Cultural Differences Are More Complicated than What Country You’re From Age, region, and industry matter too. Cultural misunderstanding. In the following pages I’ll describe the process of cultural disintegration and illustrate how traditional solutions can backfire. Additionally, the global … But there are many subtle differences that are often not recognized. We read a book, an article, or a blog post about cultural differences. Many global corporations suffer from miscommunication and misunderstandings, especially between the head office and regional units. If all the Shanghai employees are in their thirties and all those in London are in their fifties, the rifts may widen. I’ll conclude with five principles that can help executives prevent disintegration from setting in. Meanwhile, American whites, unaware of the cultural diversity, might blithely assume that the immigrants are black without even realizing that an issue existed. He was clearly exposed to what we can now see as the beginnings of a lively alternative culture. Understanding cultural differences was the whole reason why I became fascinated with the field. Take steps at the start to ensure diversity in each location. – Margaret Millar One Qatari employee told me, “The task-oriented mentality gives us a common work platform within the company, so when Texas-based employees are collaborating with Arabs or Brazilians or Nigerians, we all have a similar approach. Sometimes the misunderstandings get resolved, sometimes they lead nowhere, and sometimes they can escalate to anything from love to war. Although you can vary many rules according to culture and corporate function, the one you absolutely must adopt is ensuring that every cultural group is heard. In these settings we communicate in shorthand, often without realizing it—reading our counterparts’ tone of voice, picking up on subtext. When a Latin American man is talking to an American woman, from her point of view, he is entering her personal space. You might want to put everything in writing to avoid misperceptions later on. Objective The academic debate on cross-cultural interaction within the context of end-of-life care takes for granted that this interaction is challenging. The more we work with people from other cultures in far-flung locations, the less we pick up on subtle meaning and the more we fall victim to misunderstanding and inefficiency. Globalization has led to an upswing in cross-cultural working collaborations, be it between business clients or work colleagues. Stereotypes are often pejorative (for example Italians always run late), and they can lead to distorted expectations about your counterpart’s behavior as well as potentially costly misinterpretations. Organically grown corporate cultures that were long taken for granted begin to break down. The Afghan Ministry of Defense released a pamphlet designed to do for the Afghan troops what we’ve been trying to do with our own: explain how one is supposed to behave among allies of a different culture. ", I was initially taken aback by her bizarre suggestion, but it did occur to me that I might not understand her intent. 2. Get the help you need from a therapist near you–a FREE service from Psychology Today. And don’t forget that cultures can still vary widely, even if you speak the same language. 2. The first imperative when managing a clash between a corporate culture and a national one is understanding the relevant dimensions along which those cultures vary. Consider the Dutch shipping company TNT, which has long put a premium on task-oriented efficiency and egalitarian management. McD's Insult the Chinese. The ad was pulled due to a lack of cultural sensitivity on McDonald's behalf. For example, L’Oréal offers a program called Managing Confrontation, which teaches a methodical approach to expressing disagreement in meetings. If I see you shrink in your seat when the boss asks if you can meet a deadline, I know that your “yes” really means “I wish I could,” and I might follow you to your office after the meeting to hear the real deal. Foreigners see, interpret, and evaluate things differently, and consequently act upon them Culture is a complex concept, with many different definitions. When you invite local offices to phone or video conferences, send the agenda well in advance (not the same day!) While traveling to visit clients in other countries, be open to trying new … This relatively minor cultural misunderstanding created tensions aggravated by the fact that all the local employees in Bangalore had spent their entire lives in India; none were in a position to see things from the other perspective. Ken Carlson Cultural diversity is usually thought of as differences in language, food, and customs. A second common reason for cross-cultural misunderstandings is that we tend to interpret others’ behaviors, values, and beliefs through the lens of our own culture. That said, you can typically reduce the differences you actually have to manage to just three or four dimensions. Copyright © 2020 Harvard Business School Publishing. A company with a strong culture typically hires employees who can fit into that culture and trains them to work and behave in a globally accepted fashion. Culture shapes how we perceive ourselves and interact with the world. At a psychology conference in England years ago, a woman said to me, "I'll knock you up in the morning. As companies internationalize to exploit new opportunities, how can they prevent communication breakdowns, fault lines, and other risks? And that was