In the 21st century, a number of significant sociopolitical and technological changes have been witnessed, which have made the world a global village which is getting smaller by the day. The technological feasibility that has enabled the mass media to bring events and news across the world to schools, businesses and homes almost as soon as they occur has narrowed down the distance barriers between people, cultures and societies, such that the world is fast becoming one giant melting pot of cultural, ethnic, religious, linguistic and racial diversities. However, these changes have also resulted in the increase in international tensions between countries world wide, due to the increased interaction. The most significant of these tensions have been witnessed in the past between the United States and Northern Ireland, Eastern Europe and most recently, the Middle East. Thus in light of these developments, the need to develop competent and effective intercultural communication cannot be overemphasized. It is indeed a fact that such conflicts are usually of political origin, but are primarily caused by religious and ethnic differences that form barriers to effective communication.
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The term ‘intercultural communication’ is sometimes used interchangeably with ‘cross-cultural communication’; and it is simply the engagement of concerted efforts at understanding how people who hail form different cultures perceive, act and communicate in their native environment. Intercultural communication plays important roles in fostering understanding in the case of communication between countries in the global platform. (Griffin, 2000). The focus of this paper will therefore be to demonstrate an example of poor intercultural communication between North Americans and Asians and how it affects the effectiveness of communication between the two cultures.
Which are long term such as prospecting for oil or minerals; “The Process Culture”, which is seen in organizations that have little or lack of feedback altogether and the members of the organization maintain a strict focus on the procedures of executing and achieving targets, and is most evident in bureaucracies, with the main advantage of achieving consistency in results which is necessary in sectors like the public service and this fact effectively serves to undermine the massive red tape and overly cautious nature of these cultures. (Deal & Kennedy, 1982).
Edgar Schein has however come up with a method of classifying organizational culture, which is more in line with the present organizational set up. He defines organizational culture as the patterns of basic assumptions that are shared within a groups and that were learned in the during the solving of the problems of internal integration and external adaptation by the group, and which have produced reliable results that can be considered valid and have consequentially been taught to new embers as the correct way to feel, think and perceive when attempting to solve such problems.
It will be important to outline the importance of intercultural communication in an organizational setting, before the importance of the impact of ineffectiveness of intercultural communication between two different cultures can be fully highlighted. Schein (2005) expounds that culture is the toughest attribute of an organization in view of change, and surpasses all other attributes of the organization such as the physical attributes, services and products, leadership, and founders. Schein states that the deepest cognitive level of the culture of an organization is where tacit assumptions exist. He expounds that these are the unseen cultural elements that are not easily identifiable in interactions between members of an organization on a daily basis. These elements of an organization’s culture are often regarded as a taboo to question or discuss. (Schein, 2005).
Organizational culture has various roles in the process of change in an organization. A number of methodologies have been proposed to elucidate this role, which include Burman & Evans(2008) view that culture is more relate d to leadership than management .They elaborate that when an organization has the principle focus of transforming its culture, recognition has to be accorded to the fact that this project is long term. This is because achieving change in the culture of an organization ids a difficult endeavor that requires the allowing of employees to take adequate time to get used to the new strategies within the organization. Thus the stronger the culture of an organization, the more difficult it becomes to achieve the change.
The six guidelines to achieving organizational change, as given by Cummings&Worley(2005), are (i) The formulation of a strategic and clear vision,( Cummings& Worley,2005, pg.490),(ii) display of commitment at top managerial levels( Cumming& Worley, 2005, pg. 490),(iii) modeling of the change in culture at the top managerial levels( Cummings & Worley, 2005, pg.491), (iv) organizational modification to aid change (Cummings & Worley, 2005, pg.491) , (v) selection and socialization of terminate deviants and newcomers (Cummings & Worley, 2005, pg.491) and(vi) development of legal and ethical sensitivity( Cummings & Worley,2005, pg.491).In regard to the design of a model with methods and procedures for analyzing diversity in an organization, Taylor Cox, Jr. (2001) gives three types of organizations which adopt a particularly focused approach in regard to development of cultural diversity in the workplace environment. She outlines the monolithic, the plural and the multicultural organizations in the journal, The Multicultural Organization. The three types of organizations, according to Cox, are distinguished by their level of structural integration, which Cox defines as the presence of employees from different cultural groups in one organization, with the monolithic organization having minimal structural integration. Cox goes further to outline that monolithic organizations in the United States are usually represented by a majority of white male employees with few women and yet fewer individuals who hail from minority racial backgrounds in the managerial jobs in an organization. The plural organization, however, has an improved level of structural organization, having a heterogeneous workforce which includes people from different cultural backgrounds, other than just one dominant group from a particular ethnic background. The multicultural organization however displays the highest levels of workplace diversity, because it not only contains an evenly balanced workforce in terms of cultural diversity, but it also has an awareness of and utilization of its culturally diverse workforce for the benefits of the organization. Having sufficiently defined workplace diversity, it becomes paramount to outline its advantages to an organization and therefore point out why organizations should strive to achieve a cultural diverse workforce.
