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Intercultural Communication

By knowlegeableme Feb 10, 2012 2290 Words


Problem Statement2-3

Importance Of Study3-4

Objective Of Study4





1.0 Introduction
Communication occurs in everyday life whether it is at home or even within the work place and is respondent to the culture of the parties involved in the communication “Human Communication is the process of knowing something about what happens when people interact. Why it happens, the effects of what happens and finally what we can do to influence and maximize the results of those events…” (Samovar & Porter, 1994:7) Recently there have been many problems between employers and workers due to the breakdown in Communication, that is to say Intercultural communication is limited or non-existent. “Intercultural communication refers to the cultural diversity in the perception of social objects and events…” (Samovar & Porter, 1994:19) Thus the aim of this study is to identify the problems faced by both employers and employees in the process of intercultural communication and to hopefully find possible ways to resolve and reduce the conflicts that arise

2.0 Problem statement
* Miscommunication within the intercultural work place.
When there is a mix of cultures within an organization there will most definitely be a few challenges and problems faced especially when it comes to communication that is misunderstandings may occur due to certain factors as stated by Allwood J. (Ed.) (1985) “The assumed difference in relevant pre-understanding can also lead to misunderstanding, i.e. one actually makes an interpretation but this interpretation is inadequate or incorrect.” That is that because there is an assumed difference in culture, when an employee or employer communicate to each other there is bound to be a misunderstanding due to misinterpretation.

Prejudices of employers towards employees of different cultures Han Yinyan from the Dalian Institute of Light Industry stated “The term prejudice stems from the Latin word praejudicium, which means a precedent, or “a judgment based on previous decisions and experiences”. Prejudice involves making a prejudgment based on membership in a social category. While prejudice can be positive or negative, there is a tendency for most people to think of it as negative.” Plotnik (1986), a psychologist, defined prejudice as “an unfair, biased, or intolerant attitude towards another group of people”. When applied to intercultural communication, prejudice at some disadvantage that is not directly related to the actual conduct of the person, but rather is part of the misjudgment of the person holding the prejudiced views. Thus this mindset is rampant within certain organizations in which there is a mix of cultures where the employers and employees are of different cultural backgrounds

3.0 Importance of study
3.1To investigate why conflicts occur between employers and employees of different cultures and suggest ways to resolve the conflicts that arise: That is we wish to understand why cultural misunderstandings occur between employers and employees and try to resolve the misunderstandings that may arise from the problems faced within the process of intercultural communication

3.2To understand the issues that arise from intercultural conflicts within the work environment:
That is we wish to understand and identify the issues that may arise from the clash in intercultural communication 3.3To investigate the situations that cause intercultural communication conflicts to occur: That is we wish to discover the catalysts that cause intercultural conflicts within communication to arise

4.0 Objectives of study
4.1In order to study and analyse situations and problems that may arise from intercultural communication conflicts * To identify the problems that may arise from intercultural communication conflicts and the situations in which they arise in order to better understand the scope of our study 4.2In order to resolve conflicts that may arise from cultural differences * To find ways to solve the conflicts that may arise from cultural differences in the concept of communication 4.3 In order to understand why intercultural conflicts occur within the work place * To better know the reasons why there are intercultural communication conflicts in the workplace

5.1 Problems
5.1.1Language issues
Within an organization when there are employees of many different cultures sometimes there is bound to be miscommunication or misunderstandings between cultures due to the language aspect. Thus there will be a lack of understanding. According to Allwood J. (1985) “. A lack of understanding is a failure to interpret parts of or all of what the other person is saying or doing. The lack of understanding may be conscious or unconscious, that is, you may or may not notice that you have not understood.” Thus due to the language issue whereby the lingua franca used within the organization may not be the mother tongue of the employee.

5.1.2Attitude and assumption of each of the parties.
Sometimes within the intercultural organization there will be prejudices and stereotypes towards a certain culture and this can cause friction between the employers and the employees. According to Han Yinyan of the Dalian Institute of Light Industry in the journal “Psychocultural factors affecting intercultural communication effectiveness” Stereotypes or Stereotyping is a complex form of categorization that mentally organizes people’s experiences and guides their behavior toward a particular group of people. Lippman, in 1957, indicated that stereotypes are means of organizing people’s images into fixed and simple categories that they use to stand for the entire collection of people. Stereotypes is an exaggerated set of expectations and belief about the attributes of a group memberships category. A stereotype is an overgeneralization about an identity group without any attempt to perceive individual variations within the identity category

5.1.3A lack of awareness and understanding by the negotiators of culture differences. The negotiators of cultural differences are those who become the middle person when there is a conflict of intercultural communication. “If the need of communication between two parties is great and they are not able to speak each other’s language or do not wish to be brought into a position of inferiority toward the other party, they can choose to communicate via a third party. One of the possibilities is then to use an interpreter. If the parties are very mistrustful of one another, as at international political negotiations, two interpreters can be used, one for each party. The interpreter’s task is generally difficult as he/she must constantly compromise between being faithful to what has been said and adapting himself/herself to what he/she knows about the level of pre-understanding of the receiver. His/her social position is also insecure because he/she can often be suspected by both parties of having exploited the potential power he/she has in his/her role as a connecting link.” Allwood J. (Ed) (1985) Thus because the negotiators or interpreters have to compromise there is bound to be a lack of understanding due to the fact that the interpreter has to interpret what they believe the sender wishes to convey and what the receiver wishes to know from the sender and this may cause information to be lost in translation. 5.1.4A failure to examine the factors influencing the management of conflict and negotiation. That is employers fail to understand how to manage conflict and negotiation when they are faced with intercultural communication problems within their organization. This causes conflicts to be settled unprofessionally thus causing a lot of animosity from the parties involved

