Communication is one of the most common tools of interaction among people. Communication has been around the stone ages or you can say from the very being of time, so that the people can convey ideas to each other there has always been felt the need for communication. As we know that man is a social animal, he or she can only survive in such an environment where they can interact, socialize and communicate among one another that are present around them. Man has a natural extinct of forming groups and tribes.
In order to address to the various problems and issues that occur or are faced by people, they have a need to send across to other people a message so that they would help him or her, therefore communication became a necessity. Intercultural Communication Intercultural communication is a process of sending and receiving messages between people, whose cultural background leads them to deal, interpret verbal and non – verbal signs differently (Salwen & Stacks, 2008).
There are two trends that contributing to the rapidly increase in the importance of intercultural communication in the workplace. These trends are the global marketplace and the multicultural workforce. Diversity plays a major role in the multicultural workforce of a company. Having a diverse culture in an organization is considered to be a beneficial process that will help in an employee’s growth while it also increases the cultural sensitivity as well as the skills of the management, it is considered to be a 2 way process.
Such a cultural diversity is one of the trends that are contributing to the importance of intercultural communication within the organization. Diversity awareness helps the employees learn to communicate with other employees from other cultural context. Increasing diversity within organization means that the management of the organization needs to develop programs that deal with global and as well as domestic diversity and with potential conflicts like language barriers or cultural differences (Salwen & Stacks, 2008). Example
Hewlett – Packard (HP) brought its US engineers together with its French engineers, so that they would develop and design software together. And this caused a cultural difference and that difference broke down the communication. What happened is that the US engineers sent long and detailed emails to the Japanese engineers, but the engineers in Japan saw the detailed messages as patronizing and they replied those detailed emails with short and quick messages. The engineers in US, when saw those messages believed that their counterparts in Japan were withholding important information from them.
This whole communication process was non – verbal and due to misunderstanding from both sides this whole process of communication got out of control. The end result of this situation was that the management of Hewlett – Packard (HP) had to hire a team of consultants, so that they would train their engineers on both sides to deal with their differences. The communication device that was used by both the parties was online mailing, which is verbal way of communicating.
If we take the internet in a verbal form of communication forum, we are able to open up a world so vast that the amount of knowledge is limitless; it provides a space for any language, any culture or any religion without a bias of opinions. Anyone with the ability to use a computer can use of this tool and can get connected to the world without a hitch. If we see that emailing and the internet were not a good of communicating between both the parties, instead it created a great deal of misunderstanding between both the parties (Daft, 1997).
Cultural Differences The biggest issue that is being faced by most companies is that great deals of employees do not understand the cultural differences of each other, and this causes a breakdown in communication. In this example we see that the Japanese culture differs from the American culture. In the American Culture communication plays an important role, let’s consider the US expression that ‘the squeaky wheel gets the oil’; it means that the loudest person will get the most attention and in the US attention is assumed is considered favorable.
The American culture comes under a low context culture. A low context culture can be defined as a culture in which communication is used as a form of exchanging information and facts about work. Now let’s consider a Japanese expression ‘the nail that stick up gets hammered down’; it means that standing out as an individual in the Japanese culture merits unfavorable attention. Japan belongs in the high context culture, which can be defined as a culture which uses communication to enhance and increase personal relationships during the working hours as well.
In the American Culture in an organization is mostly based on face-to-face confrontation and competition as ways to motivate individuals to work in an effective and efficient manner, for example, In the American culture of the management the employees are given empowerment that is empowerment of the employees at all the levels of the hierarchy is an important means of coping with challenges and problems that are being faced by the human resource department of the company.
For example companies like Hewlett-Packard, Wal-Mart and Southwest Airlines sustain top performance through their people. The management of these companies pays attention to their employees and empowers them to certain degrees which in return makes their employees satisfied with their jobs and remain motivated. (Daft, 1997) Whereas in the Japanese Culture in an organization is mostly based on group harmony to efficiently and effectively, for example, in the Japanese management culture the career progression in a Japanese company is very predictable and automatic.