Thus in order to implement these analytical results in a cultural diversity training program, it is imperative to outline that people have a higher degree of inclination to do business with organizations that employ a staff that they can relate to either socially, culturally or ethnically. Therefore, the ways in which a cultural diversity program can be implemented in organizations includes the methods that can be employed by organizations in ensuring that they end up with a culturally diverse workforce. Some of these methods are therefore outlined below.
Recruitment & Post-Hiring Job Placement
Recruitment is basically networking with organizations to build strong relationships that go beyond just business relationships. For an organization to achieve workplace diversity, it has to have a well established method of recruitment of diverse talent across the area in which it operates, in most cases the native country or the region in general, but not just in a secluded locality. Most companies recruit through universities and colleges. Others opt to attend regional and local jib fairs , for example, the UNITY conference, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People(NAACP) an the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications( “NAMIC”). Serious companies that have a high likelihood of employing a diverse workforce have strategic partnerships with these channels for diversity recruitment that aid them in the hiring of staff with diverse backgrounds, styles, skills, etc.( Fine 2000).
Research has also revealed that companies which make heavy use of electronic postings for job vacancies have a high likelihood of having a diverse workforce. Thus the seriousness of companies in the utilization of electronic postings to recruit employees can reveal the extent of diversity that the company has in its staff. Very serious companies have
“Associate Referral Bonus Programs” through which they give cash incentives to employees who refer job seekers to the company, and thus have a high chance of having a diverse workforce.
Building Partnerships with Organizations & the Community
Companies have to recognize that to achieve competitiveness in a global economy; they have to forge relationships with other organizations and community members who have the common interest of promoting diversity. With the growth of the nation in terms of social, racial, ethnic and cultural diversity, organizations have to adapt in this environment and acquire an advanced level of understanding of the need to attain diversity in its workforce.
Thus companies have to be actively involved in both local and national associations if they are to identify diverse talent pools from which they can benefit. The companies can also create innovative partnerships with institutions of higher learning so that they attract and increase the number of qualified minority employees in their workforce. In this manner, when they are job vacancies the institutions of higher learning are the first to know, and qualified students have a high chance of being employed by the company, with no predetermined cultural, ethnic or social inclination being a dominant factor in the recruitment process, thus effectively increasing the chances of the company ending up with a diverse workforce.
Companies also need to organize outreach luncheons where the members of the community can interact directly with the human resources department representatives. In this manner, a broadcast recruitment process can be extended to the immediate community where the company operates, so that any talent that may benefit the company is obtained, and therefore e increasing the diversity of the workforce. The company can also use local business resource groups in order to solicit for the recruitment of a diverse workforce from the local community. (Cox 2001).
Mentoring: Internally & Externally
Companies can form voluntary mentoring programs, which may operate either formally or informally. These mentoring programs can be established both within the company and in the surrounding community. The programs can be used in helping to assimilate new employees into the company culture, as well as to groom the future leaders of the company. In this manner, the chances of the company losing employees from diverse backgrounds due to their inability to fit into the company culture is significantly reduced, thereby fostering the development of a diverse workforce.(Cox 2001).
Given the benefits of having a culturally diverse workforce, organizations should strive to attain workplace diversity, and in light of the disadvantages it may create if not properly managed, make it their priority to seek beneficial ways of managing a culturally diverse workforce In regard to diversity in business, the underlying theory outlines that in a global market place environment, a business, company, form or institution that benefits from the services of a diverse work force is in a better position to understand the demographic factors in the market place environment in which the business operates , and is therefore better placed to exploit its full potential in that environment, than a business which has limited diversity in its workforce. A diverse work force generally consists of employees, both male and female, who are of varying racial and ethnic backgrounds, as well as of different generations. (Fine 2000).
Workplace diversity has also been stated as having the potential to improve productivity, employee satisfaction and retention at the workplace. In this regard, it is usually referred to as inclusion, and it deals with how an organization can utilize its diversities for its general improvement. (Fine 2000). Research has also established that despite a diverse workforce, the management of the company also needs to make concerted efforts at exploiting that breadth of wealth in terms of experience and knowledge inherent in the diverse workforce in order to convert this wealth in to monetary benefits to the company. Otherwise, a company with a diverse workforce will just fair as well as one which has a less diverse workforce.
