CULTURAL CHALLENGES FACED BY INTERNATIONAL MANAGERS FOR LANGUAGE DIFFERENCES
The current essay is aimed at analysing the cultural challenges for language differences faced by international managers. The essay addresses contemporary issues in global management and recommends ways to enhance business operations by taking steps to deal with the challenges effectively. The most important aspect in organizational activity is communication and language is an essential component of communication. Thus, it is extremely important to overcome language barriers in multinational companies to improve the effectiveness of business operations. Prevalence of language barriers in multilingual organizations can lead to miscommunications which can hinder the growth of business. Cultural scripts are considered to be effective in reducing the cross-cultural language differences as it can enhance the understanding of different culture. Cultural scripts generate awareness about the pragmatic differences in multicultural workplace and enhance the use of language that is culturally appropriate. It prepares the employees to deal with challenges of working in multinational teams.
Improtance of issues
Language barrier poses threat to the efficiency of international organizational communication. Thus, it is important for international managers to deploy language management strategies such as language training in an attempt to satisfy the language needs of an organization. The consequences of language barriers are observed in terms of distortion of business relationships. Miscommunication can have corrosive impact on organization as it breeds suspicion and uncertainty. The language barrier leads to accentuation of group division, polarization of cognition and perception as well as mistrust (Selmer & Lauring, 2015). Companies face greater cultural distance, uncertainty, and suspicion about market that don’t share their language. The sales executives working in their second language are perceived to be less credible, less able, less likable and hence less persuasive as it can affect their confidence as well as assertiveness level. Consequently, companies feel safer to collaborate with shareholders with same language.
The companies at the initial stage of their global development have tendency to establish subsidiaries with low level of psychological distance to their native country as predicted by process school of internationalization (Lauring & Klitmøller, 2015). Hence, language barrier can reduce the possibility of establishing subsidiaries where dominant international language such as English is not spoken. Thus, language barrier can limit foreign expansion of a market due to increased cultural distance.
Globalization has led to formation of various multicultural companies where the workforce is quite culturally diverse which is perceived as attractive and lucrative by many organizations. However, it has become difficult to deal with issues such as language barrier that comes along with the advantages of multicultural workforce. According to Singh (2010), an employee brings the values and beliefs that they have been taught along with them when they join a workforce. On the other hand, it is important for them to understand and adapt to cultural diversity to achieve success in the organization. Therefore, it is essential for an organization to establish a common language that can be used by an employee to interact with others at the organization.
Self-disclosure, openness, and flexibility are important elements of business communications with team members from own culture as well from another culture. However, miscommunication might occur as a consequence of cultural diversity and communication through emails (Favorite, 2017). Transactional culture is a term used to describe the cultural exchange between two employees with different cultural backgrounds to bring innovation to an organization. For instance, if a Japanese employee worked with an employee from Australia on a project that requires similar skills, then they would be more successful if they understood the business and cultural background of each other. It is important for business partners to reach transactional culture acceptable by both parties. The intercultural business communication focuses on creation of a novel business environment as a result of healthy interaction between communication, culture, and business. According to Favorite (2017), the main difference between effective and non-effective global teams is the level of emotional connectivity that exist among the members of the team. Thus, it is important to establish a common language to promote communication between employees coming from different cultures.
The individual communication style as well as communication process is affected by cultural differences. Individuals from different cultures and societies communicate in a different manner. This ambiguity in communication style arising due to cultural differences can lead to unrealistic expectations that are difficult to be achieved. According to Cheng & Seeger (2012), the reasons for failure of business acquisition between Taiwanese company BenQ and a German company Siemens were cultural conflicts as well as communication issues. The cross border acquisition became difficult because the acquiring and acquired company needed to adjust with culture of different nationalities as well as different values and practices of the organization. The aforementioned company failed to integrate with each other which led to merger failure. Thus, it is important to lay emphasis on understanding the fundamental elements of cultures to enhance intercultural communication.
