Communication is the act of transmitting messages, including information about the nature of the relationship, to another person who interprets these messages and gives them the meaning. Both the sender and the receiver of the message play an active role in the process. Successful communication requires not only that the message is transmitted but also understood. For this understanding to occur, the sender and receiver must share a vast amount of common information called grounding. This grounding information is constantly updated in the communication process. People who have extensive common information can communicate effectively without much distortion. Cross-cultural communication is more demanding than communicating in a single culture because culturally different individuals have less common information. They have less grounding because of the differences in their field of experiences. Cultural field refers to the culturally based elements of a person’s background (education, values, and attitudes) that influence communication. The effectiveness of communication depends on the lack of distortion, which can occur at any stage of the communication process.
First, the encoded message can be affected by the communication skills and knowledge of the sender and by the associated cultural field. We are not able to communicate what we do not know, and our ability to encode accurately is determined by our skill in the chosen channel (speaking or writing). Like all behaviour, much communication behaviour is scripted and proceeds in a routine manner consistent with the cultural field. Second, the symbols individuals use to express an idea vary with the cultural field. This includes not only the language used but also the aspects of communication that transcend language, such as communication style, conventions, and practices. We might think that people choose a different communication channel depending on the goal of communication.
However, the reality seems to be that convenience and skill in the use of the medium are more important. Lastly, all the factors that affect the sender also influence the receiver. The symbols must be decoded into a form that can be understood by the receiver. Just like the sender, the receiver must be skilled in the channel in use and also have sufficient knowledge to interpret the message correctly. The extent to which the cultural fields if individuals overlap reduces the opportunity for distortion in the communication process. The more each party understand the other’s situations, perspectives and culture, the easier it is to use symbols that will be encoded and decoded similarly. Language
One obvious consideration in cross cultural communication is the language being used. Language is a symbolic code of communication consisting of sounds with understood meanings and a set of rules for constructing messages. The meanings attached to any word by a language are completely arbitrary, but cultural conventions control the features of language use. Even when translators know the meaning of word and the grammatical rules for putting them together, effective communication is often not achieved. There could be as many as 10000 languages in the world. However, 95% of the world speaks one of about 100 different languages, and the number of languages spoken by large numbers of people is much smaller than that. Still, a significant amount of language diversity exists, and international managers must be concerned with foreign language competency. The diversity of languages means an important issue in cross cultural communication is finding a common language that both parties can use to work effectively.
Practically, this means one of the two parties must use a second language. The use of a second language has a number of implications for cross cultural communication. First, using a second language creates cognitive strain; it takes more effort on the part of the second language user, who could already be contending with other demands of communication or of the task at hand. Over long periods of time, second language use is exhausting. Second, the greater the fluency of second language speakers, the more likely they are to be seen as competent in other respects. Third, first language speakers in a cross language interaction tend to respond to lower linguistic competency of their partner by modifying aspects of their speech such as slowing the rate of speech and reducing sentence complexity. This simplification of speech can improve communication by removing redundancy of content.
