Intercultural Communication for Global Business
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Intercultural Communication for Global Business

How Leaders Communicate for Success

Elizabeth A. Tuleja

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eBook - ePub

Intercultural Communication for Global Business

How Leaders Communicate for Success

Elizabeth A. Tuleja

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About This Book

As concise and practical as ever, this new edition brings together principles and new theories in intercultural communication, focusing on communication as the foundation for management and global leadership.

Grounded in the need for building awareness and knowledge, practicing mindfulness, and then working on skill development, this text examines the concepts associated with understanding culture and communication in the global business environment to help readers:

  • understand intercultural communication processes;


  • improve self-awareness and communication in intercultural settings;


  • expand skills in identifying, analyzing, and solving intercultural communication challenges at work; and


  • evaluate whether one's communication has been effective.


This fully updated new edition also includes completely updated case studies, with an increased emphasis on non-US perspectives, to show real-world applications across the globe.

Richly illustrated with new examples and activities, this text is the ideal companion for any business student or manager dedicated to communicating more effectively in a globalized society.

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Information

Publisher
Routledge
Year
2021
ISBN
9781000387353

Part I

Foundations of Intercultural Communication

Chapter 1

Culture in Business Contexts

Figure 1.1Chinese fans—the beauty of diversity
Source: Author.

Introduction

A Cultural Faux Pas

When Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, was in South Korea and met the then President Park Geun-hye for the first time, critics were “up in arms” about his behavior. He was there to build relationships, talk about nuclear energy, and promote his new start-up, TerraPower. But why was there a media frenzy?
Gates was criticized for being too casual in his initial contact with the President. When shaking her hand, he kept his left hand in his pocket. Some of the press read: “The handshake that has bruised a nation”; “Plain rude”; “Ignorance or just plain disrespect?”; “Cultural difference or bad manners?”; “A disrespectful handshake or a casual friendly handshake?” There was notable disdain for how Gates went about establishing relationships in the East (Cho, 2013).
Why would something so seemingly harmless as leaving one hand in a pocket offend someone? This is often our reaction when we do something that contradicts someone else’s expectations of proper behavior—we are incredulous that they don’t understand us. Well, from a monocultural perspective, which is looking at things from one’s myopic perspective, it shouldn’t bother anyone! However, from a multicultural perspective (being able to see things from multiple angles regarding cultural differences), one would have to reassess exactly why the action might have caused disrespect.
In Korean culture, using one hand to shake someone else’s is considered too casual, something you would do with a good friend or a younger person. The other hand in the pocket symbolizes superiority and can be potentially rude when used in the wrong context or situation. South Korea is a hierarchical culture where rank and position of a person must be respected and acknowledged. In fact, Koreans have a complex system of how they address people and construct identity, called, “honorifics,” which uses different words to emphasize the importance of people who are older and in higher positions (Yoon, 2015).

Whose Rules?

