Chapter 10Intercultural Communication in OrganizationsCHAPTER OBJECTIVESAfter reading this chapter, the students should be...
102   Part II: Chapter Guide             organizations can be thought of as mini-cultures, each representing a pattern of ...
Chapter Ten: Intercultural Communication in Organizations   103             making is fairly inexact and rests on the mana...
104   Part II: Chapter Guide        B.   Axtell found that 80% of persons doing business overseas with a foreign corporati...
Chapter Ten: Intercultural Communication in Organizations     105             workers with a whole host of services and so...
106   Part II: Chapter Guide             German firms concentrate on specialization; that is, doing one thing and doing it...
Chapter Ten: Intercultural Communication in Organizations   107KEY TERMS AND CONCEPTSCultural Context: An accumulated patt...
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in …5



Published on

  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide


  1. 1. Chapter 10Intercultural Communication in OrganizationsCHAPTER OBJECTIVESAfter reading this chapter, the students should be able to:1. Discuss how dimensions of the cultural context affect organizations across cultures.2. Identify how the environmental context affects doing business in other cultures.3. Identify variables in the perceptual context and how they influence business with other cultures.4. Compare and contrast socio-relational contexts on the job across cultures.5. Discuss some verbal and nonverbal differences across cultures.6. Compare managerial styles of Japanese, Germans, and Arabs.7. Describe differences in manager-subordinate relationships in Japan, Germany, and Arab countries.CHAPTER OVERVIEWCoordinating and managing people from different cultures within an organizational context representsone of the greatest challenges for the corporate world in the new millennium. Business andorganizations from virtually every culture have entered into the global marketplace. The expansion ofworld trade has increased astronomically in the past 30 years. Within our borders the face of USbusiness is becoming more and more intercultural. According to the United States Census Bureau,the number of businesses owned by minority (i.e., microcultural) groups increased 60% from 1987 to1992. Today, there are over 2 million businesses owned by microcultural groups with receipts over$210 billion dollars.Given the dramatic cultural transformation in today’s market place, the relevance of interculturalcommunication competence cannot be overstated. In order to compete in the global and US markets,today’s managers must possess the skills to interact with people who are different than themselves.CHAPTER OUTLINEI. Managing Interculturally A. There is no culture-free theory of management. Managing other people is the responsibility of people who, like everyone else, have been enculturated and socialized into a cultural set of values and beliefs that govern their thinking, emotions and behaviors. Like communication, management is culture-bound. B. Many US managers are ill equipped to handle overseas assignments. While fostering competent intercultural communication managerial skills represents an enormous challenge, the rewards of successful international commerce are extraordinary. C. Much of what you have been exposed to in this book can be applied to your role in organizational settings across cultures. The topics and issues discussed in each chapter can guide you to becoming a successful multicultural manager. Most businesses andCopyright © Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved. 101
  2. 2. 102 Part II: Chapter Guide organizations can be thought of as mini-cultures, each representing a pattern of values held by a recognizable group of people with a common goal pursued via a collective verbal and nonverbal symbol system. Like cultures themselves, organizations possess value systems, exist in some environmental context, process information from a unique perceptual perspective, develop socio-relations with others, and communicate using distinctive verbal and nonverbal codes.II. The Cultural Context A. This part of the chapter includes a cross-cultural conversation between American businessman Jim Neumouth, and Japanese businessman Kietaro Matsumoto. Jim is applying for a job in Kietaro’s corporation, located in Kyoto, Japan. In the conversation, Mr. Neumouth does a good job of expressing his talents and experiences. In the United States, he might appear like the ideal candidate. But to Mr. Matsumoto, he does not appear to be a team player. B. Organizations in collectivistic cultures are more likely to emphasize group harmony and teamwork. For example, Mitsui Group of Japan, lists group harmony as its number one corporate value. Similarly, Apple Computer workers in Singapore listed teamwork and reserve as their number one and two (respectively) corporate values. These same employees indicated that individualism was the number one value of Apple Computer workers in the United States, however. C. Power distance is another important cultural influence to assess when dealing with organizations across cultures. A recent survey indicated that the highest rated values of middle level managers of Petronas Corporation, the Malaysian state owned oil