Nowadays more and more people move abroad to work, so the problem of intercultural communication arises. In the given paper we will discuss the causes of the problem, basic approaches to it and different ways of its solving.
Managing Diversity In The Workplace
Diversity is defined as “recognizing, appreciating, valuing, and utilizing the unique talents and contributions of all individuals”; regardless of age, career experience, color, communication style, culture, disability, educational level or background, employee status, ethnicity, family status, function, gender, language, management style, marital status, national origin, organizational level, parental status, physical appearance, race, regional origin, religion, sexual orientation, thinking style, speed of learning and comprehension, etc. (Cross, p. 4)
Diversity matters to every single one of us. Not only is there diversity of race and culture, but there is also diversity in religion, political view, age, financial class and more. By valuing diversity, recognizing, welcoming, and cultivating differences among people, we can develop unique talents and be effective members of the society. However, with diversity also comes misunderstanding, impatience, quick judgment and prejudice, therefore I had to learn not to form biased opinions based on my religious and cultural beliefs.
“Culture is the totality of values, beliefs, and behaviors common to a large group of people. A culture may include shared language and folklore, communication styles, and ideas and thinking patterns—the “truths” accepted by members of the group. Members of a culture have similar expectations of life.” (Cross, p. 48). Because each of us is different, we see and interpret behavior through our own cultural filter.
Diversity and its main challenges
People that we meet, work with and entertain, are similar to us, due to the fact that they have the same ethnic context, similar viewpoints and
religion, the same framework of values, and the same language, that we speak. The experts describe it with the notion of “inhabiting a culturally homogeneous space”. (Hoerder)
Despite life in familiar surroundings is usual for the majority of people, there are some exceptions to the rule. Since the beginning of the humankind history, there were many groups of people or individuals that moved to foreign countries for multiple purposes – for work, getting education, teaching someone, to entertain or just to change the place of residence. Diaries of the most famous travelers, such as Christopher Columbus and Marco Polo are full of descriptions devoted to what the scientists now call “culture contact”. (Hoerder)
With rapid scientific and technological progress, advanced means of communication and transport, more and more people travel abroad, and the range of purposes they tend to achieve, enlarged as well. Many people now travel to share organizational and business experience, study abroad to come back home, many people travel just to see and study cultural background of other countries, some of them come to other countries with peace missions. Unfortunately, political and economical conditions in many countries of the world make many people move abroad as immigrants or refugees. But, regardless of the travel purposes, the notions of cultural contact and cultural shock are relevant for all categories of travelers. (Hoerder)
Before examining this phenomenon it’s necessary to give a strict definition of it. At first, it’s necessary to mention that there are some titles to define this phenomenon: “cross cultural relations”, “between society culture-contact”, “cross-cultural interaction” etc. There are also some necessary terms used to describe these relations, for instance “sojourner”. This term is used to refer to “culture travellers, indicating that they are temporary visitors intending to return home after achieving their aims”. (1986, p.33) On the contrary, people of the visited society are called “host-society members”. It’s evident that changing society background in any case demands some contact on personal level, when the representatives of various societies interact. From the part of sojourner it demands much effort to integrate into unusual social and cultural patterns. This may cause stress, especially in the case of immediate and unexpected transition, and this condition is defined by the specialists as “culture shock”.(Bochner)
Cultural identity conflicts are usually called intractable, and thus they are not possible to be resolved through the traditional approaches. The frames of the individual identity are extremely influenced by the cultural identity and cultural surrounding. The differences in culture often become the ground for the cultural conflict, as the difference in cultural ideas and preferences may be taken by the other side as not simply an outrageous idea, but ridiculous and unreal understanding of the world.
For the better cultural communication it may be suggested, that the attitudes towards other cultures should be more tolerate. The cultural ideas and beliefs expressed by the representatives of the other culture should not be taken as unreal or unacceptable. Differences in culture between people will always exist, and thus for the more effective communication it is important to understand and accept the significance of the traditions, which are valued by the other culture, as well as try to better explain the traditions into which the newcomer would wish to assimilate. However, and what is more important, it is not allowed to break the cultural identity of the person; the difference in cultural views does not mean they are wrong.
The issue of cultural identity was always urgent, and with the growing opportunities for migration, this issue will not soon lose the necessity of being discussed. However, it is important to understand one thing in relation to cultural conflicts: the differences between cultures should not and won’t be erased; they should be treated with tolerance.
