Cross-Cultural Communication Discussion

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Scientific Bulletin – Economic Sciences, Volume 15/ Issue 2
ANALYSIS OF INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION IN
ORGANIZATIONS
Ruxandra GEORGESCU
University Valahia Targoviste, Romania, gruxandra11@yahoo.ro
Abstract:This article want to highlight the communication mechanisms that influence
intercultural management and the behaviour of people from different cultures in a
company and the attire that must wear some of the world’s cultures. This research aims
to analyze how the overall objectives of the internal communication in organizations
influence the effectiveness and organizational effectiveness, namely the organization’s
performance.
Key words: intercultural communication, behavior, types of communication
JEL Classification Codes: J24, J80, D83.
1. INTRODUCTION
Communication, unlike other components of management and organization as a whole, has
features that do not allow its research in the same way as other issues organizational or
managerial. First, communication is omnipresent in all company activities; its study cannot be
done in isolation but in the context of organizational and integration management functions.
Secondly, degree of generalization research is organizational communication lower than in
other areas. Communication is specific to each company individually.
Each company has its own communication system according to the profile, size and
especially, organizational culture. There are common elements, but elements of each
organization determine the communication climate.
On the other hand, companies in Romania have much experience in this field. Those which
are subsidiaries of large foreign companies and have the expertise of the mother company take
rules, models, policies; practices need to be modified for local firms. Large domestic firms tried
to create their own rules and systems of communication, but it wasn’t a priority in all cases
The most important element in intercultural groups is communication and how it influences
the discussions and the success of business.
2. THE IMPORTANCE OF INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION
A major part of every international business is the global communication. In every
international business activity, the success depends on the effectiveness of the communication
with other cultures. Apart from the language differences, they need to focus on the social
attributes, religion, attitudes and other facts from different cultures. All these communication
terminologies are known as “Intercultural Communication”.
Intercultural communication is not only about language, but also about managing a
different language. There are different understandings about culture and language in other
countries. People travelling and living abroad should make an attempt to become familiar with
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Ruxandra GEORGESCU
the local culture and show respect, which will leave a positive impression and improve the
relationship with the host. Moreover, using native-language slang and style in foreign countries
is not recommended, because it will confuse listeners.
Hence, it is always better for more effective communication to explain things in simple
words. People should not judge the behavior of others based on their own culture. For example,
people from different cultures have different ways of greetings and should understand diverse
behaviors around the world for effective intercultural communication.
Sheida Hodge responds to the question about the impediments of good communication:
“Problems with meaning are especially important in cross-cultural communication. What you
mean when you say something is not necessarily what the other side hears. Messages derive a
large part of their meaning from their cultural context. In a cross-cultural communication,
messages are composed or ‘coded’ in one context, sent, and then received or ‘decoded’ in
another cultural context.” (Hodge, 2000, p. 145)
3. THE COMMUNICATION MODEL
Communication can be defined as the process of transmitting meanings (Blom and Meier,
2002, p. 73). Gibson (2002, p. 9) also states that communication is the exchange of meaning,
involving the sending and receiving of information between a sender and a receiver. This
happens not only through words, but also non-verbal factors are involved. The problem is that
the message received can be very different from the message that was sent. Adler (1991, p. 64)
even states that “(…) the sent message is never identical to the received message”.
A common model for communication is as follows (figure 1):
Figure 1. A common model for communication
Source: Own graph based on Jandt, 1995, as cited in Gibson, 2002
The idea or feeling is sent by the source by putting it into symbols. Several conditions
influence the communication capacity, for example his/her communicative capabilities and
his/her socio-cultural system, which disposes of implicit norms and values that influence the
message (Blom and Meier, 2002, p. 75). The message is transmitted through a channel. A
channel is a medium used for communication, for instance emails, letters, telephone calls or
face-to-face conversations. Then, the message is interpreted (decoded) by the receiver, who
responds. To see if the message has been understood, one has to measure the reaction and the
feedback of the receiver. The context is seen as the general environment, also called extra-verbal
communication level (Hasenstab, 1999, p.154), in which the communication takes place. Noise
means anything that distorts the message. To see if the communication has been effective one
has measure.“ (…) the degree to which a message is received and understood, and if the
receiver’s reaction to the message correspond to the sender’s purpose in sending it ” (Tosi et al.
1990, pp. 450f).
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Analysis of Intercultural Communication in Organizations
Intercultural communication takes place when the sender and the receiver are from
different cultures, meaning:“ (…) the process of communication between individuals from
different cultures” (Jacob, 2003, p. 72).Communication can be very difficult if there is a big
difference between the two cultures. Hence, if there is too much “cultural noise”, communication
can fail (Gibson, 2002, p. 9). Intercultural communication generally involves face-to-face
communication between people from different national cultures. The main personal traits that
affect intercultural communication are:
1. self-concept (refers to the way in which a person views his- or herself);
2. self-disclosure (refers to the willingness of individuals to openly and
appropriately reveal information about themselves to their counterparts);
3. self-monitoring (refers to the use of social comparison information to control and
modify one’s self-presentation and expressive behavior);
4. social relaxation (the ability to reveal only little anxiety in communication).
