Cross-Cultural Training Program to Improve Cross-Cultural Communications

2729 words (11 pages) Business Assignment

18th Nov 2020 Business Assignment Reference this

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Table of Contents

Letter of Transmittal

Executive Summary

Introduction

 Purpose and Scope

 Assumptions

 Methods

Cultural Differences and Communication Issues

 High-Context vs. Low-Context Cultures

 Individualist vs. Collectivist Cultures

Improving Cross-Cultural Communications

Conclusions and Recommendations

References

List of Illustrations

Table 1: Preferences of High-Context and Low-Context Cultures

Table 2: Preferences of Collectivist and Individualist Cultures

Executive Summary

This report recommends that MVC employees, who communicate with individuals of other cultures, participate in a Cross-Culture Training program to achieve an increase in the understanding of different cultures and how the American culture is perceived. The employees will also need to learn how to address and resolve issues arising from these cultural differences.

Accordingly, we will analyze the issues that occurred while negotiating a Joint Venture between MVC and the Chinese company. We will examine these issues as to how they relate to cultural differences and how they can be avoided in future negotiations.

The purpose of this report is to help our employees understand what went wrong in the negotiation with the Chinese company, why these issues occurred, and ultimately develop their cross-culture communication strategies.

To achieve this, the report will first address the main cultural differences examined in the documentation of the comments from the negotiating between MVC and the Chinese company. These differences include:

  1. Americans being from a low-context culture, while Chinese people being from a high-context culture;
  2. And the American culture being an individualist, while the Chinese culture being a collectivist

By addressing the main cultural differences, the report will also inform the employees of issues that arise due to such differences. The report’s aim will be to inform the employees of the following:

  1. Their culture and how it compares to cultures similar to that of China’s. Being aware of your own culture and how it is perceived by others is just as important as learning about the other cultures. This awareness will enable the employees to improve interactions with people from other cultures as it will equip them with the knowledge necessary to understand what the two sides of the interaction value.
  2. A cross-cultural training program to provide an engaging learning environment. Introducing the cross-cultural training program will provide valuable experience for MVC’s employees, which will further hone their knowledge of cross-cultural communication and train them for different real-life situations by using case studies, simulations, and role-plays.

Introduction

 

The presence of cultural differences often affects certain aspects of communication. This effect is negative when an individual is unaware of the cultural differences and how to deal with them, often leading to miscommunication and an unsuccessful interaction.

Purpose and Scope

The purpose of this report is to recommend a solution that will improve MVC’s cross-cultural communications. In doing so, the report will highlight some cultural differences between the US and China and how these differences may lead to misunderstandings.

The report will focus on two main cultural differences: high-context and low-context cultures, and individualist and collectivist cultures. To address these differences, the report recommends a cross-cultural training program aimed to educate the employees on the different cultures and how to avoid miscommunications when doing business with stakeholders from those cultures.

Although there are other cultural differences that could be addressed, I will be focusing only on the two listed above as I found them to be the main factors leading to cross-cultural miscommunication.

The report does not speak to the types of cross-cultural training programs that are available nor the estimated costs of such programs.

Assumptions

My recommendations are based on the assumptions that MVC would be willing and are able to provide a cross-cultural training program for the involved employees.

Methods

My research for this report was obtained from scholarly articles and academic business journals concentrated on cultural differences and how they affect communication. The examples used in the report come from the provided documentation of the comments from MVC’s trip to China.

Cultural Differences and Communication Issues

The US and China reflect distinctive cultural realities that heavily influence their values and behaviours. While the Chinese culture is less assertive and more collectivist, the North American culture is more direct in their communication and focus on personal independence. These aspects of the Chinese and American cultures can raise difficulties when communication is required between the two nations. However, if at least one side is informed of the potential cultural differences, these difficulties will be eliminated, and interactions will run smoothly.

In order to be the informed side of the interaction, the report will inform the employees about the two major cultural differences found between China and America. We will also relate these differences back to the negotiation between MVC and the Chinese company by explaining what went wrong. 

High-Context vs. Low-Context Cultures

The first difference is the concept of high and low context cultures where “Edward T. Hall proposed [it] as a way of understanding different cultural orientations” (Kim, 1998). This concept is used to summarize how people from similar cultures relate to one another in social harmony and communication. High-context cultures tend to be more implicit in their communications. In contrast, low-context cultures tend to communicate messages directly and clearly (Kim, 1998). Table 1 highlights more differences in the preference of each culture below, where China and the US have been identified as high-context and low-context cultures, respectively.

Table 1

Preferences of High-Context and Low-Context Cultures

High-Context Culture (China)

Low-Context Culture (US)

Indirect and implicit messages

Direct, simple and clear messages

Low reliance on written communication

High reliance on written communication

Use intuition and feelings to make decisions

Rely on facts and evidence for decisions

Long-term relationships

Short-term relationships

Throughout the negotiation, while Mr. Jones’ messages were clear and direct, Mr. Wang’s were very ambiguous. However, by referring to Table 1, we notice this to be a cultural difference. Americans view direct communication to be professional and efficient, however, the Chinese find it extremely rude and might have taken offence to how direct Mr. Jones had been. Moreover, the Chinese culture finds that communicating indirectly and placing higher value on the nonverbal elements of speech sounds more polite (Kim, 1998).

Another issue that came up multiple times throughout the negotiation is the contract. One may notice that the reliance on a written communication is the American way of trust and assurance, whereas Mr. Wang states that the “Chinese do business on the basis of personal relationships, friendships and trust and not on the basis of some written document” (Pudelko, 2005).

