Example Of Essay On Cross-Cultural Communication In Management
April __, 2015 (date)
The problem of different issues that arise during the process of negotiations with foreign customers and partners is extremely important nowadays, especially due to the globalization process, when many organizations are entering global markets. Although business persons from around the world have many things in common, still cultural differences become the barrier for efficient international communication. In this essay I am going to write about the importance of effective cross-cultural communication, identify barriers that may arise, present the examples from my own experience and from the researchers’ works and suggest ways of improving business relationships with foreign cultures.
Negotiation styles’ cultural peculiarities can cause problems in running the international business at the various levels, such as language, values, nonverbal behaviors, decision-making processes, thinking, etc. Many business people who are not familiar with the culture of those, with whom they are going to cooperate, often consider language barrier to be the single obstacle for communication. But other cultural aspects are also important and sometimes may be even more important than the language barrier.
Cross-cultural communication is the research question of various disciplines. Globalization contributed to growth and internationalization of businesses, and thus caused a necessity of cross-cultural communication learning. Together with the increase of business opportunities’ quantity outside the borders of the home country, many organizations are planning to expand their activities to the other markets, very often without being aware that the possible financial result may become a difficult situation due to the implications of cross-cultural communication with business partners residing outside of their native culture.
A lot of research on the cross-cultural business communication issue has been conducted already; however, “it is still an important question amongst scientists around the world. Cross-cultural business communication may be seen through various fields of study, e.g. communication, linguistics, anthropology, organizational behavior and psychology”.
Cross-cultural communication can be considered to be a ‘sub-domain’ of intercultural communication and can deal with the comparison of various ways in which individuals from different cultures communicate. It foresees the availability of minimum two persons who have different cultural backgrounds and possess different view on such things as role expectations, values, the relationship rules in the society and communication codes. The communication ways among individuals are significantly influenced by their culture, background, norms, world perceptions and values.
Globalization and international business make managers think how to interact with foreigners and their cultures. International markets bring a lot of perspectives and it is a good idea to make use of it. Nowadays there is a necessity for many companies to find new customers and suppliers from different countries of the world in order to expand their operations and reduce costs. However, it is not always easy to communicate with the foreigners, as first of all business people should have at least some understanding about their verbal and non-verbal communication styles.
Non-verbal and Verbal Language
Language can be ambiguous. It means that people can never be sure what others mean in speaking or writing and can never fully express their feelings with the language.
Differences in language are among the most significant obstacles in the cross-cultural communication process. Language usually becomes “a barrier in communication in case a person has problems in understanding of the other party’s language, cannot understand the gestures of other’s or uses low-quality translations”. Learning language is very important and it is good when the business person can speak the language of his or her business partners. It contributes to better understanding, trust and long-time perspectives. Moreover, while learning the language, the person is receiving a lot of information about the culture of the country, where this language is spoken.
Cross-cultural communication requires either “skills of foreign language or understanding of non-verbal behavior and cultural practices, values and customs”. Looking beyond understanding of words, there is a possibility to notice hidden meanings, motivations and intentions. Although some people know foreign languages, still it may not be possible for them to understand the language completely without understanding of cultural aspect. Thus, an executive, who does not have any understanding of culture, e.g. norms, lifestyle, values, tradition of a society he is going to begin business relations with, may face communication barriers at the very beginning of business negotiations. Another issue that often causes cross-cultural communication problems is translation errors, but it rarely causes conflicts between individuals. This kind of errors can be easily identified in the process of communication.
Body Language or Non-Verbal Communication
Non-verbal communication is not dependent on the use of language directly, but it is very important to understanding of the communicated message by the individual. It usually includes touch, glance, gestures, eye contact, posture, proximity and facial expressions. People often use non-verbal expression means to support their message. People from the certain cultures sometimes may consider some ways of non-verbal communication of other cultures to be offensive.
Thus, “understanding, knowledge and respect to non-verbal means of communication of the foreign culture may enhance and secure a potential or existing relationship in business”.
International Business Perspectives
According to the survey of The Economist, contrary to the predictions of numerous experts, the current economic downturn is making companies become more oriented on the international markets. Efficient international collaboration and communication are getting very important for the organizations’ financial results from international activity. Almost two-thirds of survey respondents consider that good intercultural communication is an important factor in the improvement of their company’s success. Almost the same quantity thinks that their organization faces international collaboration or communication difficulties at least from time to time. About one-half of the respondents answered that inadequate communication or ineffective collaboration had influenced significant international transactions causing the decrease of revenues.
The most of survey respondents (approximately 90%) are sure that in case intercultural communication improves in their firms, then revenue, market share and profit would increase as well. Around two-thirds of survey respondents told that language and cultural differences cause complications while entering new markets.