However, this type of communication can be perceived as ingratiating and might not be well received. Finally if the first language speaker is unable to recognize signals that indicate lack of understanding or does not work to create an environment in which it is acceptable to check for understanding, the second language speaker may pretend to understand in order to avoid embarrassment or appear competent. The end result of these factors is that cross language communication can be as demanding for the native speaker of the language as for the second language speaker. Both participants must devote more attention to the communication process in order to achieve an effective transfer of understanding. Communication Styles
Explicit VS Implicit communication
One way in which cultures vary in terms of communication style is the degree to which they use language to communicate the message. High-Context communication or message is one in which most of the information is either in the physical context or internalized in the person, while very little is in the coded, explicit, transmitted part of the message. Low-Context communication is just the opposite (the mass of the message is vested in the explicit code). In LC cultures, the message is conveyed largely by the words spoken. In HC cultures, a good deal of the meaning is implicit, and the words convey only a small part of the message. The receiver needs to fill in the gaps from past knowledge of the sender, the setting or other contextual cues. Individuals with independent self concepts (individualists) are more likely to be low context communicators; those with interdependent self concepts (Collectivists) are more likely to be high context communicators. In individualist cultures speech is more focused and briefer, with more reference to I and to specific goals. However, in collectivist cultures speech more qualifiers such as maybe, perhaps, probably. Direct VS Indirect communication
Directness is associated with individualist cultures and indirectness of communication with collectivist cultures. Direct communication is needed at some time in all cultural groups. However, directness depends on the social context. In collectivist cultures, politeness and a desire to avoid embarrassment often take precedence over truth, as truth is defined in individualistic cultures. For collectivist, truth is not absolute but depends on the social situation. Therefore, the social situation is an indicator for the appropriate degree of directness or truthfulness. Although making untrue statements to preserve the harmony (white lies) is probably universal, the extent of its use is probably higher in collectivist cultures. Silence & Verbal Overkill
Collectivist cultures value silence as a way of controlling the communication interaction, whereas individualists value taking in the same way. Silence might be thought of as an extreme form of high context communication. For example, Japanese negotiators allow long period of silence to develop in order to control the negotiation process. Westerners, however, interpret them as lack of understanding and try to shorten the silence with further explanation or by moving on to the next point. Even among individualist cultures, the use of silence and talking can vary. For example, Australians have a lower tendency to communicate verbally than people from the US. In Finland, silence is valued as a way of showing encouragement for the speaker to continue. Use of praise
One additional stylistic element that has a systematic relationship to culture is the use of praise and the response to praise. Cultural differences exist in how frequently praise is used, what is praised and how people respond. US people often praise the people who are close to them such as family and friends, whereas Japanese are more likely to praise strangers. Moreover, US people are more likely to praise physical appearance, while the Japanese are more likely to praise the skills and work rather than physical characteristics. Response to praise also seems to vary across cultures. In cultures such as China, where modesty is a virtue, praise can cause embarrassment. For example, Hong Kong Chinese tend to deflect praise, whereas British are more likely to accept praise politely. Negotiation and Conflict Resolution across Cultures
An important application of cross cultural communication for the international manager is face to face negotiation. All negotiations share some universal characteristics. They involve two or more parties who have conflicting interests but a common need to reach an agreement, the content of which is not clearly defined on the outset. Consistent among them is that the outcomes of negotiation are thought to be contingent on a) Factors associated with the behaviour of the people involved in the negotiation b) Factors associated with the process of the negotiation c) Factors associated with the negotiation situation
In general, culture probably has an indirect effect on the outcome of the negotiation by influencing all the above contingency variables.
Efforts to understand cross cultural negotiation fall into one of three types. The first type is descriptive approaches, which are characteristic of much early study of cross cultural negotiation. These studies involve documenting differences in negotiation processes and behaviors in different cultures. The second might be called the cultural dimensions approach, in which the cultural effects are attributed to the cultural values and norms of the participants. The third is a more holistic approach that considers both the knowledge structures of the participants and the social context in which the negotiation takes place. Descriptions: negotiation process and behaviour
Graham four stage model suggest business negotiations proceed though as below:-
1. Non task sounding or relationship building
2. Task-related exchange of information
4. Making concessions and reaching agreement
The content, duration, and importance of each of these stages can be seen to differ across cultures. The internalized cultural values and norms of the negotiator influence which aspect of the process is emphasized. For example, Japanese negotiators spend more time in non task sounding or relationship building than the US people, and they also emphasize an exchange of information as opposed to the persuasion tactics preferred by the US. Culture also seems to influence the preference that individuals have for a particular conflict resolution style. For example, some cultures prefer confrontation in the negotiation process, whereas others prefer a more subtle from bargaining in which balance and restraint are important.
