The Solutions To Communication Malfunctions Cultural Studies Essay

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Taj Hotels Resort and Palaces is recognized as one of Asia's largest and finest hotel company. It comprises more than 60 hotels in 45 different locations across India and an additional 15 international hotels in Malaysia, United Kingdom, United States of America, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Africa, the Middle East and Australia.

The Taj Hotels Resort and Palaces began in 1902 and its first hotel started in 1903 in Mumbai. Taj Hotels Resort and Palaces have been involved in many projects. One of the projects Taj was involved in was named EARTH. This project was committed to energy conservation and environment awareness. This project received the Green Globe award which is the only worldwide environmental certification program for the travel and tourism industry.

2a) COMMUNICATION MALFUNCTIONS

The four different communication malfunctions areas that I would like to address would be the language, culture, physical and mechanical.

The first malfunction is language barrier. According to Stubbs (2003, pp. 114), language barriers can exist within employees, employer - employees and also customers and customer service providers. For example, if a customer who only speaks Chinese approaches the hotel staff who can only converse in English to enquire about an issue he is facing, both the staff and the customer may end up frustrated due to the inability to understand each other.

The second malfunction is cultural barriers. Cultural barriers exist in every industry. An example to portray cultural barriers would be, the way people of certain cultures present their personal space. Some cultures may be very comfortable with handshakes or hugs or taps on the shoulders while some cultures do not approve of such gestures. One such culture would be the Muslim culture. Muslim women would not be very happy if a male staff were to tap their shoulders or stand too close to them.

The third malfunction is physical barriers. Physical barriers exist when there is too much physical disturbances like noise, or when the opposite person has hearing problems. If there is too much noise around while an employer is informing an employee to do something, the employee may only hear part of the message and may not perform the task informed by the employer correctly. Another example would be that if someone who is hard of hearing approaches the hotel staff, the staff may get annoyed repeating himself or herself if they are unaware of the person's hearing problems.

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The last malfunction is known as mechanical malfunction. Mechanical malfunctions exist when there is no proper device to communicate messages across the departments or when there is a power failure or system downtime. For example, if the Property Management System is not properly managed due to a system downtime, power failure, lack of manpower or inexperienced staff, the customers can be given wrong information about the availability of the rooms.

2b) SOLUTION TO COMMUNICATION MALFUNCTIONS

The solution to the first malfunction, language malfunctions, would be to ensure that all staff know their countries primary language, English and and at least one more language. Other than this solution, the hotel can get a program installed in all their computers or PDAs that will be able to translate all or most of the common languages around the world.

The solution to the second malfunction, cultural malfunction, would be to ensure that only very senior staff attends to customers from very different and rare cultural backgrounds. Other than that, the hotel can ensure that most of their staff should know the basics about every common culture since they are in the tourism industry.

The solution to the third malfunction, physical malfunction, would be to ensure that when conversing with anyone, there is no noise or other disturbances and every listener should be asked for a feedback or to repeat the message heard in order to rectify any misunderstandings on the spot.

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The solution to the last malfunction, mechanical malfunction, would be to ensure that all programs and devices are working well. In an event that any program is undergoing a downtime or there is a power failure, ensure that anyone who is unsure asks a senior member before going ahead with informing the customers anything. Supervisors and managers should come down to the floor to help out if there is a system downtime or power failure.

Basically, all malfunctions can be corrected through proper communication between staff and customers and amongst staff themselves too.

3) CROSS CULTURAL COMMUNICATION

Firstly, I would like to define what is ethnocentrism and cultural relativism.

Ethnocentrism is believing that one culture is superior compared to another culture. It comes with the believe that one's culture is superior, right and the correct culture to be followed while another's culture is viewed as inferior, weird and even incorrect or the wrong culture to follow. Believers of ethnocentrism see their own culture as the right and central culture and tend to use their own cultural values and practices even when communicating with people from different cultures. Ethnocentrism, if practiced very strongly, may lead to intercultural misunderstandings and conflicts. An example of ethnocentrism would be a proud Italian who will only keep non-Italians at a distance and give Italians preferential treatment even if he/she does not know them.

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Cultural relativism is the opposite of ethnocentrism. Those who practice cultural relativism know and believe that every culture is right at its own place. They also believe that every culture has its own set of values, practices and traditions to follow. Cultural relativism does not see any culture as inferior or superior, right or wrong. Cultural relativism is practiced more relevantly in today's generation, especially in Singapore. Its practice helps to distance intercultural misunderstandings and conflicts. An example of cultural relativism would be if you were raised to believe that dogs were pets, yet in China, a dog is also food. Someone who believes in cultural relativism would not judge the dog-eating as "right" or "wrong", because there isn't a "right" or "wrong". They believe that each culture must be understood with neutrality.

