Cross culture communication in corporate world

The way people live, behave, and respond differs from country to country. This has been an attribute of ‘culture’ which has been cultivated over a number of years since the ‘Homo sapiens’ have originated. In societies some rules become necessary and implicit with time, they are not written anywhere but are understood by people of that society and are passed on from one generation to another by their gestures, behaviour, moral values, and ethics. It is a learned behaviour acquired from social influence and is specific to a group. Some things considered positive and good in one society may be totally negative and loathed in others, so when cross communication takes place it has to be done by understanding the customs of that region or society in order to convey the right message. When it comes to corporate world culture plays a crucial part. Let me give you an example If a manufacturing company has to launch a product over the globe, then it has to take care of packaging, labeling, and colour combination used for advertising which needs to be different in different countries to make their product a success. Example use of yellow flowers in logo or packaging may be accepted by people in U.S. but if used in Mexico it can turn into a failure because yellow flower symbolizes death in Mexico and thus people may not welcome the product.

Culture has its impact not only on advertising but also with in the organizations there may arise conflicts when inter culture communication takes place. Let us understand culture briefly before we go further about what problems can arise and why.
According to Geert Hofstede there are five dimensions of culture 
Power Distance: This is the way people accept the inequality among each other while living in a society. It is the indication of the level to which less powerful people accept the inequality. Value of this index is 35 for Germany, 11 for Austria, 40 for US, 77 for India, 104 for Malaysia. Thus in India poor believe that they are not in any way equal to rich, while poor in US , Austria, Germany still believe that they are equal as citizens of their nation. With this positive belief the have-nots can rise early in society.
Individualism: With individualistic society people have loose ties with each other, they believe that one has to take care of oneself and bear the responsibility, while in collectivistic society relationships are strong and parents tend to take care of their child until he/she is married.US has individualistic society while India has collectivistic society. For US individuality index is 91 while it stands at 48 for India.
Masculinity: This indicates the gap between men’s and women’s values .Masculine traits refer to assertiveness, power, strength and success while feminine traits include modest, caring, and emotional. Japan has a masculine culture with value of 95 while India has 56 which reflect that men in Japan are highly competitive, assertive and differ from women where as Indian men is not that much assertive or competitive and have some feminine traits of caring and modest.
Uncertainty Avoidance: This indicates the potential in people of a society to deal with uncertainties. Lower the index higher is the ability of people to pass through uninvited problems. Higher uncertainty avoidance index indicates that people are used to doing scheduled work and are not comfortable with unstructured situations. It is 40 for India while 8 for Singapore and 112 for Greece
Long term Orientation: It is the fifth dimension which has been added in the last owing to the thinking difference observed among eastern and western countries. Thrift and perseverance are associated with Long term while short term orientation refers to respect for tradition, personal steadiness, protecting ones dignity.LTO for India is 61 while it is 118 (highest) for China.
In corporate world when mergers take place, it becomes a challenge to adjust employees with each other. There may arise several problems for example in one organization employees may treat each other as a family and help each other which happens mostly in collectivistic society while in individualistic societies there is cut throat competition and no one helps each other or there may be organizations in which promotion is highly on achievement and performance basis while seniority has no value. In such places a person performing well may replace his own boss which may result in a difficult situation for people who respect their seniors. In India people treat their boss as boss even outside the organization, while in western countries people keep their professional and personal life separate which proves for the high power distance index for India. 
When cross cultural communication takes place these dimensions clash and result in difficult situations. Not only in behaviour but the way people speak during meetings may also result in misinterpretations. Example- Latin Americans like to cut each other while in discussion while oriental origin people speak with a pause after another person where as Americans speak sequentially one after another .This often results difficulty in discussion and sometimes they get annoyed with it. Coming on to written communication, Americans write each and every thing in the contract i.e. what has to be done and when, what all is required, rules and regulations etc they want everything to be clear beforehand, this is characteristic of low context culture while high context culture people like French take many things for granted, their contracts tend to be short and most of rules are unwritten and considered to be already understood as part of their culture.
Therefore need of the hour is whenever cross culture communication takes place in organizations, employees should be provided information about the concerned culture and their norms so as to make them adjust their behaviour accordingly. Proper training is a must before an employee is sent abroad for work. These days organization do understand the importance  but still there needs to be much more awareness to be spread so that meetings can take place smoothly where people from different origins can do a healthy discussion by sharing their knowledge and not let it become a barrier. Contracts should also be signed only after both the parties are satisfied and clear about their pros and cons, and they are clear about the rules and regulations.
Globalization and World Wide Web has definitely brought people over the globe closer but without understanding customs and traditions they will only loose apart. National culture makes Indians as Indians, Americans as Americans and provides them the basic instincts. We can progress in corporate world only if we understand needs of others, their culture, views and as well as communicate clearly our views, and our culture.

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Cross culture communication in corporate world

by Monica Dhiman time to read: 6 min
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