Explain how cultural differences between individuals can influence communication between them
Category : Communication, Culture
Culture and Cultural Differences
Nowadays, the term “culture” has already become one of the most common words in all kinds of public discourse. It has been constantly heard from journalists and politicians, not to mention of academics especially those in all disciplines of Humanities. “Popular culture”, “research culture”, “mass culture” – there is almost no limit as to the applicability of the term in any context. If one looks at the subject of culture in a historical way, three things came out (1994).
The definition of culture even up to this date continues to be debated by anthropologists and other scholars. In one concept, (1994) defines culture as “the system of understanding characteristics of that individual’s society or of some subgroup within that society” which includes “values, beliefs, notions about acceptable and unacceptable behavior and other socially constructed ideas that members of the society are taught as ‘true’” (). The members of cultures go about their daily lives within shared webs of meaning (1973). Upon associating the two definitions provided by and one can assess culture as invisible webs composed of values, beliefs, ideas about appropriate behavior and socially constructed truths.
According to (1996) and (1983), an individual’s own culture is most of the time invisible to the individual himself or herself. However, it should be noted that they are the circumstances within which people operate and make sense of the world. As individuals come across a culture which is different from their own culture, one of the issues that they face is a set of beliefs that marked themselves in behaviors that differ from their own. It is in this way that people often discuss regarding other people’s cultures and not so much on their own. It has been perceived that an individual’s own culture is usually hidden from them. People even describe it as “the way things are”. Nevertheless, one’s beliefs, ideas and actions are not any more natural or biologically predetermined than any other group’s beliefs, ideas and actions. They have simply emerged from the ways one’s own group has dealt with and deduced the particular circumstances that it has faced. As conditions change, so do cultures; hence, cultures are said to be dynamic.
However, individual cultural identity poses yet another layer of complexity. Even members of the same culture vary significantly in their beliefs and actions. All peoples have unique identities that have been developed within their specified cultures. However, these identities are not fixed or static. For this reason, stereotypes do not hold up since no two individuals from any culture are exactly alike. It should be noted that despite the fact that living inside a culture will allow its members to become acquainted with their total cultural heritage of that specified society, no individual actually internalizes the entire cultural heritage. As a matter of fact, it would actually be impossible for any individual to acquire a society’s entire cultural heritage since there are as you might expect complicated and conflicting values, beliefs and ideas within the specific heritage which is a result of the conditions and events that individuals and groups experience.
Culture is an important factor in understanding organisation, because for any organisation to operate effectively it must for some extent have a general set of believe and assumptions. Because understanding the term of the culture metaphor helps organisations to be aware of how employees are thinking about the organisation phenomena, and to recognise how different attitudes, value and beliefs affect the workplace.
Understanding and assessing the national culture and organisation's culture can mean the difference between success and failure in today's fast changing organisational environment. Cultural assessment can provide measurable data about the real organisational values and norms that can be used to get management's attention.
Accordingly, culture is inseparable form the nation of human society which makes defining it a complicated task. As a result, there are many definitions for culture.(2002, 8) define culture as “an integrated system of learned behavior patterns, characteristic of the members of any given society”. In addition Hofstede (1991) identifies culture as “collective programming of the mind”.
(1993) defines cultural diversity as the "representation, in one social system, of people with distinctly different group affiliations of cultural significance. " To identify and measure the effects of diversity, it is necessary to examine an organization’s culture. Traditionally, organizational culture encompasses the shared values, beliefs, behavior, and background of the organization’s members. Members share a common socio-cultural heritage. Culture once portrayed ethnic or nationality groups but in recent years cultural factors now include race, gender, sexual orientation, age, or disability.
People of different ethnic backgrounds possess different attitudes, values, and norms. Increasing cultural diversity in both public and private sectors focuses attention on the distinctions between various ethnic groups in their attitudes and performance at work.
More often than not, differences in cultural norms and values among ethnic groups reveal themselves in different work-related behaviors. One area of cultural differences researched extensively is the contrast between individualism and collectivism. Compared to individualist cultures, collectivist cultures emphasize the needs of the group, social norms, shared beliefs and cooperation with group members.
The vast majority of cultural diversity initiatives in the U.S. focus exclusively on valuing differences. Instead, Fine argues, the dominant corporate culture must be transformed into a multicultural organization. Fine defines a multicultural organization as an organization that: values, encourages, and affirms diverse cultural modes of being and interacting, creates an organizational dialogue in which no one cultural perspective is presumed to be more valid than other perspectives and empowers all cultural voices to participate fully in setting goals and making decisions.
Changing corporate culture and management systems to accommodate the diversity of employees involves strategic initiatives that are designed to break down barriers that prevent all people from contributing to their fullest potential. and Associates (1992) describe examples of corporate diversity initiatives that are "intentionally planned, targeted against business objectives, long-term oriented, and involve the entire organization. For example, Travel Related Services, a subsidiary of American Express, focused their efforts on becoming "the Best Place to Work" by providing benefits that would attract and retain employees from an increasingly diverse labor pool. Child-care subsidies, improved part-time benefits, sabbaticals, and flexible work arrangements were introduced after a systematic diagnosis and planning effort involving input from employees.
