People have the propensity to see other cultures from their own perspective. They accept their own culture and its activities as the norm while all other cultures are categorized as extraneous, or even secretive. In this paper, we examine the Critical Incident Analysis (CIA) that helps support an unbiased response to cultural variances by allowing managers to demonstrate empathy related to other cultural perspectives. The CIA method has been employed to call a situation of a cross-cultural misunderstanding in my present work place describing what essentially occurred, and how a culturally sensitive reaction could have been achievable if someone had used CIA.
The solution and analysis are mirrored from the theories and suggestions in the readings regarding the theoretical frameworks of cultural interpretation and having success in cross-cultural settings. In addition, specific actions on how to ensure that these behaviors do not take place in the future were put into account.
The CIA intends to provide a rich, personal perspective of life and ease understanding of the issues in any critical incident.
A critical incident necessarily must not be spectacular, but it should hold significance, something that is capable of making one to pause and reflect whether it contributed to an effective or ineffective outcome (Serrat, 2010). The technique aims to understand critical incidents at a depth that may not be apparent through purely quantitative methods of data collection (Serrat, 2010). Critical incidents are usually seen as bearing little significance until we ask the right questions; What really happened? How did I feel? What do I think about it now? What did I learn? (Kilianska-Przybylo, 2009).
Critical Incidents happen every day and can happen anywhere including in our families, neighborhoods, communities, religious assemblies, and most importantly in organizations. And we analyze them consciously or unconsciously to determine the issues around them.
Having established that anything can happen at anywhere, anytime and to any person or group of people. It is also a known fact that CIA will always be been done consciously or consciously at personal or intuitional levels at any given incident that happens. For example, a current incident is currently ongoing in my workplace. I will choose this incident because it is at first appears an everyday, run of the mill, mix up. But on a closer examination, I have now discovered theres a lot more going on under the surface, to use Scheins cultural iceberg analogy (Schein, 2010). I run the Games Center at the companys club where I work and for the last one month three weeks, we have been engaged in our annual Chess Championship. The games are held after work hours in our clubs and activities time. Chess being chess however, the games dont always finish when club time ends. I have made several requests for the air conditioner (AC) to be left on in the Chess room for an additional two hours at the end of the day to ease the late games. So far, out of the eight tournament play days, the ACs has been switched off on seven occasions. I have written several emails each time, seeking for explanations why the ACs were switched off just after normal time. On each occasion, according to our facility management officer, there was a mix up in communications on seven out of eight occasions!
To my surprise, I decided to do a background check on what may be the reason before reaching out to that department. I discovered that our facility management officers are Chinese, in a company where most of the staff requesting their help are non-Chinese, mainly from the US, Africa and Europe. Contemplating that the miscommunication was unlikely to be true, I approached a few members of our Chinese staff to ask the critical incident technique question What really happened? (Kilianska-Przybylo, 2009). As it turns out the Facility Management Officers are unhappy that a lot of the additional activities organized by Games Center Staff means that they have to work outside their normal working hours, without extra pay. Although the games center staff dont get paid for these extra activities either, however, the games staff do get a much better basic salary than the facility management officers. What is really happening is that the Chinese management officers are feeling used and taken for granted and are effectively operating work to rule protest. From my companys case we can see that the critical incident analysis really can reveal underlying trends and motives (Kilianska-Przybylo, 2009). The value of critical incident analysis lies in the questions that people are supposed to answer in the process of analyzing the incident. Rather than the usual incident reporting questions; Who? What? When? Where? How? The critical incident analysis encourages us to ask; What really happened? How did I/they feel? What do I think about it now? What did I learn? (Kilianska-Przybylo, 2009). The first, crucial step to avoid this kind of situation in the furture is probably to try and improve communication (Kilianska-Przybylo, 2009). The Chinese officer I spoke to suggested I talk to the facility management unit and empathize with their situation. Let them know that I agree they should be compensated for their extra efforts. Drop my polychronic insistence on the correct procedures and build a better relationship with the facility management officers, something that is particularly important in Chinese polychronic culture (Rick, 2014).
Employing the Theoretical Frameworks of Cultural Interpretation
Following the application of the theoretical frameworks of cultural interpretation (Hofstede, Hall, etc.) presented in our readings to this situation, this seemingly will warrant a different approach to the situation. For example, another officer during the process also suggested that I make my boss aware of the situation, in full knowledge that he would raise it with the boss of the facility management unit. But this is a different approach from the first, however it does not fit neatly with the HofstedeBond studies interpretation of cultural differences (Krietner, 2012). The first two dimensions outlined by this theoretical framework suggest that cultures differ in their Power-Distance relations and Individualismcollectivism. The Chinese is quite a hierarchically structured society. A lot of emphases, for example in education, is put on respect and deference towards those who have higher status. At the same time, it is a highly collective society, with tight bonds between individuals and societal groups. These twin forces mean that an approach to their Chinese boss, from my non-Chinese boss, invokes both the power of a higher authority and the peer pressure of the collective. If my manager and their Chinese boss agrees on some terms then the problem will be solved, if not more problems will escalate to top management. This is because the Chinese are more likely to respond positively to their own Chinese boss on two levels; as an authority figure, and as part of their own collective.
However, as a manager, I think I could have handled it better in the first instance by talking to my Chinese colleagues earlier. It would have saved the issues of the after-work game activity days. More so, I would probably have spoken to my boss about the situation sooner or later. I would never have come building up with the twin-pronged approach of invoking authority while building relationships though. As a manager, I am willing to adapt to multiple cultures. There are no adequate substitutes for knowing the local language and culture (Krietner, 2012), as these will enhance my understanding of our cultural difference and breach organizational miscommunication.
I feel I am becoming more culturally intelligent and will adapt to multiple cultures as time goes on, this comes with actual experience and at the expense of many small cultural catastrophes along the way. I think I just have to keep trying and keep asking the critical incident technique questions; What really happened? How did I/they feel? What do I think about it now? What did I learn? (Kilianska-Przybylo, 2009). Useful questions, I think. The Critical Incident Analysis focus on critical issues can bring major benefits to an organization; the technique turns complex experiences into rich data and information providing in-depth information at a much lower cost and with much greater ease than observation (Serrat, 2010).