Communication is the process by which messages or information from one person to the other is delivered. Intercultural communication is the communication between people of different cultures. In a working environment nobody is exempted from communication as communication is responsible for getting work done. In the workplace however there are different people with different cultures and this piece of work looks at the intercultural communication in the workplace.
Intercultural communication at work
Communication is the key in any successful business and should be enhanced across cultures no matter in which form, as long as people get to communicate and understand each other. Communication at work avoids conflict among the employees and between them and their leaders.
Consider people working in a multinational company based in China. In this situation all the employees come from different parts of the world and hence belong to different cultural beliefs. Though Chinese is the widest spoken language in the world, in terms of population, many people from other parts of the world may not understand it hence the workplace is a totally new environment for the majority. The employees also come from different places and have barely anything in common. (Linda and Iris, 2006, pp. 23-48)
The situation is very challenging and the company has of course hired these professionals to be able to maximize its production. The employees have to communicate to make work done. It is important to note that the employees might understand a common language but the understanding varies across different cultures and individuals. Communication skills are very important at an intercultural workplace. In this context of a multinational organization based in china, the supervisor may allocate duties to the workers in different departments and sections. But the supervisor is not a good communicator. He orders the employees in a way they cannot understand him which leads to misunderstanding and questioning subjects him to stress. When stress builds up in the workplace , it is difficult to accomplish the goals set within a specific time. The supervisor on realizing his weakness opts to use less verbal communication to the employees who on the other hand have difficulties of communicating among them. The supervisor uses a lot of nonverbal communication that exempts him from questions from the employees. (Michael, 1994, pp. 49-120)
The use of nonverbal communication worsens the situation as there are limited details and elaboration may be needed to some groups of people who can not really comprehend written communication considering that for them English is possibly a second speaking language. Lack of comprehensive passage of information leads to low output and the company may suffer losses based on the communication issue. The non-Chinese speakers in the workplace do not communicate in the workplace which is dominated by Chinese. They tend to work quietly and might not be able to ask for any assistance as they tend to consider themselves very inferior in this environment.
From business surveys it has been identified that poor communication in the workplace leads to dissatisfaction of the employees which leads to employees developing a negative attitude towards the employer and towards each other. In this case the boss has the responsibility of bringing things to control, but he is a poor communicator and hence can do nothing about what is happening in the workplace. A good boss should be a good communicator for the situation to be controlled.
The problem of communication across different cultures can be a problem especially when the manager shows some personal discrimination to certain group of people. This kills the motivation of other employees and affects their performance. The problem may sometimes come subconsciously if the Boss belongs to a certain culture and he identifies himself so much with his culture. The employees think that since he belongs to this culture, they develop some sort of underpinning in the work environment. (Heather and Martin, 2007, pp. 45-178)
A contrasting pattern of communication can exist in the organization based in china as china is a high context society that is characterized by heterogeneity, high job mobility, short term relationships foreigners being not highly distinguished like in a low context society for example America that has homogeneity, little social and job mobility, with long term relationships where insiders and outsiders are clearly distinguished. According to Hall, 1997 pieces of advice that people who work in a low context society to engage them in explicit communication as the nature of such a society precludes the feasibility of widely shared meanings thus opening up communication. The people from a low context society have a task to master the communication patterns used in the high context society.
However, Ferraro (2001) views the contrast between the high and low context societies in a different manner. He argues that low context societies put more emphasis on words than the statement they are making while in a high context society, the weight of the context is important. This reason people working in China may have a problem in understanding their co-workers as they only emphasize the keywords. The supervisor is one of these people from the low context society and that’s the reason why he fails to communicate.
Verbal communication in a multicultural workplace is very inconvenient at times and may not be effective. It may not solve the problem of communication as different body language may have different meanings to different groups of people.
As a leader in an organization, it is very important to orient people first, make them understand their differences and appreciate them in order to have effective communication in the workplace. The problem of communication in a multicultural workplace can also be reduced through the application of modern technology systems in communication such as instant messaging. However it should be used carefully rest it can lead to low level of socialization at work which can produce negative effects at work.
Ferraro, G. (2000). Societal communication Context, New York: Wesley, pp. 23-89.
Heather, B. and Martin, K. (2007). Communication across Cultures; mutual Understanding in Global World, London: Cambridge University Press, pp. 45-156.
Kottak, C. and Kozaitis, K. (2003). On being different: Diversity and multiculturalism in the North American mainstream (2nd Ed.). New York: McGraw Hill, pp. 45-128.
Linda, B. and Iris, V. (2006). Intellectual Communication in Global Workplace , New York: McGraw-Hill, pp. 23-78.
Michael, C. (1994). Inter-cultural Communication at Work, London: Cambridge University Press, pp. 76-123.