company, included status consciousness (e.g., position, degree), top-down communication, and welfare of the employees. D. Uncertainty avoidance is another important consideration. As a low uncertainty avoidant culture, the US market place is associated with a great deal of risk. In fact, middle-line managers at Advance Mico Devices, a US-based company, indicate that aggressiveness and risk-taking are the top two values guiding their company. Risky business propositions are likely to be rejected by cultures high in uncertainty avoidance, however.III. The Environmental Context A. In addition to the cultural context, it is important to assess the organization’s perspective on the environment, including such issues as information load, privacy, and their overall orientation to nature. A culture’s perspective on nature often translates into its organizational practices. Like they treat nature, some organizations believe they can control market forces and create new markets where none exist. Others attempt a balancing act with the market, sometimes trying to influence it while other times adjusting to its fluctuations. Still others believe that the market is in control and they simply react to it. B. A culture’s tolerance and comfort with varying information rates should be ascertained. In cultures like the United States, managers often prefer as much factual information as possible before making decisions. Statistics, sales projections, historical trends, etc., all help US managers in their decision-making. In some Arab cultures, however, decision- Copyright © Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
  3. 3. Chapter Ten: Intercultural Communication in Organizations 103 making is fairly inexact and rests on the manager’s personal position in the organization, his intuition, and religious beliefs. C. Assumptions about privacy are also important considerations to take into account. In collectivistic cultures, for example, where group harmony is paramount, employees may prefer to work together in the same physical location not isolated by office walls and doors.IV. The Perceptual Context A. To understand how the organization processes information is crucial to establishing and maintaining effective communication. One information-processing strategy that people from all cultures engage in is categorizing and stereotyping. Before embarking on a business venture with a foreign culture, it may be useful to know of their stereotypes of US business. B. Most Americans have been brought up to think in very logical, linear, and rational terms. We prefer to make decisions based on empirical (verifiable through direct observation) data. Many of our business decisions are based on the logic that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Asian employers, however, may be guided by their intuition and base their decisions on trial and error. They may get sidetracked or take multiple paths to get to the same point. Chinese, for example, are known to be very patient and take their time in making decisions, a characteristic that sometimes frustrates their American business counterparts.V. Socio-Relational Context A. An organization’s emphasis on group membership is clearly something that US managers should know about their foreign companions. Fons Trompenaars employs a family metaphor in describing a particular type of ideal corporate culture seen often in Turkey, Venezuela, Hong Kong, Malaysia, India, Singapore, and Spain. The family corporation culture is simultaneously personal, with close face-to-face relationships, and hierarchical in the sense that everyone knows his/her place in the rank order. At the top of the hierarchy are the parents (i.e., chief executives) who are regarded as caring and who know better than the children (i.e., subordinates) do. B. The power at the top is not perceived as threatening but as intimate and benign. The philosophy of the employees is to do more than is required contractually in order to please the older brother or father (i.e., person of higher rank). The primary reason for working hard and performing well in this type of corporate culture is the pleasure derived from familial relations. To please one’s elders is reward in and of itself.VI. Verbal and Nonverbal Codes A. Obviously understanding the verbal and nonverbal codes of your foreign counterpart is an essential part of a successful business venture. While it is true that most of your foreign business partners will speak some English, your knowledge and use of their language demonstrates your willingness to meet them half-way and will be very much appreciated.Copyright © Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