The promotions and the increments happen as the employees spend more and more time with the company. Compensation for the employees is mostly based of tangible and intangible benefits for example, low cost loans for housing and car expanses, low paid vacations for the employees and semi-annual bonuses with pays. This is the way how employees are motivated in the company to retain them and so that they work in an effective and efficient manner.
Another thing in the Japanese management culture is that the management is based on permanent employment and when the new recruits that are hired are placed under a probation period of 6 month at least and if they survive then the employees are given permanent jobs, which means that the employees will not be dismissed or terminated in the future without any reason, they will remain inevitably with the company until they do not retire. (Fullmer, 1983) Intercultural Communication Theories The intercultural communication theory that is needed for to solve the problem within the company would be Cultural Convergence.
Cultural Convergence Cultural convergence is a theory which is based on effective outcomes. Cultural convergence is very closely related to a social system, where communication is considered very important and it is unrestricted between the members, eventually the system will converge over time towards a uniformity of a greater cultural. The communication system will mostly tilt towards diversity when communication is restricted. Cultural Convergence will help the company to recognizing the cultural differences and will also be able to overcome ethnocentrism (Salwen & Stacks, 2008).
Recognizing the Cultural Differences: Problems like these arise when individuals assume, wrongly, that the other person’s attitudes, values, knowledge and beliefs. The management can improve intercultural sensitivity by recognizing and accommodating four main types of cultural differences. They are 1) contextual difference; it is one of the ways where individuals assign meaning to a message in accordance to cultural context, message stimuli and implicit understanding,
2) legal and ethical differences; cultural context also influences legal and ethical behavior of the employees. For example, low context cultures like Americans, value written words more than oral communication. They believe that word agreements are binding. When a company is conducting its business overseas and across cultures, the management has to keep it messages ethical by applying 4 principles; seek mutual ground actively, send and receive messages without any sort of judgment, send those messages which are honest and lastly show some respect for cultural differences.
3) Social differences; social behavior is another distinguishing factor among all of the cultures. In any culture rules of social etiquette may be formal or informal. And in case if formal rules are violated for any reason, the members of the culture will be able to explain why they are upset about it and if informal rules of any culture are violated for any reason, the people of that culture will feel uncomfortable and will not be able to tell the person who violated those rules why. Social differences will include use of manners, roles and status, attitudes towards materialism and attitude towards time.
4) Non-verbal differences; nonverbal communication is more reliable than verbal communication but only in the same culture because nonverbal communication is perceived differently in different cultures. Nonverbal communication would include personal space and use of body language (Fullmer, 1983). Overcome ethnocentrism: when the management is communicating overseas and across cultures, open mindedness is consider very important and it is very effective for communication. To overcome any sort of ethnocentrism the management must remember to acknowledge distinctions, avoid any sort of assumptions and it not suppose to make any sort of judgments (Fullmer, 1983). Strategies for Dealing with the Issue Strategy is very important if the company wants to deals with its communication problems.
Strategy enables the organization to achieve its stated goals and objectives and in our case would be to overcome the company’s communication issues like cultural differences. Once the company has recognized the cultural elements and has overcome its ethnocentrism, the company is then ready to develop strategies which will solve any future communication problems and it will help the employees to communicate effectively. It can be done through the following:- 1) The management needs to learn about other cultures, because it would help the management to send and receive intercultural messages effectively. ) The employees have to break through the barriers of language to communicate effectively with each other. 3) The employees would need to improve their writing and as well as oral skills (Salwen & Stacks, 2008) Conclusion Communication is the process whereby information is exchanged and understood by 2 or more people, usually with the intention of motivating or influencing people. There are mostly two kinds of communication; verbal and non-verbal. Communication among people can be affected by perception, communication channels, nonverbal communication and listening skills.