Managing communication in cultural diversity corporations

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Introduction

Along with the development of globalization, corporations are becoming more and more involved in the operation in a global environment of different cultural contexts. Especially for those multinational enterprises, it is very common for the managers to experience the frustration and challenge when managing the communication within the culture diversified corporation environment. When corporation operates businesses in cross-national borders, it will face not only the national cultural disparity, but also the disparity of corporate cultures of the investing parties. The operation and development of multinational enterprises in a different cultural environment do not only depend on the combination state of the substantial resources such as technologies, but more importantly on the integration of the cultural resources. Intercultural communication is regarded as the crucial factor to contribute to the success of multinational companies. Therefore, with regard to the importance of communication in cultural diversity Corporations, this essay critically analyses the current cultural diversity of multinational corporations under the globalization trend. Based on this cultural diversity, this essay will address the importance of managing intercultural communication to the success of the corporations. Then it will discuss the challenges which managers will encounter when managing the intercultural communication within the organization. Finally it will conclude some effective recommendations to overcome the identified challenges.

Cultural diversity and intercultural communication

Cultural diversity

Cultural diversity refers to the cultural differences in different countries and nations.

It is mainly reflected through values, traditional cultures, religions, languages, and ways of thinking, behavior norms, habits, and so on (Ã-zbilgin & Syed, 2010). From the perspective of a multinational enterprise management, cultures are defined as the shared beliefs, norms, and values to guide the daily life of a group of people with different cultural backgrounds within the organization (Schein, 2009). People from different cultural backgrounds work under one organization; it is very likely to lead to cultural conflicts and frictions since they are with different operation concepts and managing methods. Conflicts are certainly not good for corporation's development and expansion; therefore, it is very important for the corporations with cultural diversity to implement an effective intercultural communication.

Intercultural communication

Intercultural communication usually refers to a form of global communication. It takes place in an organization which is made up of individuals from different values, traditional cultures, religions, languages, and ways of thinking, behavior norms, habits and educational backgrounds. Intercultural communication is also sometimes called as cross-cultural communication in some literatures (Durant & Shepherd, 2009). Intercultural communication in a corporation refers to the information communication between internal individuals with different social and cultural backgrounds. Especially for those multinational enterprises, intercultural communication seems extremely important for success in the global business environment. It requires all employees not only being aware of the differences between countries, but also using a common language to communicate and admitting disparity and maintaining balance. Intercultural communication requires managers to effectively communicate with individuals from different countries with different cultural backgrounds in the different cultural contexts. Many of the world-renowned enterprise managers regard the capability of intercultural communication as their key to success.

Methods of intercultural communication

With respect to the intercultural communication methods, there are mainly two kinds of communication methods referring to verbal and non-verbal communications.

Verbal communication

As language is the tool of thinking and communicating, verbal expression is closely related to thinking. Language is the carrier of thoughts and form of expression (Edwards, 2009). It is a signal system and based on the voice. Language is a social phenomenon and the most important communication tool for human being. It is used as a tool to convey messages and thoughts. Of course, there are plenty of languages existing in the world with unique composition ways. In a multinational enterprise, it is crucial for people to find a shared language so as to achieve verbal communication in the organization and reduce the misunderstanding caused by language difference as much as possible.

Non-verbal communication

Compared with verbal communication, non-verbal communication refers to the process of communication through other wordless expressions such as body language or postures, facial expression or eye contact etc (Collins, Schrimmer, Diamond & Burke, 2011). In the communication, messages are to be expressed by language, but non-verbal communication helps to explain the messages context and assist the listeners to understand.

Intercultural communication often needs to combine these two communication methods. However, before applying the non-verbal communication way, one should figure out the non-verbal meaning to the other cultures as sometimes the same gesture might have different meanings for different cultures.

Obstacles or challenges in intercultural communication

For most managers in multinational corporations, they can experience many challenges and obstacles in managing the culture diversified corporation contexts. There are many factors which could affect the effective communication in the intercultural contexts. The factors concluded in this essay contain language, self awareness, time and space, religions, beliefs & attitudes, non-verbal communication.

Language

Obviously communication is greatly dependent on the language communication. In many multinational corporations, language communication is the most challenging obstacle in communication. Although there might be a common language shared in the corporation such as English, people from different cultures & countries may have different accents and ways of expressions. It will greatly decrease the effectiveness of communication. Most of time, managers feel hard to communicate or slow in communication when the deal with a group of individuals from various cultural & language backgrounds.

Self awareness

Due to varieties of cultural backgrounds, it will result in disparity in self awareness. People's self awareness is closely related to their originally cultural cultivation, social backgrounds and life styles. Therefore, it leads to great difference in how to think and how to react. Managers will occasionally find that the difference in self awareness can pose challenges for them to manage the intercultural communication in the organization.

