Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

3.5. Cultural diversity and communication

ryanrori December 31, 2020

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Cultural diversity can cause noise in the communication process: it can cause misunderstandings between people who are trying to communicate.

As a manager you must always be aware of the various cultures of the people working with you.  Furthermore, you have to be aware of the tensions that cultural differences can cause in departments.  You are the manger and you also have to manage cultural differences and the impact it can have on the communication and smooth running of your section or department.

Firstly, you have to find out about the various cultures of the people working in your team, section or department.  You have to do this so that you do not accidentally say or do something that offends one of your employees.  Some cultures are very reserved – people don’t talk too loudly and don’t laugh uproariously, while for others it is culturally acceptable to talk very loud and to laugh right out of your stomach.  Some cultures find it insulting to look a person in the eye when doing business with them; other cultures require you to look someone in the eyes when talking to them.

The Japanese and Chinese cultures expect you to make small talk before you start talking business, while Americans find this a waste of time.  Certain Eastern cultures expect you to bargain before purchasing an article while the Western cultures want to know the best price up front and don’t really want to haggle about prices.

There are no rights or wrongs as far as different cultures are concerned, to each person his or her culture is the correct one and their feelings should always be respected.  Of course, in return you would expect them to also respect your own culture.  We all know that this is not always the case so you, as the manager, have to ensure that people from different cultures get along together in your team. 

The first step is for you to familiarise yourself with other cultures and then to motivate your staff to get to know each other’s cultures.

Pointers for intercultural communication

It is in the workplace that people from different cultural backgrounds come into contact with each other and unconsciously use different behaviour patterns that can lead to confusion and conflict.  The following skills could help avoid unnecessary misinterpretations:

  • Show openness and respect towards the norms, values and behaviour patterns of people from a different culture.
  • Do not focus on the differences between people (race, colour, background, body language, accent, manners, behaviour) rather focus on what you have in common (self respect, integrity, the need to be accepted and to be recognised, working to be successful)
  • Learn to know more about the culture of people whom you work with, it will make communication more successful.  Know that other cultures are interesting and that you do not come from a superior culture.
  • Choose your words carefully as they not only express your thoughts, they also impress the receiver and the impression your words make motivates the reaction you receive.
  • Use clear simple language.  Select vocabulary, gestures and a body language that your audience will relate to and understand
  • Have empathy – put yourself in the other persons’ shoes and see the situation from their point of view. 
  • Learn to be not only an active listener but also someone who can read the actions, gestures and body language.
  • Mind your manners, be polite acknowledge and respect the differences.