Another study of corporate diversity initiatives by (1992) is based on interviews with over 200 managers in 16 U.S. companies. The research describes the barriers that prevent women and minorities from advancing as well as the processes that facilitate their movement through the ranks. Recruitment, development, and accountability strategies that foster an appreciation for diversity and allow organizations to achieve measurable results are labeled "best practices."
One of the practices (1992) cites is the use of internal advocacy groups as a means for building commitment to diversity and monitoring the corporation's diversity practices. Advocacy groups were found in 10 of the 16 companies examined in the study. While the roles and power of these groups vary within corporations, (1992) acknowledges that much of their negotiating power comes from the information they receive about personnel administration (personnel profiles, promotions, pay records, and advanced notice of personnel policies). According to , some executives communicate this information in order to share responsibility for identifying diversity problems and developing solutions.
Managing the process of resolving conflicts in a culturally diverse organization, therefore, is the central task, making sure that positive effects are garnered from the situation by understanding that all of those involved or in controls are doing everything in their power to maximize the positive products and quality output, while minimizing the disruptive consequences among the members of the project team in a culturally diverse organization ( 1998).. Such good management, in turn, requires a full and sophisticated grasp of major elements in the managing process.
Individual causes and determinants of conflicts in a culturally diverse organization, such as faulty attributions, poor styles of communication, and personal traits or characteristics that contribute to interpersonal friction, all play a role in this regard and must be taken into account (2001) .Similarly, culturally diverse organization-based factors, such as competition for scarce resources, ambiguity over responsibility or jurisdiction, growing internal complexity, and faulty or inadequate forms of communication, must also be considered.
An effective, culturally diverse organization is one whose culture is inclusive of all of the varying groups and constituencies it intends to serve, that is, in the case of the services, the people of the state (1995). The organization’s values, vision, mission, policies, procedures, and norms constitute a culture that is manifested in multiple perspectives and adaptability to varying values, beliefs, and communication styles. People from differing cultural groups in business operations have differing perspectives, manifested in their values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.
Cultural Differences and Communication
Studies on organizational communication have always been used by large companies so as to ensure good working relationships among employees as well as to evaluate the relationship among members and staff of big corporations. (1997) further elaborated that the idea of global community in a model that suggests intercultural and international communication and ethical problems to best address the immediate need is of much importance to truly build a global community. Inquiries have been made in order to realize how the Eastern and Western culture differ in the work setting by comparing the evident and obvious contrasts between different cultural orientations and ethnicity. Such differences include most recurring ethical dilemmas brought about by race in business where employees and staff of varying cultural orientations who work together as an organization.
(2000) in his journal article proposes the use of ethics audit in the company is composed of decision-making protocols designed to address ethical dilemmas which includes an outline of steps to follow in dealing with ethical problems in the workplace so as to identify ethical issues in the practice settings, assess risk levels, rank order each issue, and eventually develop a strategy to minimize risks. He concluded that social workers have not had access to a structured guide to help to help them assess their efforts to identify and address key ethical issues. Such issues usually comprise confidentiality and privacy, service delivery, professional boundaries, informed consent, defamation, practitioner impairment, and termination of services.
Studies on organizational communication have always been used by large companies so as to ensure good working relationships among employees as well as to evaluate the relationship among members and staff of big corporations. (1997) further elaborated that the idea of global community in a model that suggests intercultural and international communication and ethical problems to best address the immediate need is of much importance to truly build a global community.
Yes, it is true that organizational communication in the area of Human Resource processes involves the integration of such roles addressing to positive communication climate as effective communication is a major factor for the strengthening of work values and attitudes in the diverse workforce. The management should realize and apply actual ways in order for the staff employees to be versatile and effective in their work most in engaging into business interaction to the key players within the organization and in dealing greatly to the customers as well as to improve self confidence and drive better motivation for every situation. An organization needs to consistently promote good communication lines and channel for cooperation to achieve a sustainable work dynamics and synergy in individual staff and work team in terms of providing essential work environment for the success of the organization and achieve its vision for the benefit of the people. It is said that, organizational communication as of the modern times offers a new approach in developing an understanding of diverse work scenarios and skills for work and other organizational activities relating to the process of making decisions, work training and managing conflicts to enhance better skills in communication as well as encourage useful teamwork but also rewarding individual performance facing crucial organizational players. Human resource leaders can help enhance employee morale, individual performance and organizational success. In these uncertain and always changing times and that in situation, communication is critical between managers and its members in order to assure a steady flow of information, an organization should play a major role in assuring effective communication and be delivered in the useful process of communication.
Inescapable as it may seem, workplace dilemmas brought about by different cultures are unavoidable and should be expected at work especially in business firms owned or controlled by individuals from a different cultural orientation especially when they employ the local citizens in their international operations. Dealing properly with situations such as instances of principled power struggle between supervisors and subordinates from different cultural orientations, will be of much help in running a business firm properly and successfully. Addressing conflicts and working out understanding by compromising for the good of all will pave the way to maintain smooth working relationships among the employees, staff, supervisors and subordinates.