Effective communicators must know themselves well and, with the help of their selfawareness, initiate positive attitudes. Individuals must express a friendly personality to be
competent in intercultural communication. (Jandt, 2013, pp. 35f).
Nowadays, the telecommunication revolution permits rapid correspondence with business
partners around the world. Communication via fax, telex, e-mail, cell phone and video
conferencing enables us to constantly stay in touch with our international counterparts.
Nevertheless, these technological marvels have not eliminated the need for face-to-face contact
with our relationship-focused customers and partners. Relationship-focused people are less
comfortable to discuss important issues in writing or by phone. They expect to see their suppliers
and partners in person more often than is considered necessary in “deal-focused” markets.
(Gesteland, 2002, p. 29)
4. NEGOTIATING ACROSS CULTURES
In any cross-cultural exchange between managers from different regions, the principal
purpose of communication is to seek common ground – to exchange ideas, information, gain
customers, and sometimes even establish partnerships between the parties. Business in general
and management especially, rely on people’s willingness and ability to convey the meaning
between managers, employees, partners, suppliers, investors and customers.
There are numerous comprehensive models that attempt to capture the various elements of
the communication process (figure 2). According to this model, characteristics inherent in the
cultural environments of each participant help to determine various beliefs underlying the
communication process. In a cross-cultural environment, these cultural drivers often influence
the extent to which communication would be open and sincere.
As a result of these normative beliefs, certain culturally compatible communication
strategies emerge, including people’s expectations and objectives in initiating or responding to a
message or comment, choice of language and transmission strategies. Three principal
communication behaviors can be identified as verbal, non-verbal and virtual. These strategies are
aimed at achieving a number of intended message outcomes.
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Ruxandra GEORGESCU
Figure 2. Cultural influences on the communication process – a model
Source: Adapted from Nardon/Sanchez-Runde/Steers, 2010, p. 202
Limitations on both message content and the choice of message transmission can be found
across cultures. This is mostly a challenge for the senders as well as the recipients of the
message. Senders must decide how to formulate a message, so it is consistent with the sender’s
culture but also consistent with the recipient’s culture. However, what is acceptable in one
culture might not necessarily be acceptable in another. Communication patterns include message
content, message context, communication protocols, single-language communication,
technology-mediated communication, and information-sharing patterns. These all patterns
illustrate many of the challenges faced by global managers when communicating across cultures.
(Nardon/Sanchez-Runde/Steers, 2010, p. 203)
Figure 3. Selected elements of the negotiation process in comparison between US-Americans,
Japanese and Arabs (Source: Based on Chaney/Martin, 1995, p. 183)
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Analysis of Intercultural Communication in Organizations
5. LEVELS OF COMMUNICATION
According to Watzlawick et al. (1969) every message has a content aspect and a
relationship aspect. Therefore, in our way of communicating with another person we also show
our opinion about this person and in which relationship we are in. Hence, the aspect of content
transmits information, facts, results etc. and the relationship aspect makes statements about the
contact, climate, emotional aspects and the interpersonal relationship.
Relationship aspects are especially transmitted by non-verbal communication. With laughs,
intonation, mimic and gestures the speaker expresses for instance what he thinks about the
receiver of the message and how important conversation is for him/her. This makes it clear that
non-verbal language is often the source of misunderstandings during intercultural meetings
(Blom/Meier, 2002, pp.79–80). The interpretation of non-verbal behavior according to own
cultural norms, although the conversational partner has his/her own encoding, leads to
misunderstandings (ibid.). To understand intercultural communication requires an accurate
perception of what is conveyed in the verbal as well as the para- and non-verbal mode.
Regarding to that, Jacob (2003, p. 72) states that “beliefs and attitudes about a person from
another culture can often be communicated through behavior, even when nothing has been
verbalized.”
In the following figure, the modes of communication – verbal-, para-verbal-, and nonverbal – are illustrated (figure 4).
Figure 4. Modes of communication (Source: Own graph based on Blom/Meier, 2002)
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Ruxandra GEORGESCU
6. TRANSLATION PROBLEMS
Even within one language and/or culture, translation problems can occur, e.g. when a
metaphor is unknown or someone is sarcastic or misunderstood as being sarcastic.
Several problems that can lead to intercultural communication barriers are described in Table 1.
Table 1. Five possible translation problems
Vocabulary
equivalence
Idiomatic
equivalence
“Languages that are different often lack words that are directly translatable.”