Globalization has given rise to contemporary issues of language barrier and ethnocentrism in multinational companies. Culture is the core element in the internationalization of any business. Kenya Commercial Bank has been successful in expanding its business operations internationally with implementation of effective cross-cultural management practices. Cultural factors played an important role in guiding the bank to abstain from culturally inappropriate activities and perform those activities which were culturally appropriate. The bank lays a strong emphasis on cultural issues which helped them to create successful international subsidiaries. According to Chelimo (2013), culture influences value chain operations along with interpersonal exchange. The product developers of companies must keep cultural aspects in mind while designing and packaging, even the colour. For instance, red colour is considered romantic for Russians but it is a sign of mourning in Africa which might repel African customers from purchasing the products. On the other hand, the appropriateness of a gift for business partner must also be decided by keeping cultural differences in mind. For instance, sharp objects as symbols of cutting off bonding in certain cultures which can give rise to negative sentiments towards the partner. On the contrary, handkerchiefs are related to sadness in some other culture which can give rise to negative feelings towards the business partner. However, bamboo plant is considered to be auspicious in Chinese and Buddhist culture and said to bring prosperity to the owner. Hence, gifting bamboo plants can be advantageous for Chinese business partners. Therefore, it is important for an employee to acquire some degree of cross-cultural proficiency.
Many companies nowadays are seeking continuous improvement by expanding their business through internationalization. They are aiming to move parts of their business across the world to gain high competitive advantage. However, internationalization is characterized by a culturally diverse workforce. This can give rise to conflicts due to cultural differences in perceptions and opinions on correct ways of handling the business. This gives rise to the importance of cross-cultural management as key solution to communication conflicts occurring due to cultural differences. As per MbaSr (2015), the executives in multinational companies must be provided with opportunities to move abroad so that they can indulge in cross-cultural communication. This will improve their cross-cultural proficiency by developing their skills, essential knowledge and directions to handle cultural diversity at workplace.
It is crucial to emphasize the language consideration in selection of foreign markets as well as selling to international customers. Language is often viewed as central factor of psychological distance that prevented the industrial decision makers from receiving information about the target market. It has been observed that exporters in the British countries have suffered losses due to lack of customer service in language of the customer (Brannen, Piekkari & Tietze, 2017). The language usage in target market became primary factors for researchers in international business to evaluate the accessibility and attractiveness of the market. Studies of early researches have shown that providing services that are linguistically aligned is a valid source of competitive advantage.
The advantages of internationalization of businesses into foreign market come along with the challenge of managing culturally diverse workforce. Global companies operate in a diverse socio-cultural context which gives rise to the need to implement cross-cultural and language management strategies to increase the effectiveness of business operations in foreign markets. The difference is communication style is one of the consequences of existence of cultural differences. For instance, people in the US tend to make eye contact while communicating and express their needs directly. However, in Hispanic culture making eye contact can be perceived as threatening (Binder, 2016). Therefore, if business executives do not have proper understanding of communication style of people from another culture, then it can lead to miscommunication. This can negatively impact business operations.
The individualistic or collectivist orientation of a group is another factor that impacts the organizational behaviour in multinational companies. In Australian and American culture, people tend to have individualistic mindset and value independence and personal autonomy. However, Japanese and Hispanic culture emphasizes on group mentality and conformity towards authority (Tjosvold, 2017). They are embedded in collectivist construal and have the tendency to make decisions on the basis of group goal achievement instead of personal achievement. These differences in cognitions can serve as a barrier in organizational environment. For instance, an Asian employee working in Australia might it difficult to ask for promotions and flaunt his achievements. This implies that his Australian co-workers have an upper hand in receiving promotion because they are constantly showing the progress to their boss. Therefore, employees from collectivist cultures might find it difficult to work in a workforce with individualistic cultural background. According to Handy's model of organisational culture, in power culture, authorities can be quick in making decisions and hence, can prove to be disadvantageous for those from collectivist culture. However, workers coming from collectivist cultural background can achieve success in task culture as it is totally dependent upon teamwork and focuses on achieving group goals.
Gender roles are considered as another socio-cultural context in which a global company operates. Organizations in United States consider men and women equal in general aptitude and intelligence. However, female workers in Middle East and North African regions are still facing social stigma attached to presence of women in organizations (Helmreich & Merritt, 2017). It might be difficult for women in such regions to grab high position in organizational hierarchy or even receive higher pay. In role organizational culture power is determined by the position of an employee in hierarchy. Therefore, in regions where women do not receive equal rights men, authorities might be reluctant to give power to women by promoting her to higher positions in hierarchy.
Language Management is a strategic tool deployed by international management to meet language requirements of company such as expatriation and language training. Language can be a reflection of person’s pattern of thought, and therefore verbalization of culture (Pennycook, 2017). Therefore without the existence of a common language between two business people coming from different backgrounds can ease the operation of business between the two parties. Language translators can help in removing the language barrier in business communication. However, there are certain risks associated with the use of such intermediaries such as incompetency of the translator to communicate the truth. Therefore, it can be argued that language skill proficiency is of prime importance in operating international business.