The main issues that arise with these differences are socially accepted ways of communication and trust. Someone who comes from a low-context culture may be very direct with their requests, which is very rude to someone who comes from a high-context culture that would prefer building a long-term relationship first. Additionally, when individuals from a high-context culture are indirect in their speech and do not rely on written contracts, a person from a low-context culture may view them as dishonest. In general, high-context communication is considered fast and efficient, but the Chinese prioritize time for programming.

Individualist vs. Collectivist Cultures

The second cultural difference is the concept of individualism and collectivism and Triandis (1995) sees it as “the most important attribute that distinguishes one culture from another”. In collectivist cultures, people are expected to work in groups that protect them in exchange for their compliance and loyalty. Furthermore, collectivists conform and maintain harmony and social order. In contrast, individualist cultures value uniqueness, initiative, self-determination, and the ability to work well independently. China is regarded to have a collectivist culture, while the US is viewed to have an individualist culture (Communicaid, 2010). Each culture can be summarized by the traits found in Table 2.

Table 2

Preferences of Collectivist and Individualist Cultures

Collectivist (China)

Individualist (US)

Avoid direct confrontation

Direct communication

Group comes first

Self and immediate family come first

Collaborative

Competitive

Focus on tradition and precedent

Focus on growth and progress

Other reasons for why a collectivist would prefer using indirect communication is the risk for them to be politically incorrect or raise conflict, causing them to lose face and social order. To uphold face, collectivists also place a greater emphasis on preserving harmonious interpersonal relations, which is where they tend to be group focused. However, individualists believe it is a loss of face when others do not consult them or keep them in the known. Being consulted assures individualists that their opinion matters as unique individuals (Merkin, 2015).

The concept of losing face and harmony is shown in Mr. Wang’s documentation when Mr. Jones corrected him over a point that he made during one of the meetings. Mr. Wang stated, “It was just a detail, no reason fighting over,” which indicates why collectivists avoid direct confrontation. Correcting someone in front of their team or directly saying ‘no’ destroys harmony in the group.

Moreover, a culture based on collectivism may impact the amount of time a given task may take. This is due to China’s group-focused and collaborative system. While Mr. Jones was able to make decisions on behalf of MVC for the majority of the time, Mr. Wang had to consult his peers and superiors. This led to a delay that might have seemed intentional on the Chinese company’s behalf.

Therefore, the series of misunderstandings that occurred during the negotiation were caused by one party being an individualist, while the other being a collectivist. If at least one of the parties were made aware of these cultural differences, there would have been more understanding that would have led to a smoother negotiation.

Improving Cross-Cultural Communications

Introducing a cross-cultural training program to MVC can help avoid future cross-cultural miscommunications in the future. Researchers have stressed the importance of cultural empathy in training courses as they impart knowledge and understanding of foreign countries (Forster, 2006). Participating in such course could provide the following:

  • information about the cultural orientation and value systems of the culture
  • cultural assimilation training, consisting of brief episodes describing intercultural encounters
  • language training
  • sensitivity training to develop attitudinal flexibility

The aim of the program will be to make the employees more aware of their culture and how it is perceived by other cultures. It also aims to educate the appropriate employees about cultural differences and other cultures’ values. Practicing their communication and attitude towards certain events by using roleplays will further enable them to become great communicators when faced with cross-cultural issues in the future.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Cross-cultural communications may fail if neither side is aware of the cultural differences or how to address issues that arise from these differences. These cultural differences may arise from one party having a high-context culture while the other having a low-context culture. Another cultural difference is the concept of collectivism and individualism.

However, the differences can be smoothened out by using a cross-cultural training program that focuses on the following:

  1. Making employees aware of their own culture and how it is perceived. Being aware of your own culture will inform you of the stereotypes circulating around your it. This will enable you to adjust your communication strategies accordingly and have an overall better interaction.
  2. Providing awareness of cultural differences. This will help avoid any miscommunications that would occur due to cultural differences.
  3. Providing engaging learning environment. By using cases and simulations of cross-cultural issues, the employees will be better equipped to handle real-life issues.

References

  • Communicaid Group Limited. (2010). “Cross Cultural Preferences: Individual or Group?” Communicaid, https://www.communicaid.com/cross-cultural-training/blog/individualism-vs-collectivism/.
  • Forster, Nick. (2006). “Expatriates and the Impact of Cross‐Cultural Training.” Wiley Online Library, University of Western Australia, https://onlinelibrary-wiley-com.proxy1.lib.uwo.ca/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1748-8583.2000.tb00027.x.
  • Kim, Donghoon, et al. (1998). “High‐versus Low‐Context Culture: A Comparison of Chinese, Korean, and American Cultures.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/(SICI)1520-6793(199809)15:6<507::AID-MAR2>3.0.CO;2-A.
  • Merkin, Rebecca. (2015). “The Relationship between Individualism / Collectivism.” The Relationship between Individualism / Collectivism, Journal of Intercultural Communication, https://www.immi.se/intercultural/nr39/merkin.html.
  • Pudelko, M. (2005). “Cross-Cultural Negotiation: Americans Negotiating a Contract in China”. The University of Edinburgh. Reference no: 405-066-1. Edinburgh, Scotland; University of Edinburgh Management School Publishing.
  • Triandis, H. C. (1995). Individualism & collectivism. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

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