By Jacqueline McLean
Jacqueline McLean FInstAM is Senior Lecturer in HRM (Human Resources Management) at Manchester Metropolitan University. She has worked with the IAM in many different roles since 1992 and is currently a Trustee.
cultural awareness training. It aims to bridge the gap between diverse cultures (Dewald and Self, 2008), ensure that negative occurrences, such as culture shock, are reduced, and develop international managers and those who have interaction with other cultures to perform competently and effectively (Edwards and Rees, 2006). Research has shown that in Europe and the USA, between half and two-thirds of ﬁrms provide cross-cultural awareness training for their international managers (Bennett, Aston and Colquhoun, 2000). Contents of such courses include cross-cultural communication, international negotiation skills and working in cross-cultural teams.
Gaining a deeper understanding of different cultures, such as those mentioned in Figure 1, can enables us to, for example: Identify similarities and differences between cultures. Cope with and adjust to differences in cultures, so that offence is not given. Identify and understand why people do what they do and behave the way they do. Work proactively with cultural differences, to produce mutually satisfying and unifying outcomes (Kumar and Chakravarthi, 2009:44; Lewis, 2007:69). Furthermore, having an appreciation of such cultures helps us to remove our cultural blinkers, overcome our sometimes negative assumptions and develop an understanding of, and an afﬁnity with, other cultures (polycentrism; Morrison, 2002). We are all different; globalisation and the creation of the global village have conﬁrmed that. The challenge for ﬁrms is to harness cultural differences and create and sustain competitive advantage. Culture, as we have seen, can open doors as well as close them, build bridges as well as destroy them and add value in unprecedented ways. Cross-cultural awareness is an opportunity for ﬁrms and associated stakeholders to adapt to life in the twenty-ﬁrst century global village and integrate and communicate effectively with other cultures. In the words of Edward T. Hall and Mildred Reed Hall “The single greatest barrier to business success is the one created by culture…”
Communicating across Cultures
Jacqueline McLean and Richard D. Lewis* comment on the ways in which globalisation is creating a multicultural corporate landscape. Globalisation is, without doubt, carving a new, multicultural corporate landscape. Its march across the globe shows no signs of abating and it has enabled societies, both near and far, to be drawn closer together in a culturally rich and diverse global village. Citizens of this village are working, communicating and interacting with each other and each others’ culture and conducting business together in ways they have never experienced before (Liu and Lee, 2008). This poses its own challenges for managers, who not only have to manage global and local business operations, but also an increasingly multicultural workforce, which possesses multiple perspectives of reality, varying levels of knowledge, education and experience and who are the product of societal norms, values and personal belief systems. If not properly managed, such cultural differences have, according to Hall (1995:21), the potential to “ruin a partnership that otherwise makes perfect sense” and lead to “management frustration, costly misunderstandings and even business failures” (Hoeklin, 1995:ix). This lends more credence not only to the effective management of multiple cultures, but also to awareness and understanding of culture, how it makes us who we are, what we are and why we behave the way we do. Importantly, within this management context, managers must also know how best to communicate with individuals, and global business partners, on a cross-cultural basis. The march of globalisation...