With increased competition being witnessed in many industries, Multinational companies are setting shop to new foreign markets as a way of increasing their profitability and remaining competitive. Many countries have liberalized their markets, and present advancement in technologies has made it easy for companies to open new branches in foreign markets. However, this also comes with it challenges, particularly relating to cross-cultural communication. Effective cross-cultural communication is very important to the organization that some scholars such as Levitt (1983) argue that it can determine the success or failure of a foreign business in the local market. It is against such statements that this paper examines the factors that impact cross-cultural communication at the workplace.
The paper will particularly aim at answering the following four questions; what is communication? What does it look like? What is the purpose of communication within organizations? And, what factors can negatively impact effective communication within cross-cultural organizations. In answering the above questions, the paper will apply three cross-cultural model; Hofstede model, Hall's Context theory and Schwartz value Inventory Theory for better theoretical understanding of the subject matter.
What factors can negatively impact effective communication within cross-cultural organizations?
Globalization has allowed companies to invest in foreign countries in pursuit of increasing their market share. This has increased workplace diversity and integration of cross-cultural, thus understanding how to deal with cross-cultural communication has become more critical for business managers Gudykunst & Kim (2002). To effectively understand and obtain skills in cross-cultural communication at the workplace, business managers must gain practical skills and knowledge on factors that negatively impact cross-cultural communication Harris, Moran and Moran (2004). As pointed out by Lee & Carter (2005) some of the factors that negatively affect cross-cultural communication include cultural identity, ethnic identity, gender role indemnity, individual personality, social class identity, age identity and roles identity. These factors will each be discussed briefly in the following section.
Barrier to cross cultural communication
In many cases, questions arise regarding whose cultural norms and practices should be given priority in international business. According to Sprinks & Wells (1994), based on "you attitude" concept, effective communication must essentially be approached from the perspective of receivers of the message and not senders. In their study, Sprinks & Well (1994, 302) established that organizations with comparatively high external direction require managers with adequate inter and intra-individual skills and an organizational communication plan, though with a less flexible type and form of communication compared to those organization with a comparatively high international direction. It is hard to suggest any specific reasons why the latter has to be the case apart from the fact that, when it communicating to a certain culture, the type and form of the communication has to be permanently tailored to the cultural norms and practices of the local partners.
Likewise, a risk-taking organizational culture is likely to create increased tolerance of ambiguity compared to safety-conscious organizational culture. These form or relationships are evident by a positive correlation of safety awareness with the barrier language hardship.
Studies in social psychology indicate that personality attributes highly influences the effectiveness and results of communication (Padgett, & Wolosin (1980). Individual personally puts a considerable impact on both the content and form of the relations with other parties. For instance, extroverts are expected to like an interaction centered type of communication, entailing the formation of a personal relationship with their counterparts. On the other hand, introverts are expected to be territorially and internally centered. This was established strongly by the correlations of the study variables. Studies established that managers with good communication skills are likely to be more effective in communication.
Accordingly, extrovert managers appear to be more effective in communication as well as cultural practices of their workplace environment. It was established also by Padgett, & Wolosin (1980) that sensing types demonstrate preferences for truths and details, whereas intuitive forms like to be innovative and are focused on the big picture. Rajagopal & Rajagopal (2006) notes that this correlates between sensing vs. intuitive, the sensing individual would have to discover the cultural differences arising to improve their communication.
Individual who are thinkers make decisions in logical and objective manner, whereas feelers apply emotional appeals like reliability and responsibility. These thoughts are visible through the relationship in the organizational communication. Individual who are thinkers decides that external communication is critical; the next reasonable thing is to fully understand the cultural attributes involved and enhance communication skills.