  4. 4. 104 Part II: Chapter Guide B. Axtell found that 80% of persons doing business overseas with a foreign corporation had difficulties interacting with foreigners because of the latter’s misunderstanding of American English. But, reports Axtell, the same respondents reported that the problem lies with them, not their foreign counterpart. The type of English spoken here is so laden with jargon, colloquialisms and slang, that English-speaking foreigners have a very difficult time understanding us. C. Axtell points out what he calls the Seven Deadliest Sins of International Misunderstanding, including local color, jargon, slang, officialese, humor, vocabulary, and grammar. When conducting business with your foreign counterpart, be very conscious of terms and phrases that may be well understood within your corporation, but may be misunderstood to an outsider. D. Although knowing your foreign partner’s language (and he/she knowing yours) is certainly an advantage, there are other communication considerations, independent of verbal language, that can affect your business propositions, most notably nonverbal communication. One’s kinesic, paralinguistic, olfactic, haptic, and proxemic behaviors can be interpreted differently depending on with whom you are interacting.VII. Intercultural Relations A. Perceptions of relationships vary dramatically across cultures. Especially important are male/female relations within corporations. Although women have made great strides in the US corporate world, in many cultures women still occupy a subordinate role and are relegated to second-class citizens. Because of this, more than half (54%) of multinational corporations in North America say they are hesitant to send women managers abroad for fear that the host culture’s perspective on women will negatively impact their effectiveness. B. In Japan, reports Adler, women are encouraged to obtain the level of education that will enable them to marry managers rather than attain management positions for themselves. In fact, according to Adler, many large Japanese corporations encourage women employees to marry male employees and then use the company’s anti-nepotism policies to force the women to retire. Moreover, one-third of Japanese companies indicate that they will not promote women college graduates even if they are as qualified as their male counterparts. C. Even in Europe, opposition to women in high-level management is quite strong. On one survey, nearly 70% of British managers said they preferred male applicants for executive positions. Likewise, two-thirds of Italian managers said they did not want to receive orders from female managers. And in Germany, nearly 95% of job advertisements for top executives use the masculine noun form thereby discouraging women from even applying for the position.VIII. Japanese Management A. As US and Japanese business relationships continue to develop, managers and workers from both countries will be expected to communicate with each other. In so doing, they may find very different work ethics and managerial styles. The Japanese corporation is very paternalistic (i.e., fatherly, patriarchal). Most Japanese corporations furnish their Copyright © Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
  5. 5. Chapter Ten: Intercultural Communication in Organizations 105 workers with a whole host of services and social activities designed to foster allegiance and group harmony with the company. B. In comparing Japanese and US managers, Bolda concluded that Japanese managers endorsed behaviors that were other-oriented and principle-oriented. The American managers, on the other hand, supported behaviors that were more instrumental (i.e., goal-oriented) such as individual supervisory skills, belief in one’s own ability, and decision-making. C. Contract negotiations between Japanese and American firms is often difficult and frustrating. The American preference for individualistic rational decision-making often clashes with the Japanese tendency toward relationships and group harmony. Americans, for example, tend to negotiate by exchanging information with the expectation that the other side will reciprocate. Japanese negotiate by trying to foster steady relationships with their partners with the ultimate goal of consensus. Whereas Americans negotiate a contractual agreement, the Japanese think of it as negotiating a relationship. D. In a recent study, Rao, Hashimoto, and Rao surveyed Japanese managers regarding their preferences for a variety of influence strategies. While some of the Japanese managers preferred influence tactics that are similar to those preferred by US managers, several strategies appear to be unique to the Japanese. E. While interacting with Japanese businesspersons, Americans often notice behaviors that are widely misunderstood. To be sure, the Japanese businessperson has perceptions of American behavior that may be misinterpreted as well. For example, Japanese are astonished by the typical American’s informality and spontaneity. The quick pace of conversation and what are perceived to be ostentatious (i.e., flashy-showy) nonverbal mannerism are off-putting to most Japanese.IX. German Management A. Most Germans believe that people are controlled by their own actions, that facts are more important than face (in sharp contrast to the Japanese), and that factual honesty is more important than politeness (again, clashing with Japanese conventions). German children are taught that useless people amount to nothing and that they are to be quiet and respectful. Children are also taught the famous adage to “save for a rainy day.” B. Compartmentalization is the most prominent structural feature of German culture. Germans have a tendency to isolate and divide many aspects of their lives into discrete independent units. Germans are known to compartmentalize their daily schedules, their educational system, office buildings, corporations, homes, and even lines of communication. C. Germans are a very private (and formal) people. Most German managers isolate themselves in their offices behind closed doors, contrasting sharply with open door policies exercised by American managers. D. German compartmentalization can also be seen in the overall market strategy of many very successful German corporations. Unlike many US or Japanese corporate conglomerates whose global market success is attributable to diversification, manyCopyright © Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
