Throughout my career, I have communicated with international clients primarily through email. For these clients, in particular, I choose email because it is an efficient way to communicate across time zones, and because it allows me to keep a record of conversations for future reference (Frost, 2018).
Communicating through email has worked well for me; however, occasionally, there is an inadvertent error in communication. As an example, I was working with a client in Italy via email to set up an international teleconference. After I confirmed the date, time, call-in information and attendees through another email, I sent my usual calendar invite. I was not concerned about an error in communication because I was confident that the date, time, call-in information and attendees was communicated clearly and properly. Everything looked good on my end, and I thought everything was fine, especially since I did not hear back from the client. It was not until I reached out to confirm the teleconference later in the month that we realized something was wrong. The calendar invite I sent to the client did not reflect properly on his calendar, and he was now scheduled to travel on that particular day. “The problem between anticipated understanding and actual understanding persists even when people know each other” (PSU WC, 2019, L. 4, p. 3). Thankfully, I had an established relationship with him, and I believe because of this he was very understanding of the need to move the teleconference. Moran, Abramson and Moran notes “When communicating across cultures, communication misunderstandings can occur, but they are usually not serious and can be rectified” (Moran, Abramson & Moran, 2014, p. 45).
This breakdown in communication was not intentional and may have ultimately been the result of a software glitch, but it made me realize that I needed to fine tune my own communication skills and not assume that everyone is on the same page. It is my responsibility as the communicator to make sure the international teleconferences are set up properly, and not to depend completely on technology to get it right (Hu-Chan, 2016). Up until then, I was very confident that my communication style was working, but it was clear that I could do better. “By now you are probably getting the point; being overconfident about one’s ability to communicate leads to an egocentric point of view when one creates and sends a message” (PSU WC, 2019, L. 4, p. 3). I knew going forward that I needed to stop depending so heavily on email, and needed to start verbally confirming the details of international teleconferences whenever possible (Frost, 2018). Markman says “When taken literally, as a communication problem, managers look for new modes of communication to ensure information is provided” (Markman, 2017).
Frost, S. (2018, December 10). Top ten communication problems in the workplace. Biz Fluent. Retrieved September 20, 2019 from https://bizfluent.com/info-12099516-top-ten-communication-problems-workplace.html
Hu-Chan, M. (2016, August 19). 5 ways to avoid awkward mistakes when doing business across cultures. Business Insider. Retrieved September 20, 2019 from https://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-avoid-awkward-cross-cultural-business-mistakes-2016-8
Markman, A. (2017, February 22). Poor communication is often a symptom of a different problem. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved September 19, 2019 from https://hbr.org/2017/02/poor-communication-is-often-a-symptom-of-a-different-problem
Moran, R., Abramson, N.R. & Moran, S. (2014). Managing cultural differences (9th ed). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
Pennsylvania State University World Campus (2019). OLEAD 410 Lesson 4: Global Communication. Retrieved September 21, 2019 from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/2008449/modules/items/27026965