Therefore, the focus of this paper is to design an informed and well researched model with methods and procedures for analyzing diversity, and to further elaborate on how these results can be implemented in a cultural diversity training program.
Workplace diversity can generally be defined as the extent of cultural ‘mix’ in an organization; Cultural mix/ diversity includes the different ways through which employees in a workplace environment share a unique identity as a group, including the identity associated with the diversity of race, ethnic age , gender and sexual orientation. The culture of an organization is a determinant of it cultural diversity. (Fine 2000). However, workplace diversity in most senses brings many benefits to an organization. However, C.L Walck (1995) states that there are serious problems that arise from an organization inculcating workplace diversity into its culture, and therefore the responsibility of managing workplace diversity as a resource in an organization’s workforce in order to fully exploit its potential to improve an organization’s overall performance falls on the organization’s management. In the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, C.L. Walck (1995) states that managing workplace diversity implies the negotiation of interaction among groups which display different cultural backgrounds, and also contriving to foster understanding and cooperation in a culturally diverse environment.
In regard to the design of a model with methods and procedures for analyzing diversity in an organization, Taylor Cox, Jr. (2001) gives three types of organizations which adopt a particularly focused approach in regard to development of cultural diversity in the workplace environment. She outlines the monolithic, the plural and the multicultural organizations in the journal, The Multicultural Organization. The three types of organizations, according to Cox, are distinguished by their level of structural integration, which Cox defines as the presence of employees from different cultural groups in one organization, with the monolithic organization having minimal structural integration. Cox goes further to outline that monolithic organizations in the United States are usually represented by a majority of white male employees with few women and yet fewer individuals who hail from minority racial backgrounds in the managerial jobs in an organization. The plural organization, however, has an improved level of structural organization, having a heterogeneous workforce which includes people from different cultural backgrounds, other than just one dominant group from a particular ethnic background. The multicultural organization however displays the highest levels of workplace diversity, because it not only contains an evenly balanced workforce in terms of cultural diversity, but it also has an awareness of and utilization of its culturally diverse workforce for the benefits of the organization. Having sufficiently defined workplace diversity, it becomes paramount to outline its advantages to an organization and therefore point out why organizations should strive to achieve a cultural diverse workforce.
An international incident that posed potentially dangerous consequences across the world was witnessed some years back between the United Sates and China; with its primary cause being poor intercultural communication between the two countries. The incident was initiated on the 1st of April, 2001 by the collision of a surveillance plane belonging to the U.S navy with a fighter jet belonging to the Chinese. The collision occurred over the South China Sea, which is considered an international air space. The EP-3 surveillance and electronic warfare U.S. plane was extensively damaged, but due to the skillfulness of there, they managed to safely land the plane at an airbase in China. The Chinese military later declared their fighter jet and its pilot missing, and proceeded to detain the crew members of the U.S. plane; who were 24 in number. The two countries were later unable to reach a consensus on the cause of the collision and resolved to blame each other. In the days that followed, U.S and Chinese officials held a series of contentious negotiations to resolve the incident, with the U.S. officials trying to negotiate the release of the crew, and the Chinese officials demanding an acceptance of liability and a formal apology for the incident from the U.S. The U.S. flatly refused to yield to this demand and blamed the incident on the Chinese pilot. Pressure was meanwhile mounting on the then U.S. President, George Bush to secure the immediate release of the detained U.S crew.
In the face of mounting pressure, the then Secretary of State, Colin Powell, issued a statement on April 4 expressing “regret” over the incident and the subsequent disappearance of the Chinese fighter jet and its pilot. The Chinese officials acknowledged the good faith in which the statement was issued, but simply summed it up as “a move in the right direction” and issued fresh demands for an apology. On April 8, Colin Powell and the then U.S vice president, Dick Cheney, issued a statement expressing “sorrow” at the disappearance of the Chinese pilot, but dismissed China’s demands for an apology. On the same day, they wrote a sympathy letter to the wife of the pilot. Once again, the Chinese rejected these efforts and reiterated their demands for an apology. On April 10, the U.S. officials appeared to have been pushed to the corner and issued a statement declaring that President Bush was willing to write a letter of regret over the incident to the Chinese and an issue an adjoining statement admitting the unpermitted landing of the U.S. plane in Chinese territory. Nevertheless, the Chinese did not burge and still demanded an apology.