  6. 6. 106 Part II: Chapter Guide German firms concentrate on specialization; that is, doing one thing and doing it right. German corporations with large shares of specialized markets can focus on design, quality, and service rather than competing with price. E. Like the US, Germany is considered a low-context, monochronic culture, except even more so. The German language is quite literal where individual German words have exact and precise meaning. For example, the Germans have no fewer than eight words for “comfort,” each reflecting a slightly different type of comfort. Germans are fairly formal, nitpicky about precision, punctual, and fanatic about facts.X. Commerce in the Middle East A. Many Arab countries have spent immense amounts of financial and human resources in an attempt to improve the capabilities and performance of their national economies and toward generating change in their political systems and innovations in technology. Today, however, most Arab states are ruled by authoritarian political regimes that do not encourage, or allow, public participation in decision-making. B. Some of the contradictions Americans see in the Middle East are rooted in religion. Most countries in the Middle East (excluding Israel) are Moslem. More than anything else, Islam has united Arabs as a single dynamic entity. Islam functions as law in Saudi Arabia. One of the principles of Islamic teaching is to trust God over that of kings and rulers. C. The Arab world is replete with diversity and conflicting attributes. Dramatic changes have occurred in the Arab world in just the past 80 years. National development seems to be the top priority among most Middle East-Arab countries. Following their independence, Arab governments became the instant owners and operators of public utilities, banks, railways, airlines, mass transit systems, telephones, water, gas, and electricity. Most of the governments simply lacked the technological and human resources to manage. Coupled with national development, a push toward industrialization has generated immense pressures in many Arab countries. D. One of the problems facing expatriates in the Middle East is the lack of any coherent Arab management profession or theory. Arab societies moved too rapidly toward industrialization without establishing the foundations necessary for dealing with the challenges of modern institutions. This has led to inefficient operations, lack of clear direction, displacement of the traditional labor force, and dramatic shifts in the social structures. Specifically, Arab management reflects the political and social instability of the region, which serves only the powerful political elites. E. In the absence of an Arab management theory, Ali points to several societal qualities in Arab cultures which have management implications in Arab organizations. Arab idealism and hopefulness are necessary elements in Arab society. Hence organizational development can be introduced without resentment as long as the changes conform to the ideal. Arab infatuation with ideal forms means that new and modern management practices can be used. Copyright © Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
  7. 7. Chapter Ten: Intercultural Communication in Organizations 107KEY TERMS AND CONCEPTSCultural Context: An accumulated pattern of values, beliefs, and behavior held by an identifiablegroup of people with a common verbal and nonverbal symbol system.Environmental Context: The geographical and psychological location of communication withinsome cultural context.Organizational Culture: An organized pattern of values, beliefs, behaviors and communicationchannels held by the members of an organization.Perceptual Context: The cognitive process by which persons gather, store, and retrieve information.Power Distance: The extent to which less powerful members of a particular culture accept andexpect that power within the culture will be distributed unequally.Socio-Relational Context: The roles that one assumes within a culture that are defined by verbal andnonverbal messages.CLASSROOM EXERCISES AND ACTIVITIES10.1. Assign students the task of locating a company in a foreign country (the Internet can be of immense help here). Then have the students find information about the company, including its mission, management philosophies, profit picture, stock values, etc. Have the students deliver short informal reports about their organizations to the class. Keep a class log of the organizations.10.2. Have students conduct a search of advertisements from foreign newspapers and magazines. Compare and contrast the foreign advertisements with US ads. How similar and/or different are the types of appeals used in the ads? How is the organization depicted?Copyright © Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.