Avoiding cross-cultural miscommunication


Miscommunication across cultures is a common occurrence in today's corporate world as companies go global. It's because of cultural orientation that employees in the same company have difficulties in their organizational communication. Each and every company thus must understand culture. In this regard, am advising the management to adapt, understand and relate to culture of the country where they are operating in order to conduct international business. The executive management must understand the key elements that define culture of the country in which it is operating. Some of the elements include symbols, language, norms, beliefs, artifacts, values, laws and taboos (mdc.edu, 2009). However, the main key elements of every culture are language and beliefs which must be mastered in order to avoid cross-cultural miscommunication. This is because they are the commonly used elements in transmission of culture.

Having a globally diverse top management is one of the best methods to kill ethnocentricity (Sheelvant, 2008). By doing this, employees will stop judging others on the basis of their culture or believing that their culture is the best. Management should refrain from relying on home-grown management to overcome ethnocentricity. It is good for the management to understand that beliefs, language, customs, values and attitudes shapes each community's culture by defining what is expected of each individual in that particular culture. These are the elements that shape culture by defining the do's don'ts. Each culture has its own attitudes towards an issue. Customs determine how people of a given society are supposed to behave in a given situation. All these have to be understood because given a condition/situation/issue, different employees may respond differently due top differences in their cultural backgrounds.

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In order to adapt to a local culture, a company must localize its offerings. It should also maintain any ongoing cultural assessment in the global markets. All content must also be updated for the foreign market. Every management has the responsibility to train all employees to use one language. Offering local language training to the employees is effective in helping the company adapt to the local culture quickly. Operating in a foreign culture successfully requires the management to understand other general elements of culture by being alert, sensitive and open to cultural diversity. The religion of other cultures must be respected too. What these people prefer because of their religion should be understood. There are cultures which are opposed to certain product sizes, color and these are elements that still shape the culture of a given community. Other general elements that should be considered include political philosophy, economic philosophy, education and social structure. It's important to understand that a culture's attitude towards social mobility describes how open a society is towards rewards determination. An attitude towards family in a given culture describes which position a person holds depending on the status of the family. There are other families where a position is determined by individual's achievement.

Change may be by choice, imposition or through cultural diffusion. In other cultures, their attitudes towards leisure mean that they have less time for leisure than income. All these help to show how cultures are shaped differently and thus management must be keen to consider them as they improve their cultural competence in avoiding miscommunication. Verbal and non-verbal communication is useful in communicating across cultures. Some of the non-verbal cues are consistent across cultures and thus some understanding can be generated on the communicated message by using non-verbal cues. Where verbal messages are ambiguous and unclear, managers should seek to use alternative non-verbal cues. However, misunderstandings may create conflict or even escalate existing conflict. This makes cultural understanding difficult.

Physical environment has effects on the way culture perceives certain aspects. The employees from different cultural backgrounds should be understood on the basis of their different environment where they come from as physical environment creates distinctive perceptions on a specific issue. Technology and education are two important aspects in cross-cultural communication. They help in supporting cultural changes through contacts and by choice among different countries and cultures (ÐINH, 2009). Individual employees' competence is supported by technology and education where the society is open. In such cases, ascribed group membership in determination of rewards is considered less important to acquired group membership.

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Mass media creates a persuasive and political power over cultures. TVs, radio, films and the press have been manipulating the entire society. Management of international companies must understand that mass media determines people's social behavior. Behavior is changed and people may behave differently from the way they used to. Mass media has been on the spotlight due to its influence on popular culture and this is what has created the modern culture. By using the mass media, public opinion has been shaped. Mass media when used in marketing and advertising in different cultures has the tendency of reinforcing stereotypes (LeBaron, 2003). Stereotyping is more popular where the target marketing strategy is being used in terms of ethnicity/race. Where marketing managers have opted to use mass media in advertising, they should avoid creating challenging and mixed messages as they are communicating to diverse cultures (Shah, 2008).

Politics and legal systems in a democratic country develop a business climate that is not crowded with restrictions. These are restrictions that may make a company to have a very weak ROI. Moreover, a country that has a favorable political climate has a level playing field for businesses. On the other hand, the legal system and the political arena may create a hostile environment. Strikes and demonstration s that are politically instigated adversely affects the performance of firms whether foreign or local. Different political orientations and legal systems have different interpretations on business law. This creates confusion for those foreign companies which have come from different cultural orientation. Culture awareness is a prime factor that must be considered in the global marketplace as there is a no way business transaction can be conducted without communication despite having different cultural backgrounds. An international company will always have employees from different nations. These are people who have different cultural attitudes, language, beliefs, customs, norms and artifacts. Decision making to some of them is made using specific tasks. There are some cultures that vest all their decision making authority to the too management. Others believe that they have to be involved. This shows the reason why management has to take culture awareness as a prime factor.