good for everybody. But many other types of internationalizing companies have activities that may benefit from letting people leave messages open to interpretation, and they, too, need to think carefully about processes that might erode valuable ambiguity in an effort to improve communication. This lack of misunderstanding often leads to xenophobia, a fear of that which is … 1,10. But there are many subtle differences that are often not recognized. Why Your Abusive Narcissistic Mate Claims to Be the Victim, We Have Neanderthals to Thank for These Genetic Traits, Psychology Today © 2021 Sussex Publishers, LLC. It may be one of the finer points of being a nurse, but ultimately it is no less important than doing rounds or assisting in surgery. And it struggled to understand what was said during the call, because the U.S. participants spoke too quickly. In their efforts to fix these problems, companies risk compromising attributes that underlie their commercial success. The obvious solution is to put in place multiple processes that encourage employees to recap key messages and map out in words and pictograms who works for whom, with what responsibilities, and who will take which steps and when. The Western medical model tends to be based on objective data, which can be diagnosed through more and more precise and detailed techniques, but it excludes human and cultural aspects of subjectivity … To overcome this tendency, it is important to learn as much as you can about the other party’s culture. If she finds him attractive and interprets his proximity as a sign of interest—even though he had no such intent—she may reciprocate. And don’t forget that cultures can still vary widely, even if you speak the same language. A new theory aims to make sense of it all. Culture conflict a type of conflict that occurs when different culture values and beliefs clash. Companies that don’t plan for how individual employees and the organization as a whole will adapt to the realities of a global marketplace will sooner or later find themselves stumbling because of unnoticed cultural potholes. Getting culture right should never be an afterthought. Cultural fluency is a key tool for disentangling and managing multilayered, cultural conflicts. Misunderstanding Gandhi - Antony Copley* ... Just how impressionable was the young Gandhi who arrived in London in 1888 at the age of 18 to the cultural life of the imperial capital? In their efforts to fix these problems, companies risk compromising attributes that underlie their commercial success. Employees around the world hear about the importance of debate for success in the company. Only after you’ve figured out where the pressure points are can you make plans for dealing with them. If the Americans want to hear from us on a conference call, they need to send the agenda at least 24 hours in advance so that we can prepare what we’d like to say and get feedback from our peers.”. 1. One U.S. manager, Sarah, told me, “I often need information from individuals on Sanjay’s staff. We realized that even among those of us sitting at headquarters, the added repetition meant better understanding and fewer false starts.”, One downside, of course, is that companies become more bureaucratic and communication slows down. Despite 30 years of experimentation and study, we are only starting to understand that some managerial knowledge is universal and some is specific to a market or a culture. To continue reading this article you need to be registered with Campaign. If you believe that your corporate culture is what makes your company great, you might focus on maintaining it in all your offices, even when it conflicts with local practice. This leads to a breakdown in trust. PDF | On Apr 29, 2018, Aditya Putra Kurniawan published Understanding Cultural Barriers in Counselling Psychology | Find, read and cite all the research you need on ResearchGate Therefore, it will serve employees well to learn the cultural nuances of that country or region, and maybe even the language, if they are seeking to build careers within that organisation. A manager at Louis Vuitton told me, “At our company, managers didn’t finish their sentences. The majority were software engineers in their twenties. Of course, when my staff receives those e-mails, they are paralyzed.”. the status is curable. Unfortunately, they surface in the church as a wellspring of misunderstanding, often leading to broken relationships or sometimes even resulting in church splits. Students may feel confused or under strong pressures to adopt the ways of the dominant culture or to fit in with different student groups. “I’m Just Joking!” (Australian vs. Thai Culture) In this example, we have an Australian national who … Often headquarters wants to be inclusive but finds that employees’ exchanges are hampered by differences in social customs. The Gender Gap in Negotiation May Start Very Young, An Attitude of Gratitude: Why Saying "I Am Grateful" Matters, AI Gains Social Intelligence; Infers Goals and Failed Plans, How Millions of Americans Changed Their Race. But cultural awareness and fluency is important in everyday interactions as well, in order to avoid conflict, and to get the most out of a cross-cultural relationship. Through a deeper understanding of how our cultural differences evolved, we can begin to deal with intercultural conflict. The OBC […] Misunderstandings in cross-cultural communication can occur as a result of the following cultural differences and needs: Language spoken It is possible that one party thought