Some argued that you can’t expect a Western person to follow an Eastern culture’s rules nor be judged by its cultural standards. Others reasoned that he is a “casual man … not bound by customs” or that he is “one of the richest men in the world and can do whatever he wants.” But there is an appropriate protocol for such occasions when meeting with heads of state—regardless of how rich or down-to-earth you are. Knowing the code of behavior is essential in creating goodwill and developing lasting relationships—especially if you are trying to cultivate them. You need to consider a person’s status, gender, and even religion, all of which are important (Irvine, 2013).
It has often been said that “When in Rome do as the Romans do.” This adage is originally attributed to St. Ambrose in his liturgical advice to St. Augustine who had asked if he should fast on Sunday as he did in Milan—or on Saturday as was customary in Rome (Schaff, 1886). St. Ambrose replied, “If you are in Rome, fast in the Roman way; if you are elsewhere, live as they do there” (WordSense, n.d.). You’ll find many sayings like this in other languages. In Chinese, the translation is “Enter village, follow customs; in Russian, “Don’t go with your own rules to someone else’s monastery”; in Polish, “When you fly among crows, you should caw like them”; and in Spanish, “Wherever you go, do as you see.”
Whether we shake hands, bow, or kiss someone on the cheek, it is important to be aware of the symbolism conveyed in the actual gesture. It’s not only good etiquette, but smart business. Being aware of a counterpart’s specific cultural norms demonstrates respect—and that you have spent time learning their customs in order to develop a lasting relationship. In Japan, the subordinate is expected to bow lower than the boss. In France, you kiss a friend on each cheek, but in the Netherlands, three times. In China, you are expected to give and receive business cards with both hands while commenting on the other person’s impressive credentials. It’s not the actual gesture that contains meaning, but what is in that person’s mind. People create the meaning that is attached to gestures.
Can a cultural faux pas break a relationship or potential business deal? It depends. Can you be forgiven for a social or cultural faux pas? Of course. However, if you are to be successful as a global leader you must develop an awareness of cultural practices that carry important meaning to the people with whom you interact. You may not always get it right, but it’s important to be alert and ready to adapt to the customs and practices of the people and the place you are visiting. Anything that we can do to promote respect toward someone’s culture or traditions is vital. So, is greeting someone correctly a social necessity? Yes, absolutely!
This book uses examples such as this and explains the conceptual and theoretical aspects behind them for practical application. It’s important to lay these foundations, because often the soft skills of doing business are overlooked in terms of the functional aspects. We’ll explore the meanings that support such foundations because this brings credibility to you as a business leader. As you will see toward the end of this chapter, the field of management is made up of a variety of disciplines—sociology, psychology, and yes, communication. All the functional skills such as knowing accounting practices, building financial models, or developing acquisition strategies don’t matter much if you can’t communicate successfully. In order to lead people, you need to develop the critical skill of communication—and that is what this book is about—helping you begin to be aware of, understand, and then put into practice communication and engagement skills that are developed within an intercultural framework.

Our Changing World

Our world has shrunk dramatically. With our ability to communicate 24/7 with anyone, anywhere via the Internet and smartphones; with one keystroke that brings us immediate, streaming news from all over the world; with easy access to cheaper, faster, more comfortable air travel, we have traversed the four corners of the world. Somehow, we have acquired a misguided notion that because the world has shrunk then it will be simpler, easier, and less complicated to interact with others. However, this is far from the truth. Despite technology, trade, or travel, our world is more complex, ambiguous, and fast-paced than ever—and it is harder to keep up no matter how fast one’s Internet connection is. Now we see this most strikingly due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, which has demonstrated just how interconnected our economies are while accentuating how different national responses to the crisis have been. Regardless of human advancements we have been reminded of our human vulnerabilities and the need to work together despite political or economic viewpoints (Figure 1.2).
Figure 1.2Coronavirus world
Source: AdobeStock_327996305
We are at a point in history where it is no longer possible to minimize cultural differences—it has been too easy to overemphasize commonalities and underestimate differences, and we have done just that. We are experiencing a new way of living and have reached a point of no return with the cultural imperative—it is unavoidable, it demands our attention, it is an obligation, and it is a necessity if we are to survive. Communicating and interacting with people from diverse backgrounds and parts of the globe are the new normal.
So, what does this have to do with business? Everything! On an organizational, team, and individual level, it means that we are now required to interact with people who are quite different from us. We must learn to speak, listen, and write with a greater sensitivity, flexibility, and openness to doing things on other people’s terms, not necessarily our own.

Why Is Culture Important in Business?

Globalization and Business

What is globalization? In business, it is when technology, communications, trade, tariffs, migration, and labor markets open across borders so that free trade and capital flow unhindered by national boundaries. A more technical definition would describe globalization as: the increasing interdependence among national governments, businesses, non-profit organizations, and individual citizens. The drivers facilitating globalization are: (a) the free movement of goods, services, knowledge, and communication across national boundaries; (b) the development of new technologies—think high-speed Internet and air travel; (c) the lowering of tariffs and other obstacles to such movement; and (d) human migration, especially from developing to developed countries (Gannon, ...

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