This main barrier to effective communication (Lee & Carter, 2005). As pointed out by Lee & Carter (2005) communication occurs when interlocutors have reached some mutual interpretations of their intents. In cross cultural communication it is nearly impossible to achieve total understanding. This makes cross cultural communication more challenging. Rajagopa & Rajagopal, (2006) explains that the presence of cultural difference is in itself a barrier to cross cultural communication. When there is a high difference between cultures, it creates cross cultural variability leading to high amounts of uncertainty and anxiety, which finally results in anxiety and misinterpretation into the cross cultural communication environment.
Barriers to cross cultural communication encompass cultural mistranslation (Lee, & Carter, 2005). This is a widespread in second as well as foreign language environment. Scholars disagree on the level of mistranslation that should be perceived (Lee, & Carter, 2005). Whereas some scholars have explained mistranslation in derogatory terms such as "interference" or "sub-standard types," other scholars perceive mistranslation as innovation that illustrates cultural changes. However, the truth is that cross cultural communication mistranslations weakens understanding. Statements like "I am going to the main room" (meaning "aim going to the latrine") are cultural statements that can result in misunderstanding in cross cultural communication.
Cultural Norms and role
Cultural norms are defined rules that determine acceptable and proper conduct (Sprinks & Well, 1994). They comprise those norms that stipulate social situations and conversational habits like greetings, expressing different emotions, and making various requests. In cross cultural communication individuals may be enticed to transfer their cultural values to environments hat are not suitable (Lee, & Carter, 2005). Similarly, roles are as well sources of cultural differences. As explained by Sprinks & Well (1994) roles are sets of cultural norms appropriate to certain groups of individuals in a society. In different cultures varied roles are assigned to different genders and age groups. In some Asian and African cultures, women are not supposed to answer back to men particularly their husbands. Violating such role could result in serious issues in intercultural communication.
Models to understand cross cultural communication
Various models have been formulated to explain the manner the values systems of nations vary. The models include Hofstede model, Hall's Context theory and Schwartz value Inventory Theory.
Anxiety Uncertainty Management theory developed by Dr. William B. Gudykunst.
A brief Background
The initial focus on cross-cultural communication was on the practicability of effective communication as observed on initial experimental concept of Hall. Spitzberg (2000) notes that it was in 1970s that scholar began to develop theories on cross cultural communication and in 1980w that systematic theories started to appear.
William Gudykunst Anxiety Uncertainty Management (AUM) theory was developed in a span of almost 20 years. Initially, he formulated a concept of intergroup communication that incorporated uncertainty reduction theory together with social identity theory. He followed this with incorporating studies on anxiety reduction to elucidate on intercultural adaptation with the aim of creating effective interpersonal and intergroup communication. Gudykunst was influenced by works of several scholars like George Simmel, and his social type concept. Basing on this concept, Gudykunst referred to stranger as a person who is not known by his current groups and who is foreign cultural background.
Anxiety Uncertainty Management theory
AUM theory proposes that when individuals interact with strangers, they will normally be a feeling of uncertainty and anxiety, thus, in a cross-cultural situation, this uncertainty and anxiety comes from cultural differences as well as lack of understanding of cultural norms. Gudykunst (2005) explains that uncertainty is a cognitive aspect.
Predictive uncertainty entails individuals' incapability to forecast strangers feeling, beliefs, norms and attitudes. Explanatory uncertainty entails individuals' incapability to explicate strangers feeling, beliefs, norms and attitudes (Gudykunst & Kim (2002)). According to Gudykunst (2005) people have minimum and maximum levels for anxiety. He points out that the maximum levels are the highest degree of anxiety an individual can have and feel at easy to interact with the a stranger ( Gudykunst (2005) . Certainly, when anxiety goes beyond the maximum level the individual will stop interacting with the stranger. On the other hand, the minimum level is the lowest degree of anxiety an individual can have and still be interested in interacting with a strange. Supposing the anxiety level falls below the minimum, the individual is not interested in what happens to the stranger. Thus, when an individual's anxiety is very high or very low, he will not be able to communicate effectively.
AUM theory has 47 axioms, the fundamental axiom of the theory is 39, and it…
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