Cross-Cultural Dynamics in the Workplace
In a world of increasing globalization and cross-cultural interaction, there are many barriers, which hinder the communication process. These barriers, present through cultural differences, can be a strength or a weakness to an organization. Leadership and managers alike, can minimize the effects of weaknesses, and capitalize on the strengths, only if they understand the cross-cultural dynamics they will encounter. Without this understanding, an organization will face many undue difficulties and challenges. Recognizing the cause of these is just the first step in being an excellent leader or manager in a globalized market. Cross-Cultural Dynamics in the Workplace
“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are” (Home Somewhat About Me Collecting Dust Perchance to Dream, 2010). These are the words of Anais Nin, an American author of novels and short stories. In this statement, Nin captures the heart of cross-cultural interaction. Until we know and understand the ways in which we communicate, and how they differ from those in other regions of the globe, management will find it difficult to communicate effectively in other cultural environments. As organizations continue the search for greater reach, management must understand this dynamic. Each individual or employee will see things and act accordingly to who they are. Each person brings a life of history as well as cultural influences to the communication table. To truly see things correctly, one must understand the cultural situation they find themselves in, and be perceptive to how a person views the world around them. In many regards, international business is a wide-open opportunity, however, many barriers exist when doing business abroad. For the expatriate, perhaps one of the greatest of these is the dynamics of cross-cultural communication. This paper will look at two common aspects of communication barriers managers and leaders face while working in cross-cultural environments; these aspects are cultural proxemics and haptics, and cultural behaviors and values. By adding awareness to these cultural dynamics, management will be better equipped to lead, and an organization will be better equipped to succeed. A simple and readily observable cultural communication style is that of cultural proxemics and haptics. These can often become a hindrance or barrier to the communication process, and the cost of such is greatly heightened when dealing with these issues in a work environment where clear communication is essential. Proxemics refers to the study of an individual’s personal space (Hall 1966) and more specifically the “study of how people use and perceive physical space in their interactions with others” (Aliakbari, Faraji & Pourshakibaee 2011). Further, Proxemics, “is how people communicate non-verbally through the use of territory and spatial relationships” (Korbe 2008). The term proxemics, was originally coined by Edward T. Hall in his book, The Hidden Dimension (Hall 1966). An individual’s personal space is commonly referred to, as the separation or distance individuals naturally retain in various social and relational situations or circumstances in which one interacts with others (Hall 1966). The most common occurrence is with one-on-one communication. When two individuals communicate with each other, the distance between the two, on average, differs with culture. For those from the United States, one might say they maintain a comfortable distance, however, as we will see, what is a comfortable distance for someone who was raised State side, often is not the same for someone of another culture. Let us look at a few examples. In Croatia, an Eastern European country located just east of Italy, consideration for one personal space is nearly nonexistent. Where someone from the U.S. would consider perhaps a foot or two a...