In this new era of globalisation wherein people from diverse culture and ethnicity have come together to work in an organisation, dialogue is indeed an important way of communication. Many researches have proved the fact that differences in culture may inculcate a difference in the thinking pattern or stem into differential analysis of a situation. In an organisation where values and growth are related to each other, differences in opinion may lead to altercation and conflicts if not addressed well.
Dialogue, a bidirectional flow of communication where emphasis is laid not only on saying but also on listening and understanding at the same time can be an useful tool in an organisation to resolve inter personal conflicts, conflicts within the department or conflicts between two different departments of the same organisation.
The essay will highlight the importance of introduction of dialogue in a multicultural organisation and its use as a problem solving tool in multicultural organisation where cultural thinking act as an impediment among them.
Also, it will review the role of dialogue in promoting organisational learning. Next it will explore some of the barriers in communication such as “Silo virus” and need for eliminations of those barriers, ending into a conclusion for the implication of dialogue in a multicultural organisation. Sequential Conversation or Unidirectional Flow of Communication versus Dialogic conversation A conversation is said to be sequential or unidirectional when there is a flow of information from the speaker to the listener (Eisenberg & Goodall, p. 27).
This one way communication can be practically seen in classes where student completely rely on teachers lectures, also when managers or the instructor define the protocol of the work to the subordinates or receivers. In other words in a unidirectional or sequential communication listeners are passive and are uninvolved in constructing the ideas of the communication (Eisenberg & Goodall, p. 28) . Traditionally communication between managers and employee were articulated as straightforward unidirectional flow of delivering management messages to employees and other constituencies (Tourish and Hargie 2009, p. ). However, dialogue provides equal opportunities to all who are involved in the communication. Everyone has the say to voice their opinion and give their feedback either in agreement or in opposition of the core matter. Dialogue in a working definition can be defined as a mindful conversation emphasising on equitable and empathetic transaction of opinions of the participants to create new opportunities for working together to produce new and innovative ideas (Eisenberg & Goodall, p. 40-45) Hence dialogue is a balance between creativity and constraints (Eisenberg & Goodall ,p. 0). Dialogue demands its participants should be able to critically reflect themselves i. e, they should be open to the fact that the perceptions made by them may not always be accurate. “What we perceive is often based on our needs, our expectations, our projections, and, most of all, our culturally learned assumptions and categories of thought (Schein 1993,p. 33)”. Participants should be able to suspend the perceptions and feelings for some time to see the outcome of the dialogue (Schein 1993).
By suspending the feelings the participants will allow the disagreements to fly off, hence will build mutual understanding and trust on each other. Higher the trust higher will be the effectiveness of the group. Participants will be open to voice their unfearful opinions, and will come up with more innovative and successful solutions. Dialogue as a problem solving tool in a multicultural organisation The definition of dialogue says that there should be equal sharing of perceptions, assumptions, thoughts and experiences to come to an radical conclusion (Schein 1993).
Healthy communication connects the employee more strongly with the organisation by eliminating the sense of isolation and dissatisfaction. Employee who communicate regularly with their managers and co-employees have a higher sense of job engagement than those who are reluctant to voice their opinion. There is a direct relation between the healthy communication, participation of the employees in decision making and growth of the organisation. Dialogue does not only mean that you are heard, but it also signifies that your voice matters in the decisions of the company.
It gives a sense of belonging to the employee and burns out stress and discomfort. The organisation with the higher number of contented employee will have higher productivity both in number and innovations. “The quality of relationships with co-workers is a crucial factor in determining levels of job satisfaction” (Tourish & Hargie 2009, p. 16). Job satisfaction cannot only be guaranteed by successful completion of a task, but it involves many other vital factors too. Today when it is impossible to find an uncultured organisation, learning about the intercultural ommunication is an indispensable necessity (Crossman et al 2011, p. 57). Culture plays an prominent role in structuring human behaviour, ideas and thought process (Wood2011). Differences of thinking may lead to ambiguity at the work place which may end into conflicts. According to Ting-Toomey, the greater the difference between two cultures, the more that conflicts will arise in areas such as historical grievances, cultural world views and beliefs (Crossman et al 2011). Creating Coherence in Multicultural Organisation with dialogue Employees have different personal needs and hence different dimensions for the satisfaction.
The organisation should know about the personnel needs of the employee and should work in a way to nurture good relationships among the employees (Tourish & Hargie 2009). Incorporating good communication practices such as regular group meetings, open house discussions or building new channels for communication sustains job engagement of the employee. Mangers should have expertise in intercultural communication skills to nurture an environment of tolerance to the ambiguity caused by incompatibility of cultural values and norms.
As Brannen & Salk 1999, said working together to give fruitful result can only be achieved by compromising the ambiguity and confusion for quality issues. The practices like an open house group discussions ,thought sharing and dialogues exchange with seniors and colleagues will help in bridging the gap of miscommunication and misunderstanding. Employees who have an access to information, organisation policies, new ventures and developments feel more secure and safe at work. Intercultural communications along with dialogue help in enhancing the process of organisational learning through group interaction.
It helps in sharing of cultural ideas, values and beliefs. Cordial and happy relations at work place eliminate stress and burnout caused by work pressure and thus benefits the employee with good concentration and higher thinking. Socially balanced work culture breed employee with better insights and hence result in collaborative thinking and exemplary innovations. However in a real business world where emphasis is laid more towards the successful completion of the task, is it realistic to preach dialogue at every stage of decision making?
Is it possible for an organisation to understand the needs of every employee? Will it be correct to say that it is the responsibility of a manager to inoculate good intercultural communication where the employees are reluctant to shift their values and paradigm? Implementing dialogue can be a laborious process for a manager. It is the Manager who bears the responsibility of accomplishing the targets with in the given time frame. Dialogue can only be successful when employees are ready to take the responsibility to change themselves, else it will only result in wastage of time.
