Present day organizations are increasingly doing business in a global environment. Thus, the need for an effective and understandable intercultural communication has become vital in order for an organization to succeed in modern day global workplace environment intercultural communication can be defined in many ways. In essence intercultural communication examines how people from varying cultural backgrounds strive to communicate. It’s underpinned by the wish to find and understand how individuals from different cultural background communicate with one anther and assist individuals and organizations to improve this.
- Case study joint venture between a Germany and Chinese company
A company from Germany entered into a business venture with a Chinese firm. The main players were the Germany management team and the Chinese staff recruited by the Germanys. On the outside of this very successful joint venture in electronic industry everything seemed quite well. The research and development (R&D) was based in Germany while production was done in China. This venture was beginning to be profitable, however there were tensions arising within the team, resulting in performance going down. A consultant was called in to interview the representatives of both companies and he gave the following account:
The Germany management view
The Germanys explained that they were amazed by their Chinese partners on how they reacted promptly. They seemed very keen to learn and at the same time they were really open-minded. However, their problem is that they are not ready to take responsibilities, or adhere to agreed upon procedures. They just think in a hierarchical manner and the horizontal communication is very little. More so, the Germany accused Chinese team of turning up late for meetings or even not honoring the meeting at all. Yet they did not give any good reason for that.
The Chinese team viewpoint of the Germanys
The Chinese said that the Germanys were good planners and logical people. And the Chinese team liked the Germany’s focus on good quality, discipline and straightforward manner. However, to them the Germanys did not seem to trust the Chinese since they were not giving the Chinese team any real responsibility to do. Instead the Germanys sets up a complex processes which merely slows down everything and stops the Chinese from achieving their targets. More so, the Germanys waste a lot of time on calling so many meetings. Thus, the Chinese can not meet their deadlines because they don’t get their answers on time. Yet the Germany keeps asking them to meet the deadlines and the targets.
- Diagnosis of the Communication issue
From the case study there are a number of intercultural differences:
Responsibility: Whereas the Germanys feel that the Chinese team is not taking any responsibility, they, the Chinese feel that they are not given any responsibility. According to the Germanys, to take responsibility implies acting independently. However, the Chinese find the structure very tight and desire to be capable of influencing the strategy, targets and processes. Thus, they ignore or alter the procedures if they believe that, that is vital to meet their targets (Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner, 1997).
Decision making: The Chinese workforce expects the mangers to come up with clear decisions; to them they believe that making decision is the work of the managers. The Germanys on the contra believe that other decisions can be passed on to the juniors.
Meetings: According to the Chinese these meetings are not very important and that is why they either come late for the meetings or avoid them completely. The Chinese want to have communication with their managers; however, they don’t want to communicate with the entire team. Supposing the managers are not attending the meetings the Chinese assume that there is no any good reason to attend such meetings.
Directness: as Bovee (2003) asserts The Germany approach of direct communication is new to Chinese team. The Chinese do provide feedbacks but it is in a different manner, instead of stating an issue directly, they express their displeasure through avoiding the issue, or by being silent or even refusing to cooperate.
- Recommendations and strategies to deal with the issue
When giving the recommendations, the consultant advised the two organizations in the joint venture to take in mind the following aspects:
- Since the joint venture involved international teams with different intercultural attitudes, in words of Bovee (2003), more time is needed for discussing the two team’s expectations of each other and also agreeing on how each team wishes to work with another. In addition the two teams have to agree on the processes that are utterly essential and that that are “pleasant to include”. Some kind of flexibility on each side is necessary
- Both teams have to acknowledge the reality that they have different management style, thus as Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner (1997) suggest, there is need for such teams to agree on a suitable style that will be used for both teams. More important, the Germany team has to communicate in a clear way the significance of meetings, while stressing that each person required in the meetings has to attend the meetings in order for a decision to be made.
- The two teams have to cultivate trust among each other for effective communication specially on giving feedbacks. Both the teams should spend time on building relationship and formulating guidelines for feedback that values the sensitivities of both teams.
Intercultural communication presently implies having a competitive edge; Reason? Because, present day business world is very competitive and fast changing; Organizations have to get it right and they need to get it right away. Whether an organization is looking a new market, or for a new supplier, intercultural communication can, and does play an essential role; Intercultural communications impacts the ability of an international company to succeed or fail just as it has been seen in the above case study.
Bovee, C.L (2003): Business Communication Today: 7th Edition; Pearson Education
Trompenaars, F and Hampden-Turner, C (1997): Riding the waves of culture: – understanding cultural diversity in business; London: Nicholas Brearley,