With the emergence of technology and widespread cultural diversity, we have come to a point where communication throughout the world is made easier than ever before. In fact, it is advancing rapidly to the point that there are voice translation applications out now in order to circumvent possible language barriers. Although this level of communication brings about a more inclusive and connected society especially in the business environment, the issue of communication errors still, and will always exist. It currently exists within our own social structure, as well as those around the world; however, there are strategies to avoid these errors.
“The most basic skill that global leaders must cultivate is learning how to effectively communicate and listen cross-culturally” (Moran et al., 2014, p. 66). The term to consider here is ‘listen.’ There is quite the difference between ‘hearing’ what someone has to say, and actually ‘listening’ to them, even though there may or may not be a barrier between them, and their conversational target. This is especially important within a business context, of which is quite common now and in the coming years.
Something to consider is when corporate culture mixes with local culture, that is when issues such as miscommunication have the capacity to take place, or deliberate value changes are made. “As companies institute rules about communication and inclusiveness, they often run into a third problem. Consider the Dutch shipping company TNT, which has long put a premium on task-oriented efficiency and egalitarian management. When it moved into China, it found that neither of those values fit with local norms” (Meyer, 2015). The values of the company, and the values of the individuals can actively clash depending on the environment the company is in, and the leadership styles involved.
In my case as I currently work in the hospitality industry, communication is of utmost importance. It is actively encouraged by management in a variety of ways because interacting with guests daily is the norm, especially when one considers the environment that I am in, as Florida is a tourist-heavy state. These guests come from all over the globe, and as such, I have applied what I have learned thus far in order to provide a worthwhile service. The company understands that communication issues have the capacity to bring about negative outcomes, as speaking with guests and having employees around the world have likely brought forth a multitude of miscommunication scenarios.
As such, there are several rules in place in order to minimize them. For example, the company that I work for already encourages positive listening behaviors, and a unified corporate culture for all employees, which translates to the guests as well. According to Moran et al., there are two positive listening behaviors, the first one being information gathering. “Information gathering is a form of listening. Its purpose is the absorption of information, both stated and nonverbally signaled” (2014, p. 39). Information gathering focuses more on cues that one must be observant of, while still not losing focus on what is actually being said. The second positive listening behavior is active listening. “Active listening requires that the listener demonstrate to the speaker that he/she really understands what is being said” (Moran et al., 2014, p. 40). These strategies have likely come from a place of experience, as cultural and communication barriers have lessened quite a bit. Although there are many more strategies in place, communication issues do occur; however, there is a clear goal surrounding management, and that is to provide a bridge between culture and communication.
Meyer, E. (2015, October). When Culture Doesn’t Translate. Retrieved February 9, 2020, from https://hbr.org/2015/10/when-culture-doesnt-translate
Moran, R. T., Abramson, N. R., & Moran, S. V. (2014). Managing Cultural Differences (9th ed.). Oxford: Routledge.