Japanese managers preferred a status power model in which conflicts are resolved by a higher authority. Germans preferred a regulation model in which preexisting procedures or rule to resolve problems. People from the US preferred an interest model that focuses on discovering and resolving the underlying concerns of the other party to make it worth reaching an agreement. Culture also seems to influence the initial offers and concession patterns of negotiators. Cultural differences exist in the willingness of negotiators to make concessions. For example, Russians view concessions as a weakness, whereas North Americans, Arabs are more likely to make concessions and to reciprocate an opponent’s concessions. Cultural Dimensions and Negotiations
Dimensions of cultures such as individualism-collectivism or power distance to negotiation improve our ability to explain and predict the effect of culture. For example, the cultural dimensions of individualism and collectivism can be predictive of a preference for a particular style of conflict resolution. Collectivists preferred bargaining and mediation as conflict resolution strategies, whereas individualists preferred adversarial adjudicative procedures in which arguments are developed and positions are presented by the parties to the dispute. Characteristics of Japanese (social inequity), German (explicit contracting), and US (polychronicity) cultures were linked to conflict resolution preferences for use of authorities, external regulations, and integrating conflicts respectively.
Negotiation processes can be understood from a cultural dimension perspective as well. For example, negotiators from low context cultures have been found to engage in more direct information sharing, throughout the stages of negotiation, whereas negotiators from high context cultures engaged in direct information exchange in the earlier phases of negotiation. Cultural dimensions also relate to the outcomes of negotiation, in terms of distributive (win-lose) or integrative (win-win) outcomes. For example, Norwegians had more integrative outcomes than Mexicans, based on the cultural profile of Norway that includes low masculinity, weak uncertainty avoidance, and low power distance. An additional complication is that negotiation may change their behavior when negotiating with someone from another culture. Cultural differences have been reported in how often negotiators change tactics during negotiations, with negotiators in Spain being the most flexible, followed by UK and Switzerland. Japanese in negotiation with Canadians used different types of influence tactics (more assertiveness, threats, appeals to reason, and appeals to a higher authority) than when interacting with members of their own culture. Chinese, when trying to resolve a disagreement, used tactics designed to embarrass a Chinese counterpart but tried to resolve the situation and preserve the relationship with people from the US. Holistic Approaches to Negotiation
In order to understand the social context of negotiation, recent approaches have taken a more holistic view of the negotiation process that recognizes negotiator behavior can be different for the different people in the same culture. For example, the extent to which negotiators believe they are accountable for the negotiation outcomes influences their behaviour. Accountability makes negotiators behave more competitively but can also caused negotiators to behave in a more culturally normative manner, that is, more cooperative in collectivist cultures and more competitive in individualist. The extent to which negotiators feel the need to bring negotiations to a conclusion quickly influences the extent of cultural influences. For example, in one study, cultural norms for resolving a dispute is influenced by whether or not the decision maker was the superior or the peer of disputants for Chinese but not for Japanese or US people.
One way in which complex influence of culture and context on negotiation has been studied is to try to understand negotiation through graphics that people use to make sense of the process. The content of the graphics tend to be more culturally specific, whereas the process being described is constant. They are individuals’ subjective realities of the social interaction, which guide the behaviors of the participants. They reflect broad cultural themes but are not necessarily stable across situations. Graphics (metaphors) identify the tasks to be performed (problems), the norms of interaction (scripts), and the outcomes of the interaction (feelings). Metaphors may be a useful tool in that they help negotiators understand their own culture and how it shapes the reality they impose on the negotiation situation. This is a potential first step in helping negotiators restructure their way of thinking in such a way that complementary or shared metaphors that bridge cultural differences can be created.