Cross-border business opportunities and cultural awareness always go together. International firms simply cannot move forward without the foreign cultures communication skills. “Language differences are often considered to be the most significant business challenge in Latin America and South Europe, than anywhere else. Thus, 38% of the Brazilian respondents and 40% Spanish consider that the difficulty in foreign languages communication is a serious obstacle to the efficient cross-border relations”.
Business Behavior in Different Cultures
While speaking about business behavior’s cultural characteristics, it is useful to describe the several examples. From my own experience, I used to have difficulties while communicating with business people from Asian countries, e.g. China, Japan, South Korea and Sri Lanka. It was not easy to speak with them, first of all, due to the language barrier. In fact, people from South Korea, for example, spoke some English, but it was not easy to understand them. However, it was not a single problem. Their reactions, gestures, mimics and general behavior were confusing. It was difficult to understand whether they agree with the statement or not, what exactly is their opinion on the issues. Sometimes they seemed to be reserved and not willing to speak. I suppose, Stella Ting-Toomey's 1985 face negotiation theory helps to find out where the problem is. The research about Asian culture and communication style gives answers to at least some of the open questions.
In China, for example, a lot of people are reserved unlike in the U.S. A U.S. business person treats personal relationships as separate from work; they dissolve and form friendships rather quickly. Therefore, many people consider the U.S. business relationships as shallow and short-lived, while business relationships in China are considered to be commitments for many years. Sensitivity to face in China is closely related to the business etiquette of this country.
Face in China is a person’s credibility sign and self image. Business persons in China employ many strategies of communication worked-out with the goal to receive face from others or to give face, such as praising, indirectness, shaming, intermediaries and requests. Chinese often use indirectness and avoid direct confrontations with the purpose to save face. They often use intermediaries in order to avoid confrontation, especially in case of conflicts, for example, the contract has to be signed before business partners’ representatives arrive in China. They are used to apply a win-win negotiation strategy that makes possible for all the parties to become winners with the purpose to improve the strength of relationships.
When doing business in China or with someone from this country in the U.S., the business etiquette basics are controlled and determined by face giving and taking. When making introductions, it is recommended to ensure that the surname is written first and given name after it. The introduction in China is normally accompanied by a bow that is typically not a custom in the other countries. One more example of how face influences business etiquette in China is the exchange of business cards at social meetings. It is considered to be a good manner to carefully and respectfully study the card before putting it on the table or in the bag. Usually, while receiving and presenting business cards, people in China use both hands, and they put business cards so that they can be read or seen easily.
Japanese style of business etiquette, as well as in other countries of Asia, is high-context communication based. In such high-context traditions, business persons usually rely less on verbal communication and more on the different nonverbal actions, environment and context to transfer meaning, as a lot of information is presented by signals and symbols. Negotiators of business deals may spend a lot of time on developing relationships, instead of provisions of contracts’ discussing. The high-context based communication can sometimes be rather confusing for the individual, who is not yet familiar with it. Thus, Japanese business persons say “yes” instead of “no”, but it is necessary to determine if “yes” is no or yes by the context.
In Japan during business meetings, the rules of etiquette are defined by their cultural context, pattern of physical cues, environmental stimuli and implicit meaning understanding between two individuals from the one culture. For instance, as business people in Japan do not say “no” and have their nonverbal and verbal cues, foreigners should ask many questions to understand for sure what is being meant. In Japan the first business meeting’s aim is to create a trust between the partners. Another characteristic feature of Japanese high-context culture is their approach to the relationships with business partners. Friendships and good relationships is an obligatory aspect for doing business in Japan. Agreement’s signing in Japan, the same as in the other countries of Asia, does not foresee a sale or negotiation but a continuation of relationship with obligations in the future.
The cultural features like collectivism, organizational culture and protocol are strong basics for conducting business activity in Sri Lanka. Also, collectivism and group loyalty are defined as an important factor for efficient business deals and keeping successful relationships with business partners in Sri Lanka.
When communicating with different European cultures, I also noticed some difficulties. Even though, many of the countries make part of the European Union, there are a lot of differences in their cultures, traditions and communication styles. For example, there are very few similarities between the behavior of German and Italian business people. As it is possible to read in the below research, German and British business persons, for example, have many expectations from their foreign partners. The Judee Burgoon's 1978 expectancy violations theory helps to understand what it is and why it is important.
Great Britain is a state where the etiquette of business is based on a strong nationalism and identity sense. The business person from Britain is very deadline-oriented duting the business negotiations. Local customs and traditions are important for the people in Great Britain, as they are rather reserved and expect others to act in the same way. Friendships with business partners are not necessary for them. When doing business in Great Britain, the partners have to be careful about personal questions’ asking; particularly if they do not know each other well, because it can make them nervous, as they are typically reserved. Conservative clothes of high quality are important in this country. Accessories have to be also of good quality and represent a good taste. British business persons are formal and polite and highly esteem good protocol and etiquette. The British business persons can lose reserve in case their opinions about themselves are somehow questioned or challenged.