Time and space

Another challenge for managing the intercultural communication is the concepts of time and space by individuals within the organization. Different cultures have different perceptions about the concepts of time and space. The American and Northern European have a linear time concept and these societies are referred to as Time-Bound societies. This is called “the use of time”. In Asian countries, Asian people have a “cyclical time” and they think time will come back again when it pass away, as well as the opportunities and risks (Website, 2011). In addition to concept of time, the concept of space which is also a big concern in intercultural communication is also perceived differently in different cultures. Western people treat space especially between person to person differently from what a Chinese man will do. In China, people feel uncomfortable to be too close to another one. They do not certainly hug another person. Unlike Western people, they think hug is a kind of love and respect.

Religions, beliefs & attitudes

As a result of the historical development of nations, it will result in different religions, beliefs and attitudes. Due to these differences, in the business environment, they will lead to the difference in the ways of decision-making and conflicts handling (Multicultural Work Force, 2011). For instance, in USA, people spend two days to sign a contract, while in China it will take at least two weeks. Americans believes free competition and individualism. In USA, American deputy has the real power and can make decision within his granted authority. Taking responsibility is a virtue in America. However, in China, things are different. Collective decision making and collective wisdom are more emphasized.

Non-verbal communication

Non-verbal communication is a very important facilitating method in intercultural communication. Managers are also frequently confronted with obstacles from non-verbal communication. As non-verbal communication can be very different across countries, same gestures sometimes represent very different meaning to people from different cultures. People from different cultural contexts may perceive the non-verbal signals such as facial expression, looks, body languages etc. very differently.

Therefore, intercultural communication is a transactional, symbolic process involving the attribution of meaning between people from different cultures (Garcia & Guerra, 2004). Intercultural communication is a tactic for managers engaging in the international business environment. There are plenty of obstacles and challenges in managing the intercultural communication and managers or individuals can deal with communication more effectively by understanding these challenges and help to design the policies to overcome these challenges.

Proposals to overcome the obstacles and challenges in intercultural communication

With the development of globalization, intercultural communication becomes more and more important. Corporations should design the corresponding communication strategies with consideration of nations, regions, industries, organizations, genders, nationalities, cultures etc. If corporations want to develop the culture diversity as a competitive advantage, they should firstly emancipate the mind and face different cultures and values correctly. Proposals to overcome the obstacles in managing intercultural communication are concluded as the following points:

1. Command language communication skills proficiently

In the language communication, verbal communication and written communication are both important. Language is the direct way to reflect the culture. Different cultures and different level of communication have different requirements for the communication forms. In intercultural communication, when using verbal communication, one should pause often to give the listeners time to understand or apply written materials to facilitate the formal communication.

2. Command the non-verbal communication skills

Learn to listen carefully is the first step to cultivate the communication skills. When listening, it is very important to notice the body languages so as to understand the contexts behind the conversations. Since communication can exceed the verbal language, one can learn the non-verbal signals from other individuals within the organization and concluded the meanings in these signals.

3. Learning, experiencing and developing the understanding ability of intercultural

Corporation especially for those with culture diversity should emphasize the importance of intercultural training. The contents of training should cover culture recognition, culture sensitiveness, language learning, skills of intercultural communication and dealing with intercultural conflicts, regional environment simulation.  

4. Correctly treat the disparities and maintain a positive attitude to realize the cultural identity in the organization

In the communication process, the disparities between different cultures objectively exist. This is the premise which should be accepted before taking intercultural communication. In order to realize the effective intercultural communication and avoid unnecessary conflicts, it is the basic requirement to treat the cultural disparity. Firstly, corporations should evaluate the root cause of the cultural conflicts, and then analyze how the conflicts are presenting, and finally figure out the most suitable intercultural communication methods and ways based on the analyses of cultural diversity.

5. Take the advantage of cultural diversity

This covers two strategies including cultures parallel compatible strategy and peaceful compatibility strategy. Cultures parallel compatible strategy is the highest form of cultural compatibility which is usually called “cultural complementarity” (Span-Culture Management, 2011). To be clear, it means the subsidiaries of multinational enterprises will not follow their home country's culture as their main organizational cultures. Peaceful compatibility strategy refers to the action of hiding the main cultures of both (Span-Culture Management, 2011). Although there are great cultural differences lying between the home corporations and the host countries, the subsidiary companies will easily occur “cultural frictions” in the daily operation due to huge cultural differences. Therefore, it will be helpful for managing these cultural conflicts if removing the main cultures which mainly cause the conflicts and save the relatively less influential and significant cultures in the organizations.

Conclusion

In conclusion, managing communication in cultural diversity corporations is very necessary under the international business context. With the development of globalization, there will be more and more corporations which have cultural diversity. While effective communication within the organization is the basic premise for corporate business success. For cultural diversity corporations, it requires intercultural communication which is far more complicated than other general communications. Therefore, managing intercultural communication becomes one of the most important factors to determine the success of the corporations. Efficient communication between managers and workers from various cultural backgrounds ensures harmonious and efficient work completion. Corporations should figure out the challenges in intercultural communication as analyzed in this essay and then design the best strategies to implement the communication so as to achieve an efficient intercultural communication within the organization.

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