Ellen Moore: Living and Working in Korea

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|Ellen Moore (A): Living and Working in Korea | |INBS 520 – Managing Global Workforce | | | |Ellen Moore, a co-senior consultant, is assigned to work in Korea and lead a project | |with her Korean counterpart Jack. Being a woman and having no experience with the | |Korean culture puts her at an early disadvantage which she tries to overcome during | |the first few weeks of her assignment. | | | |Petra Schiffner-Jimenez | |2/8/2012 | | |


The case study “Ellen Moore (A): Living and Working in Korea” shows how a Systems Consulting Group is struggling with challenges originating from the clashing of two disparate cultures. Communication Barriers, unclear leadership and direction, differing attitudes towards hierarchy and authority, problems with group development and low emotional and cultural intelligence in the group are major challenges the team has to face.

One of the biggest challenges is the communication barrier. One of the main causes for communication barriers is cultural diversity. The American culture is known to have a very direct and explicit communication which does not expect the listener to read between the lines or interpret the context. The Korean culture on the other hand uses indirect communication which makes it hard for western cultures to understand what is really meant or wanted. In addition, the Confucianism in the Korean culture teaches to show respect for teachers and superiors. Showing respect to a teacher/superior implies to not ask questions to avoid offending the speaker by implying that the teaching is not well done and that the group cannot follow the subject taught. In this case the cultural behavior of the Korean consultants is causing major problems. Since the knowledge of the Korean consultants is by far not as enhanced as the knowledge of the American counterparts, Scott is trying to give the consultants instructions how to tackle certain problems and how to structure the project, but is not able to confirm if these instructions were understood or if more explanations are needed. In addition, this cultural behavior is reducing the consultants’ ability to openly communicate with their superiors such as Scott, Ellen, Jack and the client and speak freely about concerns, questions or better solutions they might have. Another communication barrier can be recognized in regards to gender. In Confucianism the male-female relationship is equal to superior-subordinate relationship. This causes major tension in the communication between Ellen and Jack since his norms and values might have led him to devalue the authority of Ellen’s input. This might explain why he is holding meetings without inviting Ellen and his refusal to use Ellen’s memo she prepared detailing the progress during her absence. Since Ellen is not speaking the Korean language and needs to rely on a translator, her ability to manage the team effectively and her understanding of different nuances in the Korean language are decreased and sometimes even diminished. Missing language skills is the third major communication barrier in this case which becomes very apparent at the dinner when Jack makes a very passive-aggressive speech in Korean. When the translator stops translating (Jack told her so), Ellen is confronted with not only the language barrier, but also with the cultural barrier of the superior-subordinate relationship and has to confront Jack and tell him to speak in English in order...
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