Cultural Awareness and Diversity in Effective Business Communication
28th, November 2012
Cultural Awareness and Appreciation of Diversity are Critical Aspects of Effective Business Communication
Diversity has become an issue of increasing importance, as the contemporary world is multi-cultural. Today, people interact in a variety of ways as compared to the past days; therefore, communication has increased among people in different countries. Similarly, in the economic sphere, the aspect of communication is of great importance, as it is the tool through which, companies sell themselves, and interact with their clients. It is therefore imperative that companies embrace the aspect of inter-cultural communication in order for them to be ranked globally. Effective inter-cultural communication is one that embraces the elements of cultural awareness and appreciation of diversity. At the work place, if these are upheld, the company will register greater productivity and smooth workflow. Therefore, cultural diversity and appreciation of diversity must be applied in business communication to ensure effectiveness.
One of the reasons why companies need to embrace cultural awareness and appreciation of diversity in the course of their communication is because of the most recent advanced communication forms. The presence of the internet helps companies, including the locals and multinationals to interact with their local and international clients. Since these clients are of different cultural backgrounds, if the said company lacks the elements of cultural awareness and diversity appreciation in its communication plan, then such is likely to miss many profits due to the ineffective communication between it and its local and international clients (Gibson 2002).
In addition, because of the internet, the world has become a global village, where information and knowledge must be shared across continents in order to sustain the world economy. Cultural diversity therefore has an impact on business communication, as it has to be considered when businesses are dealing with diverse cultures. If a business upholds cultural diversity, it means that a mixture of people from various cultural backgrounds, sexual orientation, language groups, ethnicity, and religions, co-exist together peacefully in a stable work environment.
Cultural diversity needs to be embraced by businesses for various reasons. First, business communication keeps evolving because of the globalization concept that has brings world business cultures together. The new emerging economies attempt to integrate business cultures of traditional powerhouse nations into their businesses, and they leave the influence of their own culture wherever they go. Both small and big businesses must uphold cultural diversity in their business communication plan, starting from the corporate boardrooms to employee break-rooms, they should understand the eccentricities of all cultures to which they are exposed (Okpara 2008).
Languages are greatly affected by worldviews of their indigenous cultures. Therefore, words in a language will have completely different meaning to people of different cultural backgrounds. In the workplace, employees therefore need to be extra-cautious to ensure that their messages are understood clearly, as they communicate with workers of different cultural backgrounds. Employees should avoid taboo topics while conversing. Additionally, different biases in religious aspects, political aspects, or social issues and nuances of life experiences differ between cultures, making it a challenge for employees to find a common ground while communicating. Additionally, different cultures have different ways of addressing and managing conflicts. For instance, people in Netherlands consider arguments as constructive and an essential part of communication. On the contrary, people from Japan consider public arguments and disagreements as offensive. Therefore, when the two work in the same company, communication problems are likely to come up due to the cultural differences in communication aspects. This is why communication plans of companies must integrate and accommodate different cultures (Gibson 2002).
In the previous years, most entrepreneurs and corporate managers developed their own unique business communication plans for interacting with their customers, suppliers, and business partners. Today, however, things have changed, as the workplace comprises people from diverse cultural backgrounds. Therefore, company managers have to take time to study the cultural eccentricities of their business counterparts before attempting to make contact with people in other countries or from other sub-cultures. For instance, an American tycoon must understand that he should not shake hands with his Chinese business partners, but bow and smile slightly, as a form of greeting. Therefore, in international business communication, verbal communication, as well as body language is essential communication components to be looked out for. Posture, mannerism, and gestures are the little communication details that have a great bearing on business communication, as misinterpretation of these can lead to a rift between business partners from different cultural backgrounds (Sundararajan 2005). Additionally, the diversity of culturally distinct managers has been melting away slowly as globalization and westernization give managers extensive experience in different cultures.
Written communication is similarly an important aspect of business communication. Companies in their communication plans should mainly consider this in order to accommodate foreign speakers. Today, in most universities, business-communication courses insist on the simplicity and readability of correspondence over the use of complex language and technical prowess in writing. The ability to deliver messages across in a simple way, which is understood by everyone, is more important than boasting and exhibiting mastery of the legalese language or the complexity of business research language.
