Intercultural Communication in the Work Environment
Diversity is a normal occurrence in today workforce. In today work place, there are more women, more minorities, and more physical disable people are entering the work force. As a result, the workplace has cultural differences. According to the textbook Communicating Effectively, “cultural difference, in the broadest sense, include more than obvious distinction among people from other countries, but also differences based on economical or social standard. Understanding cultural difference not only create vehicle for communication, but it prevent awkward incidents.”(Hybels, & Weaver, 2007, p. 222)
“Intercultural communication is one of the most critical factors contributing to business growth and success in today's global marketplace.” (Clark, & Dou, 1999) Therefore, company must be able to identify the barrier to effective interpersonal communication. Barrier to intercultural include ethnocentrism, stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination. For example, a company that display ethnocentrism will seen as showing arrogance and therefore, could be creating a negative environment. Likewise, if representatives of a company stereotype ones culture this could hinder the company ability to acquire business in other countries. A company that do not employ cultural awareness training risk the lost of business in the global market.
Furthermore, countries are experiencing the same conflict as intercultural companies are dealing with in multi-cultural environment, “the population is coming from an increasingly diverse cultural background, and many languages are being spoken in addition to a common language such as English. In London alone, the number of cultural backgrounds and languages can run into hundreds while the Hispanics and the Asian communities in the United States of America have become increasingly important because of their growing population.” (Hyland, 1996)
Prior to proceeding further, the question that needs to be asked is what is meant by professional communications? Effective professional communication occurs whenever someone conveys relevant information in any form. Effective communication involves information that is timely for decision-making as well as that which promotes your business through advertising and public relations. Idle conversation about the weather or a football ball game is not necessarily unimportant in a business setting. Hence, professional communications is not just about writing memos in an office for a culturally diverse workforce or letters to other businesses and offices with which a firm may have dealings. Small talk is an important part of employee relations and is necessary to establish the channels of communication. If a business is related to the entertainment or sports industries, it would no longer be small talk, and could be considered keeping up with the competition or market comparisons. Key elements of business communication are conveyance, effectiveness, structure, and editing.
One need to be able recognize how words have the power to create and affect attitudes, behavior and perception. This is why conveying meaning in business communication is of the utmost importance. One has to start with some idea of what the audience or market is required to understand, and this has to be narrowed down to one specific message. In today's hectic and fast-paced business world, no one has the time or patience to figure out a well-intended but obscure purpose. This is true when one is trying to persuade someone towards a line of reasoning, as in an advertisement, sales pitch, or job interview. (Clark, & Dou, 1999)
When the sole intent is to market the business, make sure you know the difference between advertising and public relations. Advertising involves paying to promote your business through various media. Public relations do not cost anything and refers to anything that conveys a positive image for a business. (Winters, 2004)
Networking can aid a company's public relations effort in talking to potential customers or clients, council members and others vital to getting the word out. While networking may cost a business executive a lunch here or there, it is main expense is your time and energy. If you are a small business just starting out, it may be more economically feasible to rely heavily on public relations in the beginning, or a novel form of advertising, i.e. if there is a small business that paints portraits, there could be a photo-processor putting out the company's flyers in with their customer's pictures. In any case, remember to be bold and stay focused with name recognition and word-of-mouth promotion. (Winters, 2004)
Using a direct approach when structuring communications, whether it is a letter, memo, phone call, or proposal can be important. This does not mean the writer is being blunt in your message. The communication should start with a clear understanding of what is required to be expressed, followed by supporting details, facts, and examples. The supporting information should emphasize the main theme of the communication and avoid losing the readers with wordy or flowery prose. Remember that the intent is to convey a specific message and not to entertain or bore the readers.” (Hinner, 1998)
The choice of words, whether written or spoken, is an important consideration and this consideration may be varies in different cultures. When composing a letter, thinking about the next conference call or designing the next advertisement consider the intended audience and the complexity of the topic.
