideas with senior colleagues. Egotistical reasons may be behind this, or simply a neglect of worker's ideas or opinions.
In many organizations, employees are treated as more than just workers. They receive respect and freedom of speech. On the other hand, some organizations do not offer the same level of respect or consideration to employees. If an employee makes a small mistake, they may be scolded harshly rather than treated with respect and dignity. As a result, an unhealthy working environment develops.

3.0 Effective Intercultural Communication

3.1 Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication

Communication is something everybody in the world has to do, but that does not mean we all communicate in a similar manner. People in the world speak all different types of languages and even sign language. The definition of communication is the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium. (Dictionary) When communicating with other backgrounds, we need to keep an open mind, try to understand the custom and follow the thought pattern. (Skillsyouneed) When we interact with people, the goal is to be clear and understood. We want to make interaction more efficient and effective to allow work to be less stressful. Crucially, awareness of our own and others beliefs, values and willingness are key to recognise so backgrounds do not clash (Skillsyouneed).
Body language is also a form of communications but in a non-verbal way. Different cultures and backgrounds have different meanings from gestures. For instance, the thumbs up in most customs means a positive thing or a good job. In Bangladesh, it is an insult to use the thumbs up and in the Middle East, the thumbs up mean highly offensive thumbs down. (buusblog) In the USA the horn fingers are adopted by rockers and it's a sign of approval. In the Mediterranean and Latin countries, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Spain, Italy and Portugal, this signs mean their spouse is cheating on them. (buusblog) These examples show that just because we are used to our everyday living and lifestyle, does not mean the people around us live that way.

3.2 International Business Etiquette

Etiquette is conventional requirements as to social behaviour; proprieties of conduct as established in any class or community or for any occasion. (Dictionary) In business, we have to conduct our self appropriately to keep partnerships or clients happy. The actions we perform could be how we live every day, but the smallest mistake may be offensive to someone from a different country. In Denmark, for example, you're expected to finish your plate at business meals. In Russia smiling is a sign of insincerity. In Israel the typical work week is Sunday to Thursday, so don't expect to conduct business on a Friday. (Avakain, 2015) These are things if you do not know before heading into the situation, you may show disrespect. Every country has a standard they expect and we need to research what to do and what not to do in the country of travel. Knowing the standards makes for better etiquette and more comfortable times.

3.3 Organizational learning

Organizational learning is about adapting. It is about how you can problem solve, how you can see the situation outside of the box, and how you can adjust to the situation on the fly. In the business world everyone has his or her own way of their work day, but when it comes to other people, culture, beliefs, and principles we need to respect others. Learning how to change the mind towards others is sometimes a hard thing to do. If we can open the mind and change it, the way of thinking work around the office would change. We need to have a creative edge in learning to grow. Knowledge transfer is another way we can communicate through the learning process to each other. If you can get your knowledge to the other partners, they can be more understanding of how the process you are taking and it will help the team. With insight and knowledge from programs, this is leading the way in business and making groups stronger. Sometimes it takes time to learn, grow and overcome obstacles in this learning process but once the process is a whole the team will be firing on all cylinders.

4.0 Integrating Effective Intercultural Communication

4.1 Communication Workshops

In a diverse workplace, communication issues such as language barriers are likely to occur, making it difficult to realize successful organizational performance (Padhi, 2016, p.20). Organizing communication workshops is one strategy that management can adopt to ensure effective intercultural communication. The workshops are essential for training the staff on verbal and non-verbal communication cues, thereby reducing language barriers. Through the workshops, the workforce will be taught business language, phrases and other important communication elements that will ensure effective communication in the workplace. After training, the staff will practice their new literacy skills under the direct supervision of the instructor. The goal is that by the end of the workshop, the staff would have improved their language and communication skills.
Non-verbal communication is one element that plays a vital role in intercultural communication since they may have a different meaning from one culture to another (Padhi, 2016, p.22). In the workshop, the workforce will be exposed to different cues, for instance, tone, gestures, body language, and expression. Simulation exercises will then be organized such that the employees practice the nonverbal cues in groups consisting of participants from different cultures. On that note, through the communication workshops, the diverse workforce will acquire knowledge on the different forms of communication, thereby overcoming the language barriers experienced in the workplace.

4.2 Cross-Culture Knowledge Training

A number of studies have shown that executives should receive training in interactive relationships as well as group communication, and have cross-cultural mediation abilities that match international business etiquette. To apply this solution, organizations can adopt linguistic and culture training classes and sessions for all employees on international business etiquette in a bid to address the issue of cultural etiquette (Okoro, 2012, p.131). During these meetings, personnel should be trained on diverse skills, for instance, how to be aware of other people's culture. Employees can also be engaged in sensitivity sessions that equip them for a mutually beneficial relationship with workers from other places (Okoro, 2012, p.131). Organizations can also seek services from consultants who are experts in international business etiquette and communication to ensure that executives and other personnel are trained on how to manage their affairs in the global context. During the training sessions, it is important for trainers to highlight individual variation, including the nature of cultural etiquette (Padhi, 2016, p.22). In this way, business executives interacting with colleagues from a different culture will be able to communicate without unintentionally offending them.
Organizational learning is also a tool that has been used in the field of management as a way of eliminating cross-cultural issues that impact business communication, for instance, company culture (Scott, 2012, p.3). The approach can be adopted by developing training programs where all members of the organization acquire cultural knowledge through studying other cultures. The organizational learning process could involve studying other country's history, religion, politics, and ideologies. At the same time, through the training programs, the organization can learn about other region's cultures, more so with regard to protocol and business culture. The cultural training could also involve studying and comprehending the behaviours of different cultures as well as how to open up to new ideas (Scott, 2012, p.3). In doing so, it would identify how the differences impact communication and business decision-making. The aim of the process will be to retain cross-cultural knowledge within the organization.

4.3 Adaptability

With the increase in cross-cultural businesses, it is essential that leaders and team members learn to adapt to new cultures (Matthews & Thakkar, 2012, p.328). The management can ensure that the workforce adapts to the diverse working environment by developing diversity training and awareness programs (Okoro, 2013, p.6). In this manner, the staff will be sensitive and mindful of other cultures, thereby gradually adapting to the new organizational culture (Okoro, 2013, p.2). For example, to ensure effective cross-cultural business practices, the workforce will be required to adapt to different international communication etiquette and processes. A workforce that acknowledges their diversities and adapts their behaviours to suit the patterns of a different culture is more likely to experience success (Matthews & Thakkar, 2012, p.328).

5.0 Conclusion

In conclusion, based on the report findings, cross-cultural factors, such as language barrier, organizational culture and cultural etiquette impact effective business communication. The manner in which businesses conduct their operations and define their policies allows the staff to adopt appropriate measures to become more familiar with the other colleague's culture. Therefore, the report recommends the implementation of communication workshops and cross-culture training to improve the workforce’s verbal and non-verbal cues as well as instill a sense of international business etiquette and improve organizational learning.

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