Business etiquette of Germany is typically based on the German formal culture that explains behavioral expectations in detail, providing its participants with knowledge of what and when to do. German business people respect authority and hierarchical differences. They prefer a hierarchical structure of the organizations as it removes doubts, where the power in the company is concentrated. When doing business, Germans use formal communication style. Recent studies determine that class status is rather important for people in Germany, and, even though all people are equal in accordance with the law, in fact inequalities still exist.
The Germans’ strict behavioral expectations are applicable in their standards of business etiquette. Thus, being on time to all the business meetings and social gatherings is very important for them. Being late for business meeting for only a few minutes can be unacceptable to German business persons and if one is delayed, they expect a call and explanation. One more example of German business etiquette is seen in their introductions practices. It is important to use a title when speaking to a business person in Germany until they say it is okay to use only names.
It is usually complicated for US and European business persons to successfully communicate with the representatives of Asian countries. It is good to obtain some knowledge about the country, where they are going, and be understanding and patient while interacting with the foreign cultures.
International Communication and Technology
Nowadays, with the “computers and other communication technologies explosion, we live truly in the global village. Technology in communication makes possible for us to know the events from the most remote world parts and makes us acquainted with the persons we may not meet from around the globe. It is supposed that the most revolutionary tool has been the Internet”.
Today internet and other means of communication are broadly used by the business persons around the world in order to search international partners and customers and communicate with them. Most organizations now communicate with customers and partners from different countries using different technology types, such as “internet, social networks, email, company chats, teleconferencing, etc.” The above-mentioned means of international communication help to save much time and money. There are also websites, where companies can present detailed information on the company, products or services’ description with photos, explanations, contact information, etc. Using such websites, companies can either search for suppliers or sell their products or services. It is recommended to make any transactions only after profound checking of business partner’s information as fraud is still common there.
However, it is much better, if there is a possibility to meet in person. According to J.Poole, the importance of international trade informal barriers still remains a significant issue in global economic relations. Travel assists with breaking such barriers both by maintaining transnational information-sharing opportunities and through effort of service and direct sales. The relationship between travel and trade is obvious and travelers assist with trade promotion.
Thus, it is possible to conclude that international communication is extremely important for businesses relationships’ improving and expanding to the international markets. The firm may face a number of obstacles on the way of establishment of business relations with foreigners. There are some contributions that the organization can make in order to facilitate cross cultural negotiations, such as:
building the right team for negotiations;
management of preparations, including training and manipulation of negotiation settings;
management of the process of negotiations;
correct practices and procedures of follow-up;
while planning business negotiations with the foreigners, the partners should discuss and agree an agenda, things to confirm at the meeting, understand the strategy of negotiations and situation.
The company employees who are most suitable for international negotiations’ conducting have to be mature, emotionally stable, intelligent, empathic, optimistic, flexible, listening, energetic, able to use team assistance and preferably have influence at the organization’s headquarters. It is better if these colleagues speak minimum one foreign language, as during the process of foreign language learning people usually receive some knowledge and understanding about the country or region where it is spoken. Foreign business persons usually show better attitude to the individual, who has at least some knowledge about their culture, traditions and language.
Arent, Russel. 2009. 'An Introduction To Intercultural Communication'. Michigan ELT.
'Competing Across Borders: How Cultural And Communication Barriers Affect Business'. 2012. The Economist, 1-18.
Kvantaliani, Maka, and Olga Klimina. 2011. 'Implications Of Cross-Cultural Communication In Business: A Study Of Swedish Small Enterprise “Imsevimse” And Its International Distributors And Retailers'. Gotland University, 1-47.
Martin, Judith N., and Thomas K. Nakayama. 2010. INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION IN CONTEXTS. 5th ed. New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Okoro, Ephraim. 2012. 'Cross-Cultural Etiquette And Communication In Global Business: Toward A Strategic Framework For Managing Corporate Expansion'. International Journal Of Business And Management 7 (16): 133-137.
Poole, Jennifer Pamela. 2010. 'Business Travel As An Input To International Trade'. University Of California, 4.
Pym, Anthony. 2003. 'A Theory Of Cross-Cultural Communication'. Universitat Rovira I Virgili, 1-6.
RATHNAYAKA, KAPILA THARANGA. 2014. 'Cross-Cultural Dimensions Of Business Communication: Evidence From Sri Lanka'. International Review Of Management And Business Research 3 (3): 1584.
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