Cross-cultural communication involves in any international organisation activities. In this increasing globalising world, nowadays employers have been facing challenges across time-zones, country borders and cultures. Cultural background is the main aspect that influences an individual's behaviour and perception of the world. It is the successful communication and adequate management of the cultural differences which lead an international workforce to success so as to overcome conflict and miscommunication situation against individuals across different cultures.
2.2 Communication Within Management
At today's rapidly growing organisations, there are many different types of communications that effect interactions between employers and employees in small or big organisations. Management is the process to ensure business processes to be completed efficiently and effectively with and through employers and employees. Besides being successful in achieving objectives, management must also be able to work and communicate well with people to run an organisation well (Robbins, 2006, p9). There were two main reasons why communication was so important within management. First, communication is the process in which functions of management to be accomplished (Stoner, 1994, p408). Second, communication is an activity which managers dedicate major of their time to (Stoner, 1994, p.408). These two reasons show the relationship between an organisation, management and effective communication.
2.3 Language Barrier
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Daniels et al. (2009) discovered that "when people from different cultures speak the same language, culture spreads more easily", and "there is greater cultural homogeneity" among them (Daniels et al., p104, 2009). As compared, it is more difficult for people who come from different culture areas such as Eastern Asia and Southern America, for example. Though people can use a common language such as English to communicate or understand each other through translators, misinterpretation or misunderstanding may still happen due to cross-cultural differences. Language that describes what speaker wants to say in his/her terms which may present barriers to others from different cultures as they are not familiar with his/her expressions, slant, idioms, jargon, enunciation and emphasis in sentence intonation during conversation as this makes it difficult for listeners to clearly understand what he/she was saying. Communicating in such language will become a way to outcast the others. In this globalizing world, the greatest challenge for one is having a sense of awareness to talk in their language of different cultures to create effective communication. (Managing Diversity: Toward a Globally Inclusive Workplace, Michalle E. Mor Barak, 2005, USA: Sage Publications, Inc)
2.4 Non-verbal Communication Barrier
Sometime people communicate in some sort of ways where their intention may be misunderstood by others. For example, in non-verbal communication, V-hand sign stands for a victory symbol in many countries but in major Europe, it may be an insulting sign (Liangguang, p199, 2010). Another example, Chinese like to touch child's head to display affection, but in Arab and Thailand, it is an offensive action (Liangguang, p199, 2010). Communication can be established in many different ways. According to Albert Mehrabian, communication can be made up with different elements, words, voice, tone and non-verbal cues. Mehrabian discovered that words are 7% effective, tonality is 38% effective, and body language is 55% effective. So it proves that non-verbal communication plays a significant role in communication. Non-verbal communication, includes our body language, sends some kind of messages without words (Tyler, Kossen & Ryan 2005, p. 182). There are many non-verbal theories that include environment, haptics, kinesics, artefacts, proxemics, paralinguistics and physical factors. Below will be further discussions on how each one of these theories effect non-verbal communication and the various effects that age, gender and culture have on these theories.
Kinesics is the study of the relationship between non-linguistic human body motion, or body language, and communication (Bordia, et al 2008, pg 346). There are many different types of body language such as different types of facial expressions that are articulated mainly with the eyebrows, mouth, forehead and eyes. Posture and gestures are also body language indicators. Kinesics is the most obvious non-verbal communication form as it includes body language like slouching of the shoulders, raised eyebrows, rolling of the eyes, an opened surprised mouth and a nod of the head.
Artifacts are another form of non-verbal communication. Artifacts are the way we dress which includes the clothes we wear, our hair styles, the jewellery we wear, the makeup we use and any facial hair we may have. Bordia, 2008, says that artifacts are the use of personal adornments and provides important non verbal cues. The way we use artifacts today, especially in the way we dress, tells people a lot about ourselves. It will establish and create the first impression we give to people when meeting them. The clothing we wear to work should reflect the nature and position of where you are employed e.g. you wouldn't wear your football game outfit to your office; you would wear a suit and tie.