Basic approaches to the study of workplace diversity
There are some concepts and approaches used to investigate the nature of this phenomenon. They are as follows: regional comparison, holocultural analysis, controlled comparison, and coding. Regional comparison was worked out by Driver and Kroeber. This approach lies in determination of cultural classification and then making assumptions about the processes of interconnection in the limits of one region of culture.
Holocultural analysis is also called worldwide cross-cultural analysis. He was worked out by Tylor, Sumner, Keller and Murdock. Levinson describes it as a study “designed to test or develop a proposition through the statistical analysis of data on a sample of ten or more nonliterate societies from three or more geographical regions of the world” ( p.33). Within this concept cultural features are observed apart from cultural background in general, and then are compared with features of distinct cultures to find common features and differences in culture in its global sense. (Hoerder)
Controlled comparison is applied to comparative studies of small size. One of the scientists, who worked out this approach, Eggan, assumed that “the combination of the anthropological concepts of ethnology with structure and function, allowing the researcher to pose more specific questions on a broader range of subjects” (qtd in Hoerder, p.36). Coding approach includes collecting information from two various sources – ethnographic sources and reports of HRAF files, or taking for consideration coded information from ethnographic sources, previously coded, or from other studies. (Hoerder)
To make detailed picture of the observed phenomenon it’s necessary to give some details related to basic notions, related to the conception of cross cultural contact. The first of them is “within-society contact”. This term is used to describe relations that exist between ethnic groups in the society of multiple cultures. Prosperous and developed countries with multiple cultures represented may include various ethnic groups that are integrated into social pattern with the help of special institutions and arrangements that promote shared viewpoints and shape common feeling of being a united nation. USA is the example of such country. Since the early times of its history, a diversity of nations and cultures were introduced to the society. Under such social conditions people face with others, who may have quite different color skin, traditions, viewpoints and religion. In modern advanced societies with developed methods of providing
successful inter-cultural contact, this process makes the lives of native population richer. (Furnham, 1986)
The other term demanding detailed observation is “cultural shock”. Within the last 50 years, the number of travels abroad significantly increased. There are multiple reasons for it, including development of fast means of transport, like jumbo jet. In addition to speed, these new means of traveling made traveling abroad cheaper, easier, and, in turn, more available for many people. Global changes in economy also made this process faster. The process of globalization is much spoken about today, and this process refers to entertainment and education equally as to commerce and industry.
The notion of cultural shock was first used by Kalervo Oberg, anthropologist, who applied it to describe people’s reaction to strange surroundings. The other scientists, that continued to study this condition, offer not to understand it literally: “that it reflects some of the feelings and experiences of travelers who suddenly find themselves in new, strange, or unfamiliar places. The unknown can be an uncomfortable and at times terrifying experience.
In the cultural dimension several theories have been created to
explain the differences between the personalities in the cross cultural aspect. Considering these theories critically, it should be assumed that they have not been created without any reason, and there have existed solid grounds to assume that depending on what culture of origin is the source of social patterns for the personality, it is possible to define the basic criteria of personality characteristics. For example, the theory created by Hoerder states that ‘the cultures endow individuals with different principles that influence behavior.’ The author of this theory argued that one of the cultural dimensions is always measured through the line of individualism versus collectivism, and these traits should be included into the set of basic characteristics peculiar of the personality in the cross cultural perspective.