Eventually, on April 11, the United States wrote a letter to the Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs specifically asking him to “convey to the Chinese people and to the family of pilot Wang Wei that we are very sorry for their loss”. The later further stated that “We are very sorry the entering of China’s airspace and the landing did not have verbal clearance”. However, the actual word “apology was not anywhere to be seen in the letter. But the Chinese official who were charged with communicating the contents of the letter to the Chinese people chose to translate the words “very sorry”, which appeared twice in the letter, to “shenbiao qianyi” , A Chinese statement that implies a deep apologetic expression and is only used when one is accepting liability for wrong doing and its consequences. Based solely on the translation of this letter, the Chinese released the U.S. crew.
One thing that clearly emerged from this incident is that it was a matter of what the U.S. chose to say and what the Chinese chose to hear that ended this impasse.
This matter was resolved by the exploitation of the loss of meaning inherent in translation from one language to another by the United States officials who were involved in the negotiations. Bates Gill, the North East Asian Policy Studies director at Brookings Institution states that U.S.negotiators have in the past exploited the use of such words as “acknowledge” which upon translation stand for to “recognize” or “admit”, so that the Chinese can take such words to mean an admission of guilt, when this is not really the case. (Griffin, 2000).
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There are several cultural differences between the Chinese an Americans, which has necessitate the need to develop a meaningful intercultural communication network so as to foster understanding between these two countries with the ultimate aim of creating a better relationship between the two countries. The benefits of an effective intercultural communication network include, but are not limited to creation of healthier communities, reduced friction and conflict, improved international, regional and local commerce and increased tolerance which results into personal growth. (Griffin, 2000).
The cultural differences between the two countries that necessitates the employment of effective intercultural communication networks. Some differences particularly in the societal and institutional organization of American and Chinese societies that significantly played a role in the development of the highlighted incident to the stated proportions include; ethnic culture, whereby the Chinese are generally a reclusive people, preferring to mind their own business and center their cultural values in building of healthy relationships with each other at individual level. They keep to themselves and isolate strangers, while Americans are individualistic and do not believe in strong cultural ties and generally operate under an attitude of ‘saving the world’ and thus meddle in all affairs unfolding around them. In terms of source of trust, the Chinese believe in trusting the people who surround them and dread losing credibility as a result of failure to live up to oral agreements. The Americans on the other hand, belie in trusting the terms of the contractual agreement and not the people they deal with. Their only fear is getting into legal hassles as a result of contravening the contract, and show little respect for oral agreements. (Griffin, 2000).
In terms of business culture, the Chinese are genially clumsy in their communication and operate with quietness and reservation when doing business. The Americans are the exact opposite; being effective and eloquent communicators who are in most senses very outspoken. In regard to the style of negotiation, the Chinese make group decisions, but the final decision lies with the “boss”. Americans believe in the giving of more individual authority to the stake holders, with the decision making process evenly distributed among the major players.
When it comes to dealing with business counterparts, the Chinese are courteous and deal with their clients at a personal level, such that if there is a breach of contract then arising issues are taken up strongly, with the bad experiences being committed to long term memory. Americans, on the other hand, keep it strictly business, and adopt a matter-of-factly approach. They are also always willing to negotiate with the ‘enemy’ so long as there is something to gain. (Griffin,2000).Finally, the Chinese exhibit a serious weakness in the ability to make quick decisions in the heat of the moment, while their American counterparts have a strong sense of resolving serious issues as they present themselves. (Griffin, 2000).
Being that the negotiations for the release of the detained U.S. crew was taking place between officials representing two countries, it was very necessary that careful and appropriate diplomatic approaches be employed, lest the situation get out of hand. Therefore the choice to use letters to communicate official positions presented an appropriate communications device. Letters, as communication devices, are effective in that in they leave no room for ambiguity and contention. They are also formal and can be easily stored and retrieved fro reference in case a clarification is required. An appropriate communication theory that was at play in these negotiations was the ‘stand point theory’ which outlines’ that knowledge, communication behaviors and individual experiences are largely under the influence of the social groups to which they belong. (Gudykunst, 2003).This is because by carefully exploiting the loss in meaning due to translation of words from one social setting to another, the United States officials who negotiated the release of the U.S. crew managed to establish a delicate balance between yielding into the demands of the Chinese, and maintaining the sovereignty of the United States through avoiding being arm-twisted into issuing a public apology to China. Had this issue not been resolved amicably, the situation could have rapidly degenerated to unimaginable proportions.
This is an example of how effective intercultural communication can play important roles in achievement and maintenance of good diplomatic relations in the face of a potential crisis.
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