Culture refers to the shared of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and material objects and belongings acquired by a group of people in the course of generations through individual and group determined. In simple a culture is a way of life of a group of people-the behaviours, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and synthetic from one generation to the next.
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The values and behaviours that donate to the distinctive social and emotional environment of an organization. Organizational culture is the sum total of an organization’s past and current assumptions, experiences, philosophy, and values that hold it together, and is expressed in its self-image, inner workings, exchanges with the outside world, and future expectations. It is based on shared attitudes, beliefs, customs, express or implied contracts, and written and oral rules that the organization develops over time and that have worked well enough to be measured the validity. It is also called corporate culture, it manifests in:
(1) The ways the business conducts its business, treats its employees, customers, and the wider community,
(2) The extent to which independence and freedom is allowed in decision making, developing new ideas, and personal appearance,
(3) How power and information flow through its chain of command, and
(4) The strength of employee pledge towards collective objectives.
It is termed strong or weak to the degree it is subtle through the organization. It affects the organization’s productivity and presentation, and provides strategy on customer care and service; product quality and safety; mass and regularity. It extends also to production-methods, marketing and promotion practices, and to new product creation. While there are many common elements in the large organizations of any country, organizational culture is exclusive for every business and one of the hardest things to change.
The ability to effectively promote, improve & form of associations with the members of different cultures is known as cross-cultural communication. It is based on other culture’s manners, values, decision-making practices, social structure & perceptions, and the way of communication of group members – in person, verbal or non verbal, or in writing.
For understanding to take place, both people must have some form of knowledge or consciousness regarding the norms or customs that exist in each other’s culture.
It is necessary that people understand the feasible problems of cross-cultural communication, and make aware effort to beat these problems and important to assume that one’s efforts will not always be winning, and adjust one’s behavior appropriately.
For example, one should always take for granted that there is a possibility that cultural differences are causing communication problems, and be willing to be enduring and forgiving, rather than unreceptive and aggressive, if any problems develop. One should respond slowly and carefully in cross-cultural exchanges, not jumping to the conclusion that you know what is being thought and said.
If words are used differently between languages or cultural groups, however, even energetic listening can fail to notice misunderstandings. Active listening can sometimes be used to check this out-by repeating what one thinks he or she heard, one can confirm that one understands the communication correctly.
Mediators are helpful in translating both the substance and the manner of what is said.
The impact different cultures have on people’s behavior, emotions and thought processes are the focus of cross-cultural psychology. The norms and values within a civilization go a long way toward shaping a person’s psychosomatic make-up and how she interacts with her environment.
Cross-cultural research examines how different cultures compare in terms of human behavior. The purpose of this research is to address the growing conflicts and worldwide concerns that arise as a outcome of cultural differences.
Impact of Cross-Cultural Differences on Employee’s behaviour:
Individual behavior in organizational setting varies diagonally cultures. The behavior patterns are likely to be common and invasive within an organization.
Culture itself is a significant variable for this difference. There are also other factors like differing standards of living and varied geographical conditions which cause variations in behavior. However, culture is a important factor.
Although behavior within organizational setting remains quite different across cultures, organizations themselves appear to be increasingly similar. Hence, managerial practices at a general level may be alike, but the people who work with in organizations differ without a doubt.
The same manager behaves differently in different cultural settings. A manager may adopt one set of behaviors when working in one culture, but may change those behaviors when moved into a different culture.
Cultural diversity can be a key source of energy in enhancing organizational effectiveness. More and more organizations are realizing the virtues of cultural diversity, but surprisingly, little do they know how to manage it.
Issues in Cross-Cultural Communication:
Language: When people do business, they need to be speaking the same language. Even if two persons are not naturals of a certain language, there must exist certain constancy in the verbiage in order to avoid some potentially very bad conditions.
Workplace: More and more managers are seeing problems within their own workplace because of a lack of understanding of other cultures. It simply involves two people of a different ethnic background who do not understand the other culture well enough to effectively communicate with each other.
Lack of communication: This most often occurs when managers and upper level management do not feel the need to communicate with their workers because they do not know how.
Use of jargons: workers do not mean to injury anyone when they choose hurtful words, but the damage can often times be irreparable. In this case, it is always better to be safe than to be sorry.
Barriers of Communication:
A number of communication barriers exist when we are interacting with people from different cultures. These are:
Discrimination & nuisance:
Discrimination is showing favoritism toward or prejudicial rejection of people because of differences.
Business communication between the sexes calls for a clear understanding of remarks and actions that could be construed as sexual nuisance.
Sexual nuisance is unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature or with sexual overtones. It may occur for men as well as women.
A victim of continued offensive behavior should report the harassment to the proper person in the organization.
Lack of knowledge & understanding of cultures: An understanding of cultures means being aware that individuals within each culture have similarity and differences. It means responding to people as individuals while recognizing that cultural backgrounds and experiences influence behavior and communication.
Cultural Relativism & Ethnocentrisms:
Cultural relativism compares the values and behavior of different cultures and usually means judging them against standards of right and wrong. This approach to other cultures becomes a barrier when you assume that cultural beliefs, values and behaviors are wrong if they differ from those of your culture.
Ethnocentrism is the inbuilt belief that your own cultural tradition and values are correct and superior. People around the world are ethnocentric to a degree. Beliefs, values, and behaviors that differ from those of your culture may seem peculiar, strange and even wrong.
An increase in multicultural interactions presents language challenges. When organizations communicate with the large number of people who speak the languages other than English – misunderstandings may occur.
Non verbal language influences the receiver’s understanding and acceptance of a spoken message.
If the message receiver perceives a difference between the sender’s verbal and nonverbal messages, he or she is more likely to believe the non-verbal than the verbal communication.