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Another form of non-verbal communication is called haptics. Haptic communication is communication through touch. Haptics is happening around us all the time without us even realising. When you greet your mate and shake his hand or when you greet your girlfriend/boyfriend and give them a kiss or hug, these are all forms of haptics that are happening quite commonly every day. Out of all forms of non-verbal communication haptics is affected the most by culture, age and gender. In terms of culture it varies a lot all over the world how accepted and appreciated touching is. With age it is found that the younger the person the more they are found to touch. It has also been found that women will touch more than men. 'Most American women shave their legs and underarms and use a variety of lotions to keep their hands soft to touch' (Bordia, et al 2008). This shows that haptics means a lot more to women than men. 'Research reveals that a hug and 10 minutes of hand holding with a romantic partner greatly reduces the harmful physical effects of stress. It appears that, because touch lowers stress hormones, such loving contact protect us throughout the day' (Montagu, 1971).
2.5 Disadvantages of Culture Diversity
If cross-cultural communication practice is not promoted effectively, negative effect will be posed on individuals' ability to communicate with one another in an international community. In contrast with ourselves, working successfully with individuals from different cultures is difficult and change is required (Bruno, 2004). If change is not managed successfully in culture diversified organisations, productivity may be reduced. Culture diversity in work group may increase doubtfulness, complexity and confusion (White, 1999). As such, these groups will find it hard in converging meanings, reaching a single agreement and agreeing on courses of action which reflects the communication within the organisation. Without proper communication, these work groups will not be able to function properly. Communication is the key to success in understanding and solving problems in business world, especially in a group. Perceptions of time, space, and business practices can disrupt effective communications (Weiss, 2001). Communication barriers may overtake the group's performance in the organisation. In many organisations, diversity can produce negative dynamics such as ethnocentrism, stereotyping and cultural clashes (White, 1999). Ethnocentrism exists in the organisation when one group believes in their way of thinking and feels superior one's own ethnic group or culture. Minorities may not be valued as they should because they are seen as being inferior to the homogenous culture already established in the organisation. One may be stereotyped by the others when associating certain behaviours of one with another group. Therefore, the person is not valued for what they are as an individual but often being associated to the particular group and held responsible for that group's actions. Cultural clashes, like stereotyping, do not allow the individual proving him or herself. The disharmony between two cultures, for any reason, prohibits the individuals from different culture to fully perform in a culturally diverse work group. Therefore, if employers are unable to manage diversity, it may detract from performance. Another disadvantage of culturally diverse work groups is intergroup conflict. Intergroup conflict can be well-managed if employers harmonise competing goals, assign power in a representative manner, affirm the identity of minority group members, and act when resources are plentiful and cultural differences are lower or well-understood (White, 1999).The biggest issue with cultural diversity in the work groups is the managers' lack of knowledge of how to lead a culturally diverse work group.
2.6 Advantages of Culture Diversity
On the other hand, being tangled in the cultural diversity circumstances can be beneficial if sufficient exploration is done as there will be much different view of points and experience from people who are raised differently in their own culture with variety of backgrounds rather than your own. Diversity creates a way of fuelling growth for organisation by tapping into fast-growing multicultural markets (Pellet, 2004). If managers can effectively lead culturally diverse work groups, the organisations will benefit from the advantages. There is substantial argument over diverse groups and organisations having performance advantages over homogenous groups (White, 1999). These advantages are outlined as follows:
(1) attracts and retains the best available human talent, (2) better adapts to change and exhibits more organisational flexibility, (3) understands and penetrates wider and improved markets, (4) presents higher creativity and innovation, (5) presents a better problem solving ability.