Cultural shock as a challenge
There are some hypotheses regarded as the causes of culture shock condition. One of key findings in studies of social psychology was the fact that people are attracted by the people similar to them, and those who have little resemblance to us, call less degree of inclination. The notion of similarity is complicated, as there are many factors, determining resemblance. According to the results of the researches, human perception of each other has the major importance here. In other words, “individuals are more likely to seek out, enjoy, understand, want to work and play with, trust, vote for, and marry others with whom they share characteristics they regard as important”
It should be noted that people address perceived similarity, rather than actual. This perceived similarity derives from definite features, like skin color, clothes, accent or any other visible elements. There is a special term meaning attraction of people that have similar mind, “in-group bias”. The theory which this term is related to, is based upon the evidence that feeling of similarity, caused by another individual is reassuring. There are multiple choices that the surrounding world suggests to people. There are no strict schemes of behavior in this or that situation, and this is unpleasant for the individual. As the result, this individual starts to find proof to his actions in people around. This process of seeking for behavioral pattern in other
people is called “consensual validation”. This process leads to mutual feeling of satisfaction with the behavior of the self, that the person experiences. The dissimilar individual, on the contrary, destroys personal feeling of security. (Ward, C., Bochner, S., & Furnham)
The researches showed that with increasing cultural distance between two individuals, the probability of establishing harmonious relationship between them decreases. This effect was true for various categories of sojourners, for instance, students who came from abroad, guest-workers, tourists. It was noted that they revealed a less degree of successful activity compared to their habitual surroundings. Besides, culture distance affected communication, and this is also an important issue. (Ward, C., Bochner, S., & Furnham)
The third hypothesis concerning factors producing cultural shock is entitled as “differences in core values”. It is known that interrelations between the representatives of the
societies, representing opposition on core values are often hostile. Example here may be the opposition of the western and eastern world regarding the question of women’s role in the society. This problem leads to multiple conflicts between the representatives of Middle East and the West. (Ward, C., Bochner, S., & Furnham)
As for successful strategies of overcoming condition of cultural shock and establishing successful inter-cultural contact, the psychologists’ advise the following: it’s necessary to remember some important issues while living in strange environment. It’s necessary that the person keep its identity integrated. This person should think over positive moments of being in strange surroundings. This person should also be aware that the time for adaptation is needed, and patience will make this term shorter. Some time for relaxation is also necessary. It’s necessary to be open to constructivism and dialogue. Flexibility will be helpful in any situation that may occur. Sometimes some kind of hobby or habitual activity as swimming or skating may be helpful to improve emotional condition of sojoumer. It will be useful and helpful if the person tries to learn more about new culture – and it is better done with the help of native speakers. Learning the language and participating in some community activities make the process of adaptation easier and painless. (Hoerder)
Diversity’s Positive Impact
A newest study by Elizabeth Mannix and Margaret A. Neale talks about the influence of diversity on staff presentation.
“In a recent article disentangling what researchers have learned over the past 50 years, Margaret A. Neale finds that diversity across dimensions, such as functional expertise, education, or personality, can increase performance by enhancing creativity or group problem-solving. In contrast, more visible diversity, such as race, gender, or age, can have negative effects on a group—at least initially.” (Mannix 2005)
In general, an article reveals that the conflict based on staff diversity is usually resolved better than those with more likeness. According to the author, significant variety represents better prospective for inspired resolution. However, an aged Negro gentleman and a childish white-skinned lady can be more comparable in their ideas than two people having the same distinctiveness. Then again, each person has an exclusive viewpoint to present.
The actual solution to using diversity is “traditions”, both individual and staff. Insecure opinionated people find it difficult to openly contribute. And more importantly, a group atmosphere of mistrust will kill creativity.
To productively reap the repayment of variety, organization should not only maintain and hold up open statement, but in addition give chances for partaking. When resolutions are taken behind closed doors, and without clarification, belief is reduced, and diversity becomes aggressive.
Diversity impacts me the most is at my workplace. I work in an organization that consists of a large diverse group. According to Daft (2004), “Managing diversity is more than simply acknowledging differences in people. It involves recognizing the value of differences, combating discrimination, and promoting inclusiveness. Today’s work force is becoming dramatically more diverse. Corporate leaders realize that creating an effective work place requires a commitment to increased mutual respect and appreciation among employees.” (p. 471). Although the existence of diversity in the workplace is now widely recognized in organizations throughout the world, it is too often viewed only in terms of legal compliance. Because of my background, diversity provides a step-by-step approach to removing barriers between people. One of the concepts I have learned is to address the existence of differences in my workplace in a positive way and learn how to leverage the individuality of all team members creating a more cooperative and pleasant work environment. It has given me the tools to increase creativity among employees and improve problem solving.
All the methods, mentioned above will be useful for any person, visiting foreign country, regardless of the purpose. It’s evident that successful integration into strange society depends mainly on the type of human personality. Sociable and flexible persons are more likely to integrate into new society without much effort. They may instinctively use the methods described above. But introvert identities will also have success if they study these methods and use them. As the researches and theoretical conceptions demonstrate, the notion of cultural shock doesn’t necessarily mean something negative, this condition always has positive features in it, and successful adaptation in new society depends mainly upon the person and his desire to become a part of new social pattern.
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