The differences in these two different practices would be, firstly, ethnocentrism sees its own culture as superior while others are seen as the inferior one. Cultural relativism sees all cultures as equal.

Secondly, ethnocentrism tends to view its own culture as the central point of reference while cultural relativism understands that all cultures have their own point of view to receive, perceive, interpret and respond to different ideas and situations.

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Thirdly, ethnocentrism brings about cultural misunderstandings and conflicts while cultural relativism deviates away from these.

Lastly, ethnocentrism if practiced to a mild level, gives its people the sense of belonging to their culture while cultural relativism does not really encourage strong believers of their own cultures.

Four examples to address how ethnocentrism and cultural relativism can affect cross cultural communication amongst the organization would be language, environment and technology, social organization and nonverbal behavior.

For an individual who practices ethnocentrism, his language is the most superior and anyone who does not speak his language is an outcast. These kinds of staff members may end up being rigid to learn a different language and may even prove to be difficult to the other staff. Whereas, one who practices cultural relativism, will hold an interest in learning his colleagues' language to enhance cross cultural communication.

Environment and technology also affects cross cultural communication. Some cultures view their knowledge as the best - ethnocentrism. This culture once again, may not be receptive to new ideas or may get annoyed if someone from a different culture or environment is unaware of the different technologies used in the organization.

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Social organization is also another factor that affects cross cultural communication. Ethnocentrism views their educational values, class structure, job status and gender as the superior one while cultural relativism views it as a complete opposite. This statement has been supported in the work of Davis (1999, pp 235). This can cause ill-treatment by the believers of ethnocentrism towards those who are junior or not as qualified as they are.

Lastly, nonverbal behavior is another factor that may affect cross cultural communication. In several cultures, for example, it is considered disrespectful to prolong eye contact with those who are older or of higher status. In many cultures, it is considered improper for women to look men in the eye. By contrast, in the United States, studies have shown that eye contact has less to do with age or rank than with a person's credibility or sense of belonging. While fairly steady eye contact in the United States may indicate the listener's interest and attentiveness, intense eye contact may prove disconcerting. An ethno centrist, may not tolerate prolonged eye contact if that is his practice but one who practical cultural relativism may actually not mind it and accept it.

These are the 4 factors that may affect cross cultural communication amongst members of the organization. There are more factors that may affect as well.

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4) GEERT HOFSTEDE'S CULTURAL DIMENSIONS

Five cultural dimensions are power distance, individualism, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance and long term orientation is the five culture of Geert Hofstadter.

The Index of Power Distance is the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions accept and expect that power is distributed unequally. Power and inequality, of course, are extremely fundamental facts of any society and anybody with some international experience will be aware that 'all societies are unequal, but some are more unequal than others'. For example, in Taj Hotels, the managers and supervisors are given more authority to carry out duties or change a junior staff's duties or roster whereas a junior staff does not have such authority.

 

Individualism, The degree to which individuals are integrated into groups. On the individualist side we find societies in which the ties between individuals are loose: everyone is expected to look after him/her and the person's immediate family. On the collectivist side, we find that societies in which an individual from birth onwards are integrated into strong, cohesive in-community, often extended families which continue protecting them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty. An example of individualism in Taj Hotels would be an individual who does not believe in teamwork. Whereas a collectivist is someone who believes in teamwork and always wants to help his team members.

 

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Masculinity is defined as the delegation of roles between the male and female gender. The assertive pole has been called 'masculine' and the modest, caring pole 'feminine'. The women in feminine countries have the same modest, caring values as the men; in the masculine countries they are somewhat assertive and competitive, but not as much as the men, so that these countries show a gap between men's values and women's values. An example of masculinity would be, a female from India would be more feminine as compared to a female from the United States in terms of dealing with a difficult customer.

 

Uncertainty Avoidance Index deals with a society's tolerance for the occurrence of bad events or the unknown and ambiguity. Uncertainty avoiding cultures try to minimize the possibility of such situations by strict laws and rules, safety and security measures. People in uncertainty avoiding countries are also more emotional, and motivated by inner nervous energy. The opposite type, uncertainty accepting cultures, are more tolerant of opinions different from what they are used to; they try to have as few rules as possible, and on the philosophical and religious level they are relativist and allow many currents to flow side by side. People within these cultures are more phlegmatic and contemplative, and not expected by their environment to express emotions. An example would be if an individual is faced with an unwanted situation, it strongly depends on his cultural believe to be able to solve it. He may solve it using the organizations strict rules and regulations or solve it using his own believe and also keeping the other person's beliefs in mind.

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Long-Term Orientation is the fifth dimension found in a study among students in 23 countries around the world, using a questionnaire designed by Chinese scholars. Values associated with Long Term Orientation

These are the five dimensions of Geert Hofstede that describe the cultural differences and how they can affect or improve cross cultural communication.

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