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Studies show that when organisations attract, retain, and promote highest employment of people from culturally diverse backgrounds, they gain competitive advantage and maintain the highest quality of human talent. By restraining the number of diverse workers in an organisation, the organisation is also restraining range of information and resources it could attain from the culturally diverse workers. The organisations can also reach out for wider and improved markets when they have an increased understanding of the social and cultural environment of foreign countries through its culturally diverse work force. The increase in understanding can ease selling goods and services in the growingly diverse marketplace. Culturally diverse employees allow the organisations to acquire high levels of creativity and innovation. The high levels of creativity and innovation generates a greater openness to new ideas. Culturally diverse work groups can provide a broader and richer experience to approach a problem. According to, Charlene Nemeth, in a series of research studies, found that groups subjected to minority views are better at critically analyzing decision issues and alternatives than those that were not (Cox, 2001). These diverse organizations consist of expanded meanings, multiple perspectives, and multiple interpretations, which enables it to be more capable of avoiding the consequences of groupthink. Groupthink primarily occurs in highly organised, homogeneous groups. The members tend to lose their critical thinking and become unwilling to criticise one another (Weiss, 2001). Cultural diversity triggers flexibility in the organisation because it allows multiple ways of organising and responding to information. This variety also increases the flexibility of thought since the employees will speak two or more languages (Cox, 2001).
2.7 Training Programs
To ensure the success of culturally diverse work groups, some organisations discovered that diversity training programs is necessary to remain competitive for the organisation in this rapid changing environment and managing diversity improves its competitive advantage in recruiting and retaining employees and that it increases productivity quality, creativity and morale. Diversity management workshops offer training for managers to discover what it takes to be a minority in this wide society. A multicultural board oversees the organisation's diversity efforts. New minority employees will also be introduced by mentor program to the organisation's culture. The organisation believes that managing diversity creates better customer service, improves its public image and boosts clients' confidence and credibility. With diverse training programs, efforts to educate the organisation about the benefits can help diversity evolving from programs and initiatives to be a fundamental part of an organisation's culture (Pellet, 2004).
In this literature review, we tried to discover on different theories to better understand the concept of cross-cultural communication. Translation covers only a small part of problems of working with people of other nations and cultures. Differences in cultural background may affect communication between people of different countries, and International English may be evolving a cultural style of its own. There are various aspects like verbal and nonverbal communication which we have tried to cover with an intention to have a better understanding in dealing with the specific countries that we have covered. However these are much more complex than it is possible to convey. These aspects even influence the course of communications, and can be responsible for conflict or the escalation of conflict when it leads to miscommunication or misinterpretation. A culturally-fluent approach to conflict means working overtime to understand these and other ways communication varies across cultures, and applying these understandings in order to enhance relationships across differences.
In cross-cultural communication with East Asian countries, when you are dealing with people of different countries, treat people the way they want to be treated, instead of the way you think they should be. Genuine respect for their beliefs, opinions and lifestyle is essential. The key to successful communication is relationship building. The latter can only be achieved by developing an empathy with, and understanding of, the socio-cultural dynamics of different communities.
Communicating with those unfamiliar to us does not come easily. The more distant and unacquainted the cultures are the greater the challenge. Therefore, good communication requires the parties to respect, show sensitivity and truly understand each others' social systems.
Mehrabian A, 1972, Nonverbal Communication, Chicago Aldine-Atherton. http://www1.chapman.edu/comm/comm/faculty/thobbs/com401/nonverb.html , viewed 15 May.
Stoner J, 1994, Management- Interpersonal and organisational communication, New York
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Daniels, J. D., Radebaugh, L. H., & Sullivan, D. P. (2009). International Business, Environments and Operations (12th ed), p90-133, p154-169, Saddle River, N.J. Pearson International Edition.
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'Communication is an interpersonal process of sending and receiving symbols with messages attached to them' (Schermerhorn, 2004). Schermerhorn J R, 2004, Management: An Asia-Pacific Perspective, Milton QLD
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An especially persuasive argument is made by Ashley Montagu in touching: the human significance of the skin. New York: Harper and Row, 1971.
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White, R. D. (1999). Managing the Diverse Organization: The Imperative for a New Multicultural Paradigm. Public Administration & Management 4(4). Retrieved 9/29/04 from http://www.pamij.com/99_4_4_white.html
Weiss, Joseph W. (2001). Organizational behavior and change: managing diversity, cross-cultural dynamics, ethics. Cincinnati, Ohio: South-Western College Pub., c2001.
Pellet, J. (2004). Driving Diversity. Chief Executive 198. Retrieved 11/27/04 from ProQuest database, TSU Library.
Cox, Taylor. (2001). Creating the Multicultural Organization: A Strategy for Capturing the Power of Diversity. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass-A Wiley Company, c2001.