The Challenge of International Assignments
Role of Expatriates
The role that expatriates must take on is affected by the staffing strategy that the multinational organization has for its foreign operations. Fundamental preferences of MNO for a particular staffing strategy have been described as polycentric (local foreign managers only), ethnocentric (home country managers predominate), or geocentric (a mix of nationalities at home and abroad). Expatriates predominated in top managerial jobs in early stages of internationalization, with the use of third country national managers growing as the technology of the firm was disseminated among nations. Cultural distance increases the tendency for MNOs to use expatriates in overseas subsidiaries but this tendency becomes weaker over time. Different staffing patterns can also exist in the foreign affiliates of firms with different countries of origin. Research has indicated that Japanese owned firms have more expatriates in their foreign affiliates than their US or European counterparts. The staffing strategy of an MNO is affected by the stage of internationalization, its country of origin, the size and the task complexity of its foreign affiliates, and the cultural distance of the affiliate from headquarters. This strategy is important because it can influence the role expectations that the firm has for its overseas employees. Individual Staffing Decisions
It reflects the overall firm level staffing strategy, whether or not it is made explicit. However, some consistency across firms exists. The reason firms might fill in an overseas position with an expatriate suggests that firms transferred staffs internationally for the following reason:- * To fill a technical requirement
* To develop the manager
* To develop the organization
Some variation might exist based on both the home country or host country culture and conditions. For example, NZ firms have been more likely to cute the development of the organization and the expatriate manager as the major reasons for using expatriates whereas US firms in Korea found that the most important reason stated for staffing with a local national instead of an expatriate was the manager’s lack of local knowledge. The staffing strategy of MNO affects the role that the employee is expected to fill while on the oversea assignment. This role may involve the use of his/her technical expertise or the exercise of managerial control over the foreign operation but can have a developmental component. These roles seems fairly consistent across cultures, the nationality of the firm might influence both the strategy of the firm and the role expectation that it has for employees on foreign assignments Selection of Managers for Overseas Assignment
Technical competence was the primary decision criterion used by firms in selecting employees for overseas assignments. Recent research indicates that performance in the domestic setting and technical competences continue to lead the list in selection criteria. Overemphasis on technical qualifications presents a lower perceived risk of adverse consequences to the selecting manager. In addition, firms may place the most emphasis on technical skills as it can be easily measure. Host country organization also view technical expertise as an important criterion for expatriates assigned to them. One study found that, the ability to adapt was ranked as the most important selection criterion by Australian managers and by expatriates on assignment and was ranked second to technical competence by Asian managers. Decision to Accept an Overseas Assignment
The pool of potential applicants available to the manager making a staffing decision is limited by a number of factors, restrictions impose by other organizations requirements and those impose by individuals themselves. One of these is the willingness and motivation of applicants to accept the overseas posting. Reasons for accepting an overseas posting run the scope from personal development to financial gains. Enhancing an international career remains a significant factor in the decision to accept an overseas posting. Studies show that US people accepting their first overseas assignment were more likely to be motivated by the opportunity to advance their career than were employees with previous international experience and that the willingness to relocate overseas was significantly related to the expatriate’s focus on career advancement. Individuals are most likely to be receptive to an oversea assignment were people with high expectancies and few family concerns, and those who have worked in organizations with an international focus. Although firms tend to select expatriates based largely on technical requirement, the expatriates themselves are motivated primarily, at least on their first posting, by the opportunity for career advancement. Therefore, conflict between the expectations that firms have for expatriate and the perceptions that expatriates have of their role is often built in at the outset of the experience. Factors affecting Expatriate Success
Individuals who described themselves as being satisfied with and functioning well in a foreign culture identified the following behaviors or personal abilities important to their success:
* The ability to manage psychological stress
* The ability to communicate effectively
* The ability to establish interpersonal relationships
Five characteristics of individuals related to success, in order of importance.
