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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 Language Barrier
Daniels et al. (2009) discovered that "when people from different areas speak the same language, culture spread more easily", and "there is greater cultural homogeneity" among them (Daniels et al., p104, 2009). In contrast, it is more difficult for people who come from different-language as well as different-culture areas as Eastern Asia and Southern America, for example. Even though these people can use a common language as English to communicate or they can understand each other through translators, misunderstanding or misinterpretation may 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)
2.3 Non-verbal Communication Barrier
We are always communicating in some sort of way and that may not necessarily mean we are saying something. For example, in non-verbal communication, the V for a victory symbol in many countries but "may be an insulting sign in most Europe", or "the Chinese like to touch a child' head to show affection, but in Arab countries and Thailand, it is offensive (Liangguang, p199, 2010). Within today's rapidly growing organisations, there are a lot of different types of communications that effect interactions between people in a business no matter how big or small the business may be. For an organisation to be run properly management must be successful in achieving its goals. Management is the process of coordinating work activities so that they are completed efficiently and effectively with and through other people (Robbins, 2006, p9). This shows that management must be able to work well and communicate well with people within the business so activities can be completed. Stoner (1994) says there were two main reasons why communication was so vital within management. First, 'communication is the process in which the management functions of planning, organising, leading and controlling are accomplished' (Stoner, 1994, p408). The second was that 'communication is an activity to which managers devote an overwhelming proportion of their time' (Stoner, 1994, p.408). This shows the link between an organisation, management and effective communication. 'Communication is an interpersonal process of sending and receiving symbols with messages attached to them' (Schermerhorn, 2004). Communication can be made in many different ways. According to Albert Mehrabian communication is collected in different elements, words, voice, tone and non verbal cues. Mehrabian found that words are 7% effective, tone of voice is 38% effective, and non-verbal cues are 55% effective. This shows that non- verbal communication plays a vital role in the need for communication. 'Nonverbal communication includes everything about us that sends a message of some kind without words' (Tyler, Kossen & Ryan 2005, p. 182). There are many Non- verbal theories that include kinesics, artefacts, haptics, proxemics, environment, 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 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. Your posture and certain gestures are also body language indicators. 'Kinesic communication is probably one of the most talked about, and most obvious non-verbal communication form. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most confusing areas of non-verbal communication behaviour as the various meanings communicated through body movements seem endless across cultures.' (website). So body language may include things like raised eyebrows, an opened surprised mouth, rolling of the eyes, slouching of the shoulders, and a nod of the head.
Artifacts are another form of non-verbal communication. Artifacts are the way we dress. It 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. 'We are also more likely to respond to requests from or follow the lead of well- dressed individuals, including persons in uniform, than we are to listen to or emulate those whose dress suggest lower status or lack of authority' (Singer, et al, 1985)
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).
2.4 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. Working successfully with individuals unlike ourselves is difficult and requires change (Bruno, 2004). When change is not successfully managed in culturally diverse work groups, the disadvantages can reduce the productivity of the organization. According to White (1999), diversity in work groups increases ambiguity, complexity, and confusion. As a result, these groups may have difficulty converging meanings, reaching a single agreement, and agreeing on courses of action. The inability to convey meaning and reach agreements reflects the communication within the groups. A work group can not function properly without proper communication. In any type of relationship, especially in a group, communication is the key to understanding and solving problems. According to Weiss (2001), perceptions of time, space, and business practices can disrupt effective communications. Being alert and sensitive to cultural cues and contexts before speaking is the first step in overcoming cultural communication barriers. In some instances, these disadvantages are allowed to overtake the group's performance in the organization. In many organizations, diversity can produce negative dynamics such as ethnocentrism, stereotyping and cultural clashes (White, 1999). Ethnocentrism exists in the organization when one group feels their way of thinking and acting is superior to others. In a predominantly homogenous culture, the minorities may not be valued as they should because they are seen as being inferior to the homogenous culture already established in the organization. People tend to stereotype, when they associate certain behaviors with a particular group. Consequently, the person is not valued for what they can contribute as an individual, but often seen as belonging to certain group and being held accountable for that group's actions. Cultural clashes, like stereotyping, do not let the individual prove him or herself. The disharmony between two cultures, for any reason, prohibits the individuals from each culture to fully function in a culturally diverse work group. Consequently, if leaders ignore or mishandle diversity, it may detract from performance. Another possible disadvantage of culturally diverse work groups is intergroup conflict. Intergroup conflict can be controlled when managers reconcile competing goals, distribute 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 obstacle with cultural diversity in the work groups is the managers' lack of knowledge of how to lead a culturally diverse work group or team.
2.5 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 programs present a way for companies to fuel growth by tapping into fast-growing multicultural markets (Pellet, 2004). Once managers can effectively lead culturally diverse work groups, the organizations can benefit from the advantages of the groups. According to White (1999), there is substantial literature arguing diverse groups and organizations have performance advantages over homogenous groups. These advantages are outlined as follows:
(1) attracts and retains the best available human talent, (2) understands and penetrates wider and enhanced markets, (3) displays higher creativity and innovation, (4) displays a better problem solving ability, (5) adapts better to change and exhibits more organizational flexibility.
Studies show that when organizations attract, retain, and promote maximum utilization of people from diverse cultural backgrounds, they gain competitive advantage and sustain the highest quality of human resources. By limiting the number of diverse workers in an organization, the organization is also limiting the variety of information and resources it could attain from the diverse workers. Also, the organizations can reach wider and enhanced markets when they have an increased understanding of the political, social, legal, economic and cultural environment of foreign countries through its culturally diverse work force. The increase in understanding can facilitate selling goods and services in the increasingly diverse marketplace. Culturally diverse employees allow the organizations to possess 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 Cox (2001), 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. 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 cohesive, homogeneous groups. The members tend to lose their critical thinking and become unwilling to criticize one another (Weiss, 2001). Cultural diversity ignites flexibility in the organization because it allows multiple ways of organizing and responding to information. This variety also increases the flexibility of thought, since the employees will speak two or more languages (Cox, 2001). Additionally, studies show that bilinguals have a higher level of divergent thinking and cognitive flexibility than monolinguals (1999).
2.6 Disadvantages of Culture Diversity
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.