Information transfer is critical in business operations; hence, the need for effective communication, as it drives the business process. Communication is influenced by culture. Companies face a challenge and dilemma whereby cross-cultural communication is introduced because of major reforms that come because of internationalization, merging, and joint ventures by businesses. All these changes have made culture an important component of business communication. Company managers therefore have to understand and invest in cross-cultural trainings in order to avoid great business losses. If business communication does not embrace cultural awareness and cultural diversity, it is likely to lose its customers, staff, as well as stakeholders (Sundararajan 2005). Additionally, misunderstandings, internal conflicts, poor motivation of staff, lack of team building, as well as poor company productivity will result. These are only the small problems that lack of cross-cultural communication in companies may result in.
Today, international countries with employees from diverse cultural backgrounds and nationalities face problems arising from the cultural differences in the company’s workforce. These differences are in form of language, behavior, business ethics, beliefs, cultural etiquettes, and values. Such differences result in conflict if a company does not adopt an effective business communication plan that accommodates cultural diversity and cultural awareness. Poor handling of this matter will lead to the collapse of big multi-internationals. To prove the importance of cultural awareness and diversity in business communication, businesses are seen to employ cross-cultural consultants as well as intercultural team builders to deal with the challenges posed by cultural diversity in companies (Gibson 2002).
Companies today realize the importance of effective business communication and so have ensured that they embrace cultural awareness and diversity by utilizing modern communication forms. The use of fax, mobile phones, e-mails, and other modern communication media by companies has helped to close in the barriers of cultural distance and has boosted intercultural communication awareness (Sundararajan 2005).
The company’s organizational culture influences the effectiveness of its business communication. For effective business communication, a company should be an open system, and not a closed one. Different company departments should exhibit cross communication synergy. Lack of this is a proof that there is a communication problem. In turn, team building is necessary to fix this. Such situations are common after mergers of two companies of different cultures; therefore, these must play a collective role of strengthening employee relations by encouraging cultural awareness and embracing diversity. Today, most companies go for mergers in anticipation of big profits, however, they forget about the effect of mergers on business communication, especially if the merging companies are of different cultural grounds (Okpara 2008).
More companies realize that most of their financial problems have their roots in company business communication. Previously, companies concentrated much on the employee qualifications and less on the cross-cultural environment in the company. In this era of globalization, the concepts of cultural awareness and diversity in workplaces, and their effects on business communication have been discovered. Therefore, most companies consider understanding the communication between cultures as a prerequisite for an effective business communication plan. This is why intercultural business management has skyrocketed (Niemeier, Campbell & Dirven 1998).
According to Okpara (2008), most mergers and cross-cultural business ventures fail terribly because of their underestimation of the impact of culture awareness and diversity in the working environment, and specifically, the business communication. There is therefore, need for companies to seek expert advice on such situations. If the experts help the company in designing an effective business communication plan, which embraces cultural awareness and appreciate diversity, this will be a worthy investment for the company, as the company productivity will be enhanced.
Therefore, in contemporary business environment, an understanding, awareness, and appreciation of cultural diversity are of great value to businesses. Cultural awareness helps to develop a productive, cohesive, and positive working environment. This is despite whether the diversity is in form of clients or employees in different countries or people from diverse cultural backgrounds working in the same office. If cultural awareness and understanding lacks, it is easy for companies to be involved in conflicts and misunderstandings based on cultural differences (Arredondo 1996).
Conclusively, cultural awareness and appreciation of diversity remain critical aspects of effective business communication. In the contemporary world, there is high multiculturalism in different institutions, including businesses. Since communication is an important aspect in business, companies are compelled to ensure effective communication. However, in the contemporary company, which is highly multicultural, effective business communication can never be achieved if the aspects of diversity appreciation and cultural awareness are neglected, and not integrated in the business communication plan. This only leads to business failures and conflicts, which is lethal to business health. Therefore, businesses have to embrace appreciate diversity and cultural awareness in business communication in order to boost productivity.
Arredondo, P 1996, Successful Diversity Management Initiatives: A Blueprint for Planning and Implementation. SAGE, New York.
Gibson, R 2002, Intercultural Business Communication: An introduction to the theory and practice of intercultural business communication for teachers, language trainers, and business people. Oxford University Press, London.
Niemeier, S., Campbell, C. & Dirven, R 1998, The Cultural Context in Business Communication. John Benjamins Publishing, New Jersey.
Okpara, J 2008, Globalization of Business: Theories and Strategies fo Tomorrow’s Managers. Adonis & Abbey, London.
Sundararajan, N 2005, Effective Business Communication. Sura Books, New Delhi.
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