Intercultural Differences in Work Environment Paper
If you talk to a man In his own language, that goes to his heart. ” Nelson Mandela Culture does not only consist of different languages or our background; it is almost everything that defines who we are. Our age, gender, religion, color, one’s peers or our personal values. What a lot of people forget, and what Mister Mandela wanted to draw attention to, Is that It is not enough to address only one part of a man’s culture to communicate well with him.
And where else than the workplace is it more important to communicate with different people who bring deferent cultures with them? Normally, people cannot decide who they work with In our globalizes world where more and more companies are international, and so are their employees Although the competences that different cultures provide a company with are definitely welcome, the awareness of potential for conflict between individual employees Is increasing steadily.
Consequently, constructive dealing with different cultural value systems on the Interpersonal level Is a key skill for managers of international corporations and this skill will emerge into a very important goal of personal development. Defining Culture Culture per SE “Is the totality of human behavior (Including norms, values and lifestyles) and therefore, influences every area of life” (Kafuffle, 2011, p. 163). Its development results through different aspects off human life. It is crucial where we were born or how and In which country we were raised, which friends we had and so on.
This results in our culture dictating how we behave In certain situations. It affects three elementary levels which are: communication, thinking patterns and emotions. For example, if we have a very family centric culture and we notice that our counterpart is treating a family member not as well as our culture demands, we may start having negative feelings towards that person which affects our thinking and how we conduct further communication with that person. In a situation in which both communicators have the same cultural background this is not as likely to happen, since the three levels are most certainly much alike.
One can say that culture works as a simplification filter of interaction between two individuals with different surrounds. It helps to reduce complex Information that assures a smooth interaction with others. At the same time it has negative side effects. Especially in the workplace environment where communication is usually limited by time and therefore, has to be precise, slight differences In culture can have a great effect. Misinterpretations are only a small part of things that can go wrong. For example, In a team that has to conduct business with a partner; the team might develop a logical 1 OFF plan to arrest an Issue.
However, when ten team NAS to negotiate Witt someone tit a different ethnicity, cultural differences might impair the negotiations. To specify the example: It is very common for Middle Eastern entrepreneurs to begin negotiations with long small talk, which is not common in Germany. One might think that the entrepreneur would adjust his behavior to the culture of the addressed communicator, but often times people’s culturally influenced perception leads them to believe that they are doing nothing unusual.
Hopeless Cultural Dimensions There are many dimensions where culture can affect individuals, but a lot of them can be summarized in main concepts. One scientific approach is “the five cultural dimensions” theory by Egger Hefted. Through a large survey in cooperation with the IBM Corp.. With over one-hundred-thousand participants in over seventy countries, Hefted defined five cultural dimensions across a variety of cultures. These dimensions can be used to analyze a particular culture or be used for distinguishing between many (Kafuffle, 2011).
Through his research Hefted identified the five main drivers of culture which are: power distance individualism vs.. Collectivism masculinity vs.. Feminism uncertainty avoidance Long- Term vs.. Short- Term orientation Although each of these dimensions has been found or predicted by social science previously; there has never been such a large data collection which could prove these predictions. In this model each country is assigned a score for each dimension and each dimension groups a variety of social phenomena in itself.
The grouping of diverse social behaviors of individuals in only five dimensions can be dangerous, but the data has shown that there are such strong correlations in-between the grouped phenomena that it is valid to assort them together to get a better idea of cultures hill neglecting individual persons and their personal habits. Hefted did not put much importance on the behavior of individuals because there are too many interference factors that are unpredictable in statistical analysis (Hefted, 2001).
Based on the five cultural dimensions it can be analyzed which culture related problems or difficulties might occur in a workplace environment. In the following the five dimensions will be elaborated on and what problems can occur in regard of the dimension: Power Distance (PDP): The main idea behind the wording “power distance” is to describe how people deal with inequalities in their captive society or organization.
If a country scores very high on the ‘power distance’ dimension, as for example, Arab countries which have a score of 80 on the index, it means that an individual who is a rather powerless member of an institution will accept certain inequalities in the power distribution around him. On the other hand, if one looks at a country with a relatively low score on the index, such as Germany (35), the employees of a company expect a more consultative approach to decision making by their boss.