* Family Situation
* Job Knowledge
* Relational Ability
* Openness to other cultures
A wide range of individual characteristic can potentially influence the success or failure of an expatriate experience. The importance of these factors might be cross culturally consistent. Personality as measured by the BIG FIVE personality factors (extroversion, emotional stability, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness) seems to be as predictive of expatriate job performance as it is in a purely domestic setting. Recently, it has been suggested that developable attributes of individuals have been shown to be related to effective cross cultural interactions can be classified as informational, interpersonal, action and analytical skills. Demographics
Demographic characteristics of expatriates such as age, tenure, education level, and marital status have all been found to influence the expatriate experience. * The age of the expatriate has been found to be positively related to organizational commitment, work adjustment, and job satisfaction but negatively correlated with willingness to relocate, intent to leave and general satisfaction * Tenure of expatriates found to be positively related to job satisfaction but negatively related to intent to leave * The education level of expatriates is found to be negatively related to job satisfaction and commitment to the organization and positively related to general adjustment but not work adjustment. * Married expatriates have been found to be more job satisfied and higher performers. * The adjustment of the spouse or family is positively related to expatriate adjustment and negatively related to intent to leave It is assumed that demographic characteristics indicate underlying values, attitudes and beliefs, which in turn relate to outcomes, perhaps because of social categorization by host nationals.
The contribution of the effect of demographics alone is somehow limited. Foreign Language Ability and Previous International Experience Both foreign language fluency and prior overseas experience can be important to expatriate success. Substantial support has been found for a positive relationship between foreign language fluency and the degree of interaction with host nationals and to a lesser extent with satisfaction, commitment, and adjustment. These effects might be based on the ability of expatriates to develop a so called conversational currency that can facilitate interaction with host nationals. Foreign language skill is not necessarily an effective predictor of expatriate success.
It might not be language skill that is the critical factor but the willingness to communicate which is facilitate by skill in the foreign language. The quality of international experience is as important as the amount in facilitating adjustment to another culture. The amount of prior overseas experience was positively related to adjustment and to job satisfaction. Previous overseas experience can be negatively related to some attitudes of expatriates, such as the amount of discretion they feel they have in performing their jobs. A relationship for overseas experience, with the additional recognition that all overseas experiences are not identical, and the ability for individual to learn prior overseas experiences are highly variable. The effects of the two factors are influenced by the cultural novelty in the situation, or the level of the expatriate in the organization. Job & Organizational Factors
Expatriate Job Characteristics
The reason for examining the characteristics of the expatriate experience, in terms of role characteristics, stems from the idea that an expatriate assignment involves the adjustment to a new work role as well as to a new environment. These results suggest that work role characteristics have an influence on work adjustments of expatriates. The amount of discretion that expatriates have in conducting their role has a positive effect on their work to their new work role and their intention to remain on the assignment. Discretion in one’s work role seems to facilitate general adjustment, and ambiguity and conflict in the role negatively affect both general adjustment and the ability to interact with host nationals. Job Level
The organizational level of job changers influences the types of strategies available to them to deal with the effects of moving to a new role and hence the probability of favorable outcomes. The organizational level of expatriates was found to be positively related to job satisfaction, intent to remain on assignment, and self reports of performance. However, higher level expatriates have more difficulty adjusting to new jobs, and some higher lever Japanese expatriates have more difficulty with interaction and general adjustment. These results suggest that organizational level of expatriates might have other factors such as more challenging assignments, which may need to be considered in predicting the effect of organizational level on expatriate experience. Key organizational factors that influence success include the amount of organizational support provided to expatriate and their families, the extent to which the expatriate was provided with realistic information about the country and the assignment, the amount of cross cultural training provided. Environmental Factors
The extent to which the host country culture is different from the expatriate home culture is typically theorized to make the adjustment process more difficult. Cultural novelty is negatively related to interaction adjustment, general adjustment, and willingness to accept an assignment and positively related to social difficulty. Cultural novelty can exert influence differently depending on the characteristics of the individual and the situation. Adjusting to a similar culture is fraught with just as many problems as adjusting to a culturally distant one. Subtle differences may be difficult to anticipate and thus prepare for. Social Support
The effect of social support on the expatriate experience is being able to draw on social relationships provides a mechanism for dealing with the stress associated with an overseas assignment. The direct positive effect of social support from both host and home country nationals on the adjustment of expatriates is essential. Expatriates derived their social support primarily from host country nationals, whereas spouses interact primarily from home country nationals.