they used a word in an appropriate context, but it may have been misinterpreted. For many organizations, that kind of change is largely positive. While there are variations throughout Latin America, and in the United States as well, in general, Latin Americans stand closer to one another when speaking than do Americans. Undocumented Migrants Hurt American Economy, Or Do They. Is Stop-and-Frisk Racial Discrimination Against Latinos? Although each of these conflicts seems distinct, our book, Clash! Members of a cult… If you say yes even though you mean no, I’ll think that you agreed. Where was the section to talk about problem areas? McD's Insult the Chinese. Related: 4 Ways to Embrace Diversity for Workplace Success 5. Our typical heuristic, understandably, is culture. Another variable is the culture of the organisation itself. The present work highlights three techniques, namely the culture awareness technique (CAT), the cultural misunderstanding technique (CMT) and the critical incident technique (CIT). “It’s fine” (Dutch vs. British Culture) In this example, we have a Dutch national who has recently moved to the UK. I was born and raised in Minnesota, but as an adult I have mostly lived in Europe and Africa. Cultural miscommunication. Ken Carlson Cultural diversity is usually thought of as differences in language, food, and customs. One manager told me, “The more we wipe out ambiguity between what was meant and what was heard, the further we wander from that essential mysterious ingredient in our corporate culture that has led to our success.”. This cultural misunderstanding led to an 8-month delay in the signing of the contract. There are several reasons an American man might do so, one of which is erotic interest. Different approaches to professional communication are just one of the innumerable differences in workplace norms from around the world. Mix the tasks and functions among locations. Volunteer tourism is an increasingly popular activity in which individuals combine travel with voluntary work. Free Articles. “The more we wipe out ambiguity between what was meant and what was heard, the further we wander from that essential mysterious ingredient in our corporate culture that has led to our success.”, Four leaders on the cross-border challenges they've faced, “The first time I used the company’s form to give a performance review, I was confused. Oxford University Press, 2015. Acknowledge that racism has shaped our culture in very negative ways, creating barriers of mistrust and misunderstanding. One possible origin of the concept is in a cultural misunderstanding regarding personal space. But that isn’t the only cost. Harvard Business Publishing is an affiliate of Harvard Business School. When one New York–based financial institution opened offices in Asia, it struggled to export its highly collaborative culture, in which key decisions involve a great deal of consultation. A cultural misunderstanding occurs when something—a word, gesture, object, social context, almost anything you can think of—has different meanings in two cultures. Menopause or Aging? As companies internationalize, their employees lose shared assumptions and norms. He also said that the Americans rarely invited comments from the Thais, expecting them to jump into the conversation as they themselves would. But as companies internationalize, their employees become geographically dispersed and lose their shared assumptions and norms. Where was the section to talk about problem areas? Because we aren’t in the same place, we can’t read one another’s body language—and because we’re from different cultures, we probably couldn’t read it accurately even if we were within arm’s length. I e-mail them asking for input but get no response. Be open to trying new things. Communication, Laurel has inquired about Mrs. Xie’s cultural and religious beliefs and traditions, and the influence these may have on Mrs. Xie’s healthcare needs. The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly. Misunderstanding multiculturalism. Check in with international participants every five or 10 minutes and invite them to speak: “Any input from Thailand?” or “Budsaree, did you have any feedback?”. (See my May 2014 HBR article, “Navigating the Cultural Minefield.”) For instance, French executives expecting straight talk from U.S. colleagues are routinely tripped up by Americans’ reluctance to give harsh feedback, while expatriate Americans are often blindsided by their outwardly polite and socially aware French bosses’ savage critiques. The ad caused uproar over the fact that begging is considered a … Despite management’s best efforts, the local offices created what one executive described as “overseas cocoons,” in which employees shared work and consulted with one another but remained isolated from their colleagues in the United States. The areas that lend themselves to more-explicit procedures include finance, IT, and production. 1. Unfortunately, cross-cultural differences may create tense moments and an inability to reach a compromise if people and groups are unable to understand one another. I teach cross-cultural management at the international business school Insead, near Paris.For the … Several key cultural perspectives on vaccination stem from (1) individual rights and public health stances toward vaccination, (2) various religious standpoints and vaccine objections, and (3) suspicion and mistrust of vaccines among different U.S. and global cultures and communities. 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