In cultures with a low score like this, those who have ore power subordinate themselves to this principle because it is rooted in their culture. “Power Allocates” also means Tanat ten unequal or equal power Illustration Is accepted and expected in the society overall. Considering the dimension “power- distance” typical problems that can occur are mostly very emotional. Employees coming from one country might feel very uneasy to consult with their superior and would therefore be viewed as a not communicative enough by fellow workers. Individualism vs..
Collectivism: While ‘power distance’ describes the relationship to authority, the dimension ‘Individualism’ shows the significance of community and networks in a culture. On the individualism side we find countries like the United States, where being an individualistic person with own ideas, independence and identity are some of the most important values. Individualistic cultures care mostly about their closer family and close friends. Collectivist cultures on the other hand, focus on defining themselves through groups of people.
The extended family has the greatest importance in these societies. People find their source of security and identity in large families. A Chinese worker, coming from a collectivist society, may reduce his workforce to not undermine his co- workers and therefore not fulfill the expectations put in him. Masculinity vs.. Femininity: Whereas the other dimensions described by Hefted are used to distinguish between different cultures; the dimension masculinity vs.. Feminism is the only one that shows differences inside a cultural group.
It is the only dimension in which men and women gave different answers to questions addressing the same phenomena. On a larger scale feminism vs.. Masculinity describes how different cultures perceive roles of men and women in he society as well as goals individuals have in these societies. In masculine cultures, gender roles are narrowly defined and do not overlap. Men are supposed to show strong personalities, be focused on achievement and success, “whereas women are supposed to be more modest, tender, and concerned with quality of life” (Hefted, 2001, p. 40). In feminine societies women and men often have equal, overlapping gender roles and are both rather characterized like women in masculine cultures. On an individual level in both cultural poles men and women showed interest in different fields. For example men stated to be interested in high earnings and opportunity for advancement, whereas women showed particular focus on having a good relationship to those in charge and the wish to work with cooperative people (Hefted, 2001).
A workplace example here might be that a woman, coming from a feminine culture wanting to negotiate business related issues within a very masculine society, would not be accepted by her counterparts. Uncertainty avoidance: This dimension describes how people react in situations they are not familiar with. The main question behind this dimension is whether people tolerate uncertain situations or see them as a threat to their personal security. Weakly pronounced uncertainty avoidance becomes apparent in cultures where people accept new situations and are more tolerant to different sentiments.
Whereas strong pronounced uncertainty avoidance is revealed in the need for making detailed plans for the future, a strong wish for security and safety as well as stress and aggressiveness in conflicts. Many countries with high levels of uncertainty avoidance tend to have very strict and formal work related laws which reflect on implicit company guidelines of behavior. People AT Deterrent descent malign Tell very restricted Day tense rules wanly could suppress creative thinking when needed. Long- Term vs.. Short- Term orientation: After conducting further studies – especially on the Asian continent Hefted defined his fifth dimension.
People in a long-term oriented culture align their actions and goals to achieve the best possible future for themselves. Typical traits of such a culture are self-discipline, thriftiness and respect for others. Short-term oriented societies value traits like freedom, independence and efficiency at work (Kafuffle, 2011). Solving Issues There are many obvious problems that can occur and can be prevented Just by knowing the different dimensions. And this insight is the first step to effective cultural diversity management in a company.
If a company has the goal to become more international, it has to conduct trainings for their employees and also for their higher management to be aware of these differences. In order to do so a company usually has to seek out an experienced consultant in this area. The main goal should be to show the employees how to interact with different cultures taking to account hat similarities and distinguishing factors should be focused on and new elements provided by the company’s own culture and structure can be integrated (Precept, 2009).
Thereby and similar measures intercultural competence can be built into the issued organization. Conclusion Taking everything in consideration there are several benefits in integrating a multicultural staff in a company. Multicultural employees can provide new ways of thinking and general creativity. They also can show how to think more global and conduct business with international partners, which is becoming more important for very organization and has quite a few positive aspects.
On the other hand it can be difficult for an inexperienced company to benefit from multicultural employees. First of all the company has to overcome many obstacles. These can reach from interpersonal problems to unwanted behavior by employees with a different culture. To get over these issues the company has to conduct trainings to raise the awareness for intercultural differences of management and staff. One systematic approach could be to explain one scientific approach like Hopeless and show ways of taking his into account in daily business.