Email was found to be a key culprit in the development of cultural misunderstandings among a diverse group of online users (Rainey, 2000). Stereotypes were found to interfere with online communication, and enhance the potential for cultural misunderstandings (Leidner, 1999). Navigation design, visual design, and information design had an effect on trust that varied among different cultures viewing a website (Cyr, 2008). This research suggests a need for culturally relevant web design, particularly in the area of retail sales. The buyer-seller network contains critical information that will help the consumer to establish trust with the retailer.
Hwa-Froelich & Vigil (2004) divide communication relationships into three basic types. Responsibility relationships are among those who are responsible for family members. This can be seen as a spectrum. On one end in the individual perspective and the other is the collective approach. In collective societies, directives are usually phrased as suggestions, rather than direct orders (Hwa-Froelich & Vigil, 2004).
Interpersonal Relationships involve a perceived expectation of the role of the each participant. This continuum involves social distance/power. One is expected to be less formal with those closer to us. We use different interactions and phrases than we would if we were speaking to an employer or other authority figure (Hwa-Froelich & Vigil, 2004). Professional interpersonal interactions are the third type of relationships addressed by the authors. Professionals must continually analyze the style and type of communication that must take place.
Lien Shen (2007) advanced the idea that technology is more than a tool or a means to deliver one's ideas, but that they are themselves constructed to obtain cultural meaning through differences in understanding of visual material. A study of Japanese animation in the United States provides a means to examine this effect. It was found that the aesthetics in Japanese animation continued to develop new meaning through culture.
The United States could be considered to be arguably the center of the cyber culture (Kanter, 2001). It has been observed that American culture is the only culture in the world where the young teach the old (Kanter, 2001). The young adopt the new technology and then often find themselves teaching the older generation how to use it. Kanter made the observation about e-culture that it is made up as one goes along. It is continually evolving into something different.
In a cross-cultural online community, certain cultural expectations exist that are that are the basis of disconnects in communication (Rogers, Tinney, & Gibbons, 2008). Certain types of platform functionality are being developed that help to facilitate the communication of knowledge in an online cross-cultural community. This approach facilitates the transformation and development of intercultural competence, which improves the quality of communication in cross-cultural groups.
Goal setting an important factor in the ability to succeed in cross-cultural communication. Students must actively strive to achieve a better understanding of cross cultural communication will help to prepare them for the business world.
"As businesses globalize and the demand for employees prepared for international assignments steadily increases, training programs designed to enhance and support students' goals to develop their cross cultural skills may be useful in maximizing these skills" (Kitsantas, 20004, p. 441).
One of the most profound differences in communication styles and a key source of misunderstandings occurs with communication between westerners and Asians. Westerners tend to post more messages on discussion boards than Asian students (Warden, Chens & Caskey, 2005). Asian students, "have been trained to minimize self-expression while avoiding actions that could lead to criticism or embarrassment" (Warden, Chens & Caskey, 2005p. 222).
Effective cross cultural communication means a process.
"There is a simple truth to cross cultural dialogue. It is that all who start on an imaginative journey towards another culture must first leave home. They must be prepared to loosen their sense of belonging" (Hassam, 2007, p. 72).
These are only a few of the many examples that exist of cultural combinations that can result in misunderstandings. Clashes between western, cultures, with the high values that they place on independence, and Asian cultures that place value on collectivism have the greatest potential for the development of misunderstandings.
Intercultural communication is a learning process for both the host and guest countries (Zhu, 2002). Many texts only focus on the guest country and the difficulties in adjusting to a new environment. However, even those in the host country must make an extra effort to achieve effective communication. Cross cultural communication is a balancing act of compromise. In countries where a strong sense of nationalism exists, it can be difficult to loosen some of the strict ideas that are a part of that culture's national identity. However, this is necessary if these two cultures are to achieve a level of understanding that will eventually lead to acceptance of the differences between them.
It can certainly be said from the research that certain cultural pairs are more compatible than others. Cultural pairs from the same region have the greatest chance for conflict free communication, as they have at least a basic understanding of the contextual clues of the other, The more geographically separated the cultures are, the greater the chance for misunderstandings due to misinterpretation of cultural clues.
One of the most difficult tasks that is presented by cultural differences in online communication is the ability to derive a common meaning. Our exploration of the difficulties associated with this goal revealed that several elements may help communicators of any culture arrive at a common ground, The studies revealed that the groups must have a concrete goal that includes the desire to communicate successfully with those of a different culture.
Education was found to be an important factor in the ability to accept and understand the perspectives of other culture. Until both cultures understand the historical context and ideology of the culture, they cannot begin to arrive at a consensus of meaning. Education can be achieved in the workforce through diversity training that focuses on accepting the differences among the various groups in the workplace.
Cultural misunderstandings undermine the ability of teams to build trust, which we discovered was an essential element in the success of the business. Teams that trust each other are more effective than those where cultural misunderstandings have undermined the ability to build team cohesiveness. The literature highlighted the importance of team building to the success of the company and its ability to compete in the global marketplace.
Diversity has the potential to increase innovation within the organization. It has the ability to provide a competitive edge through enhanced creativity and the sharing of different viewpoints. However, it also has the potential to create conflict and to destroy the ability of the company to compete on an international level.
Gender, social context, and cultural differences can effect nonverbal communication. For instance, in Western culture it is considered polite to look someone in the eye. However, in Chinese cultures, such a gaze would be considered a challenge and would be considered rude. The Chinese use an indirect gaze that avoids direct contact in the Western sense (Hwa-Froelich & Vigil, 2004). This is one example where electronic communication may help to avoid misunderstandings. If the communicators cannot see the other's gaze, they will not be able to see if the other is making a direct challenge or not. They will have to rely on the syntax of the words to derive meaning. If the message is well thought out, it will be difficult to discern if these elements are present or absent.
The goal of the company must center on the need to build team cohesiveness and to enhance the positive aspects of diversity. In order to do this, the company must instill this goal in every one of their employees. They must increase awareness of cultural diversity through training programs that focus on the similarities and differences that exist among the various cultures within their organization. Understanding these differences is the key to eliminating clashes that result from cultural misunderstandings.
When both of the parties have a greater understanding of the possible meanings and signals that the other party may derive from their message. That will allow the sender to critically analyze their message from the other person's perspective. They can then modify it so that it will be more likely to provide the intended message to the recipient. This awareness will greatly decrease the number and severity of cultural misunderstandings within the organization.
This research focused on the importance of eliminating cultural misunderstandings in diverse organizations. We found that cultural misunderstandings can undermine the competitive advantage of the company by destroying the ability to build trust among team members. However, the research also revealed that there are steps that organizations can take to make certain that online communication is effective and that cultural misunderstandings do not occur.
Training programs can help to build a culture that promotes diversity and that embraces differences among organizational teams. Understanding the roots of cultural misunderstandings…