6.0 Results
6.1.1Affects intercultural harmony
That is when intercultural communication problems arise it can cause a lot of problems in intercultural relations. For example should there be a misunderstanding between a Chinese employer and a Malay employee it may cause problems within both communities thus both communities will start blaming the other for the misunderstanding and it will cause a rift in the social harmony of the community

6.1.2Cause strained diplomatic relations between countries. When intercultural communication problems arise at international levels then they can cause diplomatic relations between certain countries to become strained. For example when the issue of Indonesian domestic workers being abused by their employers in Malaysia it caused diplomatic ties between Malaysia and Indonesia to become strained to the point that the Indonesian government refused to allow any more domestic workers to work in Malaysia that is they did not approve any permits for them to work. Thus we can see that intercultural communication problems can also cause problems with other countries. 6.1.3Poor Morale

That is when intercultural communication problems occur it can cause workers to suffer poor morale because problem employees who are involved in intercultural communication issues can really drag down the spirit of a workplace. As coworkers watch these difficult workers get away with breaking the rules, mistreating others, failing to perform or produce at required level, or being insubordinate. They will feel resentful and unappreciated and perhaps even frightened if the troublemaker poses a threat to their safety or well-being. Thus it affects the morale of the organization.

Ways to solve problem

6.2 Ways To Solve the Problems
6.2.1consideration for other breeds a culture of civility opens This requires experience that leads to greater empathy for other cultural patterns and for the difficulties experienced by those who are trying to come closer to one’s own cultural patterns. For this to happen through education, the studies would thus need to include methods that are able to appeal to emotion, desire and action. One such method is role play. It would be very valuable to try to develop role play as an aid in teaching intercultural communication

6.2.2understanding the diversity
Employers and employees should work together to understand the different cultures that coexist within the work organization. As stated by Allwood J. (Ed.) (1985) “Since the basic difficulty in intercultural communication is the differences that exist between the sender’s and receiver’s cultural background and way of communicating, the first action to reduce the risks of misunderstanding would be to gather an informed insight into the differences and similarities which should not be ignored as they can form a general human base that can be used to solve some of the difficulties in interpersonal communication.” Thus understanding the diversity not only helps to overcome intercultural misunderstandings but helps also to improve interpersonal communication within the work organization

6.2.3Be flexible
Employers and employees should also learn to be flexible and develop skills needed to be used in intercultural communication. As stated by Allwood J. (Ed) (1985) “The most far-reaching goal to achieve good intercultural communication is to give people the ability and skill to live in other cultures and to exercise other communication patterns. For this type of communication, training in the language of the new culture is clearly of the greatest importance. Thus learning the new language is learning intercultural communication as we will be speaking the language of others from different cultural backgrounds compared to us.” This means that we must be susceptible to accept change in the lingua franca of the organization or even abiding by new organizational policies that encourage intercultural communication and understanding.

6.2.4 Develop empathy
Empathy literally means “feeling into” another’s feelings with one’s own, vicariously, and attempting to achieve some i-thou congruence. Empathy is multi-faceted, involving cognitive (thinking), affective (feeling), and communication component: Cognitively , the empathic person take the perspective of another person, and in so doing strives to see the world from the other’s point of view. Affectively, the empathy person experience the emotion of another, he or she feels the other’s experiences. Communicatively, the empathic individual signals understanding and concern through verbal and nonverbal cues (Bell, 1981). Thus through the development of empathy we can manage to understand why a certain person acts a certain way when faced with problems caused my intercultural misunderstandings and such.

6.2.5Management training.
The traditional disciplines of management do not lend themselves to knowledge management and should be revised so that the knowledge based competence of a corporation can be managed effectively and efficiently. Traditional notions about strategy, human resource management, finance and marketing should be re-examined and revised in order to manage knowledge for competitive advantage (Ichijo and Nonaka, 2007:7). I endeavour to review their contributions and indicate how they contribute to our understanding of management theory and practice of management training in communication skills. They must interact with each other to transcend their own boundaries and as a result change themselves. Organizations don’t just solve problems, they create and define them (Nonaka et al., 2000:3). Leaders and individuals should have exemplary communication skills whether they are the employers or the employees within an organization.

7.0 Conclusion
We can see that the problem with intercultural communication is mostly due to human error. Thus we can conclude that although intercultural communication problems are increasing we can still manage to overcome them if we know how to use the theories and management methods to our advantage especially within an organisation.


1. Intercultural Communication: A Reader, 6th Edition, Samovar L.A, Porter R.E. 1991, United States Of America, Wadsworth Publishing Company 2. Inon Beydha Lukman. 2009 ‘Malaysian Labour Review’; Intercultural Communication and Conflict Management Among Malaysian Employers And Indonesian Domestic Workers In Kuala Lumpur; vol. 3,no 2:27-38 3. English translation of: "Tvärkulturell kommunikation" (1985) in Allwood, J. (Ed.) Tvärkulturell kommunikation, Papers in Anthropological Linguistics 12, University of Göteborg, Dept of Linguistics. 4. Delpo, A., Guerin, L.1967 ‘Dealing with Problem Employees’. A Legal Guide, 5th Edition, pp 3-13

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