(Jandt, 2013, pp. 141f )
“In translating idioms, the translator meets various difficulties that are not so
easy to overcome. The main problem is the lack of equivalence on the idiom
level. It would be perfect if a translator could find an idiom in the target
language which was the same in its form and meaning as that of the source
language.
However, even though each language has its idioms, it is still hard to find the
exact equivalent.” (Straksiené, 2013, p. 1)
Grammatical-syntactical “That simply means that languages don’t necessarily have the same grammar.”
(Jandt, 2013, p. 143)
equivalence
“If an object or experience does not exist in your culture, it’s difficult to
Experiential equivalence translate words referring to that object or experience into that language when no
words may exist for them.” (ibid.)
Conceptual
equivalence
“The problem of conceptual equivalence refers to abstract ideas that may
not exist in the same fashion in different languages.” (ibid., pp. 143f)
7. ENGLISH “A LINGUA FRANCA”
In the whole world, the use of English has become more common and essential. In order to
be able to communicate in the wide range of international business, English is set as the common
communication language. While in the 19th century, English was the language of commerce,
French of diplomacy and German of science, today English is the universal language of all three
of them, although it is not the world-wide most widely spoken language, as you can see in the
following figure. (Jandt, 2013, pp. 147f)
Through colonialism and emigrations the English language spread over to other continents
and counted by 1990 an estimated number of 750 million people using English as their second
language. Today English dominates areas like science, technology, commerce, tourism,
diplomacy and music. It is the native language in 12 countries and 33 others use it as official or
semiofficial language. The study of English is mandatory or admired in at least 56 countries.
Through global communication English has become necessary for companies, scientists and
politicians. (Jandt, 2013, pp. 148f.; Rothlauf, 2012, pp. 202f)
The five most widely spoken languages worldwide are presented in Table 2.
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Analysis of Intercultural Communication in Organizations
Table 2. The five most widely spoken languages worldwide
Language
Approximate number of speakers
1. Chinese
1,197,000,000
(Mandarin)
(848,000,000)
2. Spanish
414,000,000
3. English
335,000,000
4. Hindi
260,000,000
5. Arabic
237,000,000
8. THE NECESSITY OF MULTICULTURAL TEAMS
With the increasingly diverse workforce of this century, managers in today’s multicultural
organizations will need skills to realize the full potential of both domestic work teams and crossborder alliances. The ability to develop effective transnational teams is essential in light of the
ongoing proliferation of foreign subsidiaries, joint ventures and other transnational alliances.
Multinational groups of many types are evident: the management team of an international
joint venture, a group developing a product for multiple-country markets, a group responsible for
formulating an integrated European strategy, a task force charged with developing
recommendations for rationalizing worldwide manufacturing, and, increasingly, even the top
management team of the firm itself” (Hambrick /Davidson/Snell/Snow, 1998, p. 181).
The term “multicultural teams” describes compositions of team members from several
countries who must rely on group collaboration if each member is to experience the optimum of
success and goal achievement. To achieve the individual and collective goals of the team
members, international teams must provide the means to communicate the corporate culture,
develop a global perspective, coordinate and integrate the global enterprise, and be responsive to
the local market needs.
Group multiculturalism are (Hodgetts/Luthans)

Homogenous groups, which are characterized by members who share similar
backgrounds and generally perceive, interpret, and evaluate events in similar ways.
An example would be a group of male German bankers who are forecasting the
economic outlook for a foreign investment.

Token groups, in which all members but one have the same background. An
example would be a group of Japanese retailers and a British attorney who are
looking into the benefits and shortcomings of setting up operations in Bermuda

Bicultural groups, which have two or more members of a group, represent each of
two distinct cultures. An example would be a group of four Mexicans and four
Canadians who have formed a team to investigate the possibilities of investing in
Russia.
9. CHALLENGES FOR MULTICULTURAL TEAMS
The role and importance of international teams increases as the company progresses in its
scope of international activity. Similarly, the manner in which multicultural interactions affect
73
Ruxandra GEORGESCU
the firm’s operations depends on its level of international involvement, its environment, and its
strategy. For multinational enterprises, the role of multicultural teams again becomes integral to
the company; since the teams consist of culturally diverse managers and technical experts
located all around the world or at different subsidiaries.
“Situations in which a manager from one culture communicates with a native of another
culture (one-on-one) or supervises a group from a different culture (token groups) can be quite
difficult. What happens in work or project groups with members from two cultures (bicultural
group) and in those with members representing three or more ethnic backgrounds (multicultural
groups)?” (Kopper, 1992, p. 235)
The team’s ability to work together effectively is crucial to the success of the company.