The language management tool comprises of three core factors which are language preparedness, language responsiveness and language awareness (Gurung & Prater, 2017). Language preparedness refers to degree of language competency that a company possesses against anticipated and current needs. On the other hand, language responsiveness refers to the ability and willingness of a company to adjust to language requirements of international business partners. The strategies and policies are said to reflect the language awareness of a company. Another option available to manage language barriers is to adopt a functional multilingualism approach that encourages an organization to rely on mix of pidgin, gestures, and languages. The efforts of business executives to make understand each other can facilitate the bonding process between workers from different cultures.
Implicit leadership theory indicates that individuals hold unconscious belief systems, stereotypes, and prototypes about the characteristics of a good leader which are implicit in nature. Implicit leadership theories suggest that leader performance and emergence are influenced by the legitimization of leader behaviours, motivations, and attributes (Ting-Toomey & Dorjee, 2018). The theory also suggests that leader emergence is influenced by self-selection mechanism. This theory is expanded to integrate a cultural level that highlights culturally shared implicit belief systems about ideal leaders. Six culturally endorsed implicit leadership theories are identified by researchers (Ollier-Malaterre & Foucreault, 2017). This includes self-protective, humane-oriented, team-oriented, charismatic, autonomous and participative leadership styles.
An attribute of sensitivity towards cultural diversity is essential for a global business leader. The leader must have insight into different cultures and their communication styles and requirements to achieve success in business. Moreover, a leader must recognize that their culture is not superior over others while leading in business arena. On the other hand, curiosity in a leader can prove to be beneficial in staying updated with the changing nature of culture which can help the leader to recognize new opportunities in foreign market (Thomas & Peterson, 2017). The definition of honesty and truth often varies from culture to culture. Some individual tends to hide information and tell information that they think is relevant for another person to know. However, it is important for a global business leader to deliver the things they promised to their stakeholders. This will help in improving the reputation of an organization among stakeholders and global markets (Baptista & Oliveira, 2015). Strategic thinking and good negotiation skill are equally important for a global leader. Finally, good speaking skill is another important requirement for a global leader. The ability of the global leaders to converse in native language of foreign stakeholders tends to be perceived as more confident, more credible as well as more likable by the stakeholders.
In order to acquire effective communication strategy among the employees and managerial department, specification of ideas and its clarification is needed. It would help in connecting with each and every employee of organisations and maintain possible harmony among them. Moreover, it has been analysed that it helps in measuring communication level for 60% and reduces the challenges for international management. It can be acceptable to acquire effective strategy for mending of communication process in the organisations.
Learn the key phrase
The learning of key phrase would help in understanding the tone and emotions of employees. It would manifest the understanding of customer’s and employee’s demands. It has also created various strategies for building a strong relationship with the employees. It can be acquired by cross-cultural training and helps in measuring 75% of communication gap in any organisations.
Appreciation of Cultural Difference
Various training and culture appreciation would help the managerial department to understand the differentiation between the employees. Each employee should be given chances to provide their potential part of the culture. This would help in creating effective strategy for the employees focusing on their cultural needs. It would also provide an understanding of the cultural difference for the employees and help in building effective strategy for the growth of organisations. It would help in measuring 78%n of the cultural difference among employees.
Innovative ideas would help in creating effective strategy to reduce the cultural gap among the employees. Employees who want to learn and try various innovative ideas would procure effective strategy for reducing cultural differentiation and increase the productivity of employees. It also helped in understanding effective strategy for communication. Moreover, 45% of the cultural gap would be reduced through this process.
Consistency in message with proper tone
In order to procure appropriate communication plan in any organisation, the managerial department would provide consistency in message and maintain proper tone. It has been seen that tone of communication plays an important role in the creation of relevant s communication among the employees. Moreover, consistency in message of communication would help in aligning the strategic goal of organizations. It has also helped in measuring 60% of the cultural difference and communication gap.
It can be concluded from the above that cultural differentiation becomes challenges for managers of international companies to deal with business operations and communication. Different language created problem regarding creation of international organisations for procuring communication plan. However, miscommunication creates an adverse impact on the growth of employees. It has been seen that communication creates increment in the level of motivation of employees. On the other hand, miscommunication creates a negative impact on the company and also destructed the business relationship. Handy’s topology would help in creating understand culture dimension and provides effective strategy to fulfil the communication gaps in the international markets. Vocabulary training and management of language would help in procuring effective communication in the organisations. The leadership style would create appropriate communication strategy for the organisation along with motivation among employees. It has been analysed that communication helps in acquiring effective strategy for gaining competitive advantages and maintain knowledge regarding objectives of the company.
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