Communication and Cultural Considerations
Since communication styles will vary across cultures, it is increasingly important to understand the basic differences in the way people communicate in order to enhance collaboration, success, and relationships. In order to work together and effectively communicate in the workplace, we must search for ways to make the communication work – there is no one right way of communicating.
In all cultures business communication is goal-oriented. The difference is in the ways information is gathered, perceived, or used differently.
- Verbal communication – can either be Direct (assertive) or Indirect (withdrawn and laid back).
- Non-verbal communication – Body movement/gestures; posture, silence, attire, eye contact, space, concept of time.
Perspective on maintaining eye contact – important in western cultures and is seen as a sign of honesty, respect, and attentiveness. In nonwestern cultures it may be less important and seen as a sign of disrespect to engage in steady eye contact with superiors.
Learn the basic differences in the way people communicate non verbally across cultures (greetings).
Individuals from different cultural backgrounds and orientations may have differing values, beliefs, traditions, and practices. Often individuals don’t have the values, attitudes, and behaviors predicted by the generalizations of their culture or share the same customs and beliefs of those within their same culture group.
Cultural norms have a major role in the workplace – they largely influence the mechanics and relationships of the workplace.
Decision making customs
- How a leader is chosen, exercising power, conflict management
- Time allowed for reaching a decision
- How conflict is perceived and managed
Concept of time
- The degree of importance punctuality is in meetings and planned interactions
- Affects the way an individual behaves and speaks to a person of status (respect for status, age, authority, gender, seniority, hierarchy in society)
Individualism vs. Collectivism
- Western cultures value independent decisions, activity, and individual accountability
- Non-Western cultures value group/teamwork, relationships, interdependence, and compete as a group rather than by oneself
- Gender differences, generational differences, and socio-economic differences
- Take on an active role by helping your minority workers adjust to the culture at work
Be aware of different etiquette rules or manners.
What is polite in one culture may be considered rude in another.
- For example, eating during a meeting, how you address a person, etc.
- Credibility and respect based off one’s attire/dress code; formal vs. informal
- Realize that our Midwestern customs may seem foreign to others.