However, each group member has a different perception of his or her contribution towards
effectiveness and efficiency. Smith/Berg (1997, p. 7) have described in which ways those
perceptions can differ:
• acceptance of authority
• goal building process
• motivation
• corporate strategy
• time management
• decision making process
• conflict solution
• emotions
Moreover, in culturally diverse groups, the perceptions of team members can widely differ
as far as the analysis, the process situation itself, the evaluation and the contribution each team
member has to deliver are concerned (Schroll-Machl, 1995, p. 212). In such a situation, the team
members are looking for orientation and help which is normally part of their own cultural
background. The logical consequence out of this scenario is quite obvious: irritation and mistrust
will arise, because the expectations are not in line with the relevant perceptions. The situation
will become worse if companies do not interculturally prepare their staff for international
assignments.
The “Zürich-Versicherungs-Gesellschaft” belongs to those companies which have
recognized the importance of providing intercultural training. A seminar entitled “Working
Together in a Multicultural Organization” underlines the readiness of the company to prepare
their staff for working in multicultural teams. The reasons for those intercultural trainings can be
found in an analysis the company had carried out (Saunders, 1995, p. 94):




premature return of the expatriate
missing contacts with the local society
communication problems within multicultural teams
private problems, mainly caused by the dissatisfaction of family members
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Analysis of Intercultural Communication in Organizations
10. CONCLUSIONS
I gave a major importance of communication in this article because in an organization
communication is of paramount importance. If we were to refer only to managerial decision and
would be good enough emphasis as a success for its adoption and execution they are unthinkable
without a perfect communication between the management team members and between them
and the rest of the employees. Management consists, above all, in making, using communication,
interpersonal influence a process exercised in a particular situation and directed toward
achieving or achievement of objectives. To lead means to communicate means, above all, to
convey ideas, feelings, decisions and subordinates the opportunity to return information.
Today, communication has become increasingly important and nuanced. In professional
life, employees are faced with an excess of information, and communication failure and even
absent. Information and communication are two different notions, but interdependent.
Information put people in relationships with certain information and communication put people
in relationships with other people.
But what it means to communicate? This period consists of the transmission of information
by a source (transmitter) to one or more recipients (receivers), through channels and the media in
the form of messages symbolic (coded) and the retransmission of a message (response) from the
receiver to the transmitter (Emilian Radu).
Good communication leads to a system of mutual cooperation which would support
organization for the realization of goals, being able to create such a climate generator efficiency
and human satisfaction. Communication organization’s mission is to a position, to confer a
renowned personality and an identity distinct from the competition. Internal communication is
the relationship that develops between the organization’s human resources. It is one that should
be a priority in the communication policy of the company. An organization will not be able to
create a favorable image in the market or in front of his business associates as long as the staff is
insufficiently informed, listened.
This article talked about communication between employees of different cultures, the
necessity in a company and the success it brings good communication.
Whether we are talking about verbal or non-verbal communication is an essential
component of life, the component to be understood as correctly to achieve their goals. There is
no concrete definition of communication but at least it can be said that communication means
intentional transmission of data information. I chose this topic because communication in an
organization represents an essential role in the running and development as well as for the
effective day by day exercice. In fundamentally develops relations following communication,
organization and functioning and survival relies on effective relationships between individuals
and groups. Communication helps individuals and groups to coordinate their activities to achieve
goals and is vital in socialization processes, decision making, problem solving, and change
management.
When communication is not effective in an organization, we can think to introduce human
resources in a communications course suitable group that make people part with the specificities
of each culture (age, nationality, culture, profession, expectations) to understand each person’s
way of expressing themselves, with as expected of interlocutor. After all, developing human
resources the means the success of organization.
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Ruxandra GEORGESCU
REFERENCES:
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Adair, J. Confucius on Leadership, Oxford 2013. Adelman, M.B., Cross-cultural adjustment: A
theoretical perspective on social support. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 12,
183–204, 1988.
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Bolman, L.G./Deal, T.E., Modern Approaches to Understanding and Managing Organizations,
San Francisco 1984
3.
Carte, P./ Fox, C., Bridging the culture gap: a practical guide to international business
communication, London 2004.
Gibson, R. Intercultural Business Communication. Oxford 2002
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Laurent, A., The cultural diversity of western conceptions of management, in: International
Studies of Management and Organization, 13/1-2, 1983
A Global View on Intercultural Management: Challenges in a Globalized World, Jürgen
Rothlauf, 1 january 2015
Rothlauf, J., Multicultural Management Insights with a specific focus on Multicultural Teams,
Pau, 2009
Emilian Radu , “ Human resources management manual”
http://www.referatul.ro/
fr.scribd.com “Comunicarea Intr-o-Organizatie”
Management, “New Ideas for Business”, New York 1994.
Ulrich, A., “The importance of intercultural knowledge for the future”, in: BSN, Nr. 16, 2004.
Unger, K.R..
76
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or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder’s express written permission. However,
users may print, download, or email articles for individual use.

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