Multicultural audiences require a different approach from that which may be required in a Japanese market. A lot of research about Arab values and their society will be required for entering the Arab markets and selling cars that have been manufactured by a Japanese parent company. In an effort to sell those cars, there will be an interaction between the Arab local area office and the Japanese Head office in the form of exchange of memos, letters and office documents, as well as face-to-face meetings and interactions, which will involve multifaceted communications between two cultures. In such cultural exchanges, care is required to ensure that there is an understanding of both cultures and values in both the societies. Hence, “there is a requirement to be able to relate cultural traditions when selling goods and services internationally or in culturally diverse societies and communities.” (Hinner, 1998)
In multicultural professional communications and why multicultural business communications is receiving increasing attention in business circles. “Today is expanding racial, ethnic and cultural diversity makes it obvious that it will be nearly impossible in the future to manage a workforce or market products as we have in the past. All forms of business communications are affected.” (Walker -Yabarra, 2004)
“After the United States became a superpower. Women and minorities began making strides in the workplace. Moreover, a growing interdependence among nations has contributed to the growth of international trade and created “the global village.” (Winters, 2004) As all of those societal changes took place, the United States developed self-worth in its identity as a country with diversity. U.S. Hispanics have different habits and tastes, depending on cultural values and customs deriving from their respective national origins. Mexican Americans, more prevalent in the west and southwest, respond differently to certain marketing techniques and messages than Cuban Americans in the southeast and Puerto Ricans in the northeast.” (Walker - Yabrra, 2004)
Because the impact of gender and culture on interpersonal communications and it effect in the workplace, it is important that executives believe that the industry will have to use multicultural communications techniques. These techniques might include training or other measures. Companies are now investing in training programs that help employee understand or relate to culture and gender difference in the work environment.
In a business where the supply of good jobs vastly outnumbers those seeking communications jobs, the public relations industry has to approach recruiting, training and communicating to a diverse range of audiences in a more sophisticated manner. In addition, like the organizations we serve, we are only slightly ahead of the curve on marketing to “a multicultural society that no longer demands that individuals assimilate to become accepted.” (Walker - Yabrra, 2004)
The path we must follow is well marked. It starts with our hiring practices. Moreover, it continues with the training programs we conduct, the communications programs we create and implement, and the audiences we include in all of our communications. “Diversity is a process that begins with an open mind and never ends.” (Walker - Yabrra, 2004)
Businesses that hope to sell to or work with clients on an international level, or work with or manage staff members located here in the U.S. or in a company location abroad. This who may also be from varying cultural backgrounds--will require that their managers, HR directors, and sales forces possess the specialized knowledge and skills to make the most of internal, as well as external business relationships. (Winters, 2004)
As in any relationship, effective communication skills play a pivotal role. Even in the advertising industry, unless you understand your target market and possess adequate research and data on its demographics and psychographics, your odds for success are greatly diminished. The same is true when managing a diverse workforce, or selling products and services to peoples of other cultures--the more you know about them, the better! (Simpson, 2004) In California for instance, a unique marketplace encompasses a melting pot of businesses that are not always American-owned or based. And even if they are, these businesses often employ people from varying cultures and provide services to people and companies across the globe. This is why heightened understanding and methods of communication are so important in today's business world and the main reason why many universities and institutions have focused on providing cross - cultural education courses. (Simpson, 2004)
Today is global, networked computing environment creates the potential for adding new dimensions to the processes of communication. Words are the very imprecise means by which we painfully encode and try to transfer the multi-dimensional knowledge in one brain to another brain ... where they are painfully and imprecisely converted back into knowledge. Consuming content — in the form of oral conversations or email or many kinds of documents — entails continuous reinterpretation of words, introducing costs of both time and accuracy. Descriptions, examples, and continuous refinement of content alone are not enough — and certainly not efficient enough. Examples of new precise semantic information in communications include Yahoo and other web directories as well as corporate taxonomies.
In conclusion, it may be stated that there are new and emerging changes going on in the field of communications resulting from changing demographics of the communities in which the business must operate. Another force, which is changing the way business communication, knowledge retrieval and storage as well as the way in which business is being conducted, is the advent of computers and associated technologies in business. The professional communication environment should, be researched and has assumed a far increasing level of importance in the present age.
Dou, W., & Clark, G., (June 22, 1999). Appreciating the Diversity in Multicultural Communication Styles.. Business Forum. Referenced: April 3, 2010. Web site:http://static.highbeam.com
Hinner, M. (May 1998). The Importance of Intercultural Communication in a Globalized World. Technische University it Bergakademie Freiber. Referenced: April 2, 2010.
Hybels, S., & Weaver, R.L. (2007). Communicating effectively: eighth edition. Boston, Massachusetts: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. Hyland P, et al. (Fall 1996). Management Strategies for a Multicultural Learning Organization. University of Western Sydney. Referenced: April 3,2010.
Walker-Ybarra, k. (April 12, 2004). Bridging the business world communicate. (Cross-cultural communication). San Diego Business Journal, April 12, 2004
Winters, E., http://www.bena.com/ewinters/culiss.html AMES Info. (May 20, 2004). Nissan launches communications initiative with CNBC Arabia. AMES Info. Referenced: April 3, 2010. http://www.ameinfo.com