Dialogue is easy to preach in a likeminded group sharing similar values but difficult to express with those who are reluctant to change. Say for instance it is easy to teach a budding employee about the virtues of good communication. However, the same could not be expressed to those highly experienced or talented employees who are reluctant to adapt to new changes. Also, it is difficult to bring employees out of their comfort zone and to speak up expressing their true feelings. Dialogue- the core of organisational learning Dialogue lies at the core of organizational learning, for without dialogue, individuals and groups cannot effectively exchange ideas, nor can they develop shared understanding” (Mazustis & Slawinski 2008, pg 438). Argyris said that there are two different modes of learning, Model 1 and Model II, best be summarized as single or double loop learning. He mentioned in his writing “Teaching Smart people how to learn”, highly skilled professional are good at single loop learning because of their vast experiences and success gained in those experiences.
However, Argyris argue that it is difficult for them to admit their mistake, and hence they adopt a defensive attitude wherein they start blaming others for the failure. Defensive reasoning can block learning. Model I learning behavior persists throughout the organization resulting in to win/lose dynamics in which individual avoid confrontation (Mazustis & Slawinski 2008). On contrast Model II which is based on open dialogue, self-reflection and double loop learning will help in bringing fundamental changes in organizational norms, priorities and behavior (Argyris and Schon1978).
It is through dialogue that people share ideas with others. Integration of these ideas with others is only possible when a group has a common language and common thought process, which can only be built by dialogue(Mazustis & Slawinski 2008). Shared meaning can lead not only to the transference of knowledge, but also to the creation of new knowledge and understanding among participants (Mazustis & Slawinski 2008). Finally, the process get embedded into the organization. This process is what Crossan et al. (1999) refer to as institutionalizing. Dialogue is therefore at the core of the socio-psychological processes of the model of organizational learning (Crossan et al. , 1999)” (Mazustis & Slawinski 2008). Barriers to communication- Silos formation Advancement in technology and increase in complexity of organisation resulted in division of the organisation into different specialised departments or subunits. Employee in one department share same work language, technology and work terminology developing a subculture of its own. Different departments in an organisation work together to complete the task, failure of one may result in failure of others. Organisational effectiveness is therefore dependent on the valid communication across subculture boundaries” (Schein 1993,p. 41). Silo formation and Need to eliminate Silos Fragmentation of organisation into small departments may result in the formation of “silos” throughout the organisation. Individuals in silos share strong personnel bonds, common interests, abilities, work structure and relational bonds that differentiate them from others. Individuals in a silo interact more to each other than with the outside employees creating an atmosphere of alienation for those who are not part of the silo group.
Silos act as a barrier to inter departmental flow of communication resulting in the creation of isolation and hostility for others who are not part of the group. Employees hesitate to co-operate with other departments thinking that the objective of their silo is different from that of other department. Interdepartmental competition may prevent the desire to transfer valuable information from one to other department. Communication breakdown can lead to errors and finger pointing, lack of responsibilities and hence failure of the task or the department itself What is the role of a good manager in an organisation full of silos?
Managers should learn to trust his team members and also should show respect their peers. Mutual trust, respect for each other structure and values will help in dissolving silos. Senior should preach the essential values of their organisation and not that of a single department. Organisation based on Hierarchical pyramid structure An organisation based on principals to maintain and respect hierarchical structure, could not support dialogue. Hierarchy do not support the idea of cross questioning your boss or voicing against the idea of your manager, it may lead to serious repercussions for the employee.
Time constrain Time is again a vital factor to be considered while promoting dialogue. Every project is designed to be accomplished with in a limited time frame. Listening to every voice of the department may lead to wastage of time. Managers should be able to recognise the right time to implement debate and discussion instead of dialogue. Breaching the comfort zone of employee Dialogue demands empathy and tolerance to other and is a time consuming process. In this fast pace society where human beings are already over engaged with priorities it is difficult to maintain patience to listen to others.
Highly experienced employee find it difficult to listen to a new employee, they do not want to change their work protocol and hesitate to adapt to new changes. It is difficult to breach the comfort zone of over experienced employees and sometimes they find it insulting too. Defensive Behaviour and lack of trust Individuals may engage into defensive routines where they hesitate to open a dialogue with the seniors fearing that may lead to some serious problems with the co-employees or the manager himself.
Also, colleagues working in an organisation may feel competition with their colleague, and thus, employee consciously prevent flow of information to others creating a hostile environment for others. Lack of true Feedback Dialogue may be impeded by organisation norms such as the practice of only delivering good news to senior managers, and hiding distressing news. Individuals need the information to be able to detect and correct errors, but some organizational norms prevent such information from being discussed (Argyris and Schon, 1978). Baker et al. 2005: 425), for example, conclude that some ‘norms determine what can be said and not said, what and who is heard and not heard, who has a voice and who does not have a voice who is in and who is out of the conversation’ (Mazustis & Slawinski 2008). These norms inhibit prevent knowledge from being shared openly across functional silos, divisions and levels. Conclusion Dialogue is no doubt an important tool of communication to bring changes in an organisation and to promote a higher degree of organisational learning. Proper implementation of dialogue in an organisation will make employees more responsible to each other.
It will also ensure trust, empathy, tolerance and engagement among the employees by creating a safe and secure work environment. Sharing of ideas, discussion about work and group thinking will inculcate high sense creativity and innovations. However, it is difficult to have an idealistic organisation working on the principals of dialogue. It is a group endeavour and demands time and patience which are difficult to attain in this fast pace society. Human beings are primarily driven by their emotions and it is difficult to suspend feelings and emotions which is the demand to sustain a dialogue.
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