In multicultural business communication, non verbal signs vary as much as spoken languages do. Nonverbal greetings vary from a bow to a handshake or from a hug to an upward flip of the eyebrows.
Not understanding cultural differences in nonverbal messages causes communication problems.
How to overcome Cross-Cultural Communication barriers?
Introducing employees who will be working together in a non-threatening environment enable a good working association long term. Learning about another culture’s language, rules and norms for suitable behavior helps prepare your employees to deal with situations as they arise.
Conducting activities to demonstrate how needy we are on language.
Provide workshops, tips and techniques for communicating effectively in cross-cultural work environments.
Coach employees to mediate conflicts related to cultural misunderstandings. Provide opportunities for employees to respond to situations from viewpoints different than their own.
Multicultural Communication Guidelines:
Understand your own culture: Improve communication with others by increasing receptiveness of your own culture and its influences on your beliefs, values, and behavior patterns. Identify that your cultural background and experiences shape how you think, what you value, and how you communicate.
Identify and adapt to language differences: If you are communicating with persons from another culture, learn how that culture’s verbal and nonverbal languages differ from your own. Observe and learn the meaning of nonverbal communication signal such as facial expressions, social distance for conversing, and hand gestures. Avoid nonverbal signals that may be offensive.
Keep an open mind and respect diversity: Learn about other cultures, beliefs, and customs without judging them by your own cultural identity and unexamined biases. This is not to suggest that you change your beliefs or disrespects your own culture, but rather that you recognize that cultural values affect beliefs and behaviors and that understanding how others interpret verbal and nonverbal language helps your communication receive the intended response.
Strategies for Effective Communication:
The success of any business or organization depends mainly on how effectively the members communicate. The skill to speak well is a minimum duty of some businesses when hiring. Whatever the job, business professionals require broad use of oral communication when carrying out their duties.
Effective communication involves:
Listening: Good listening skills and showing a real interest are attributes of a successful communicator. Sales associates who enthusiastically listen to customers inquire and complaints are more able to solve problems and gain customer loyalty.
Use Names: When meeting people make sure you hear the person’s name and use it right away so you will remember it. If you are not sure what the person said, ask him/her to repeat it.
Get to the Point: Show value for people’s time by being as short as possible when giving information. Do not give lengthy, needless details and don’t make excuses for your mistakes. Let Others Talk: Don’t be a person who does all the talking. What you are saying may be of interest to you only. Keep the other person in mind, giving him/her a chance to be a part of the discussion. Look for signals that you may be boring your listener and ask questions to grip them in the conversation.
Non-verbal Language: 90 percent of our communication is non-verbal, which includes: eye movement, tone of voice, posture, and facial language and hand gestures. When talking to someone keeping eye contact without staring shows a sense of confidence. Be aware of non-verbal communication and keep it consistent with your message.
Vocal Cues: Do not use a too much amount of ‘filler’ words (sayings or words repeated often), sounds such as “uh, um” or use lengthy pauses during discussion. The listener will lose interest in what you are saying and will become bored.
Create an Atmosphere of Openness: To set up a good relationship with customers and create a relaxing atmosphere is attentive to the number of interruptions. Give your customer/acquaintance your undivided attention by not keeping physical barriers (such as desks) between you. Avoid trying to communicate in a busy area and keep your focus on the listener.
Aspects of Japanese Culture
Communication & Relationships:
On the basis of personal relationships, Japanese prefer to do business.
Greetings or seasonal cards maintain good relationships.
The person should be good correspondent to maintain communication & relationship with the Japanese.
Being recommended by someone who already know the Japanese company & also have good relationships would create a good impression.
Person must be vigilant at observing Japanese’s non-verbal communication as they have crucial time saying ‘no’.
Japanese are non confrontational.
Japanese prefer broad agreements.
Never raise your voice or loose temper during negotiations.
Be patient as Japanese remain silent for long time.
A gesture of goodwill – using Japanese lawyer.
Wait to be introduced.
Formal greetings & ritualized.
Impolite to introduce yourself.
Shoe correct amount of respect.
Traditional form of greeting – bow.
Understanding Foreign Ways:
They don’t expect foreigners to speak or read in Japanese language.
As long as respect is shown, mistakes are allowed.
They are ready to help always but often feel embarrassed due to lack of knowledge of English.
Non-Verbal communication of Japanese:
Frowning is considered as a sign of disagreement when someone is speaking.
An impassive expression is maintained by Japanese while speaking.
Japanese rely on tone of voice, posture & facial expression to tell them what someone feels.
Staring at another person’s eyes is considered disrespectful.
Scratching the eyebrow, inhaling through clenched teeth, scratching back of the head & tilting the head are some expressions to watch out.
Remove shoes & put on slippers before entering.
For dinner, arrive on time.
Dress formally until you’ve not been told that the occasion is casual.
Put on the toilet slippers before going to the toilet & then remove it when you’re finished.
Men should wear conventional, dark colored suits.
Business attire is conventional.
Women should dress conventionally.
Business Meeting Etiquettes:
Rather than sending fax, letter or email, it’s better to telephone for an appointment.
Appointments should be made in advance for several weeks.
Arrive on time for meetings. Be punctual.
Japanese may take several weeks to be comfortable with you. Be patient and calm.
To prove trustworthiness & ability, respond quickly.
Present the senior most member of the company with a gift, at the end of the meeting.
Never refuse a respect by Japanese, as they believe in Long-term relationships.
A small amount of business may be awarded as a trial to know if you meet your commitments.
The most senior Japanese person will be seated furthest from the door, with the rest of the people in descending rank until the most junior person is seated closest to the door.
Being a group society is ready for a group meeting, even if you are expecting to meet only one person.
Always provide a package of literature about your company including articles and client testimonials
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