Intercultural communication in the workplace and the role of communication in an organization

UDC 811
Publication date: 02.09.2016
International Journal of Professional Science №2-2016

Intercultural communication in the workplace and the role of communication in an organization

S.E. Kegeyan
Sochi State University, Sochi
Abstract: Effective communication in the workplace plays an important part in organizational development on the whole. Communication is the process of sharing information between two or more people. Now this is just the basic definition of communication, and we know that the process is not just confined to information sharing. Rather, it is a mode of sharing thoughts, feelings, expressions, and many other things too. Communication is an art. For some people it comes naturally, while the others are too nervous when it comes to communicating. Communication is necessary in all walks of life, professional or personal, so to master it, one needs to practice this art, and this comes with knowledge and experience.
Keywords: effective communication, workplace, intercultural communication, subordinates, interaction, understanding, relationships

The importance of intercultural communication in the workplace cannot, and should not be undermined. It plays an important role in the functioning of an organization and affects the final output too. Though cross-cultural interaction is not new and has existed for ages, with the advent of globalization, the world has come close together. It is not surprising then that people have to travel to different parts of the world as a part of their job and have to adapt to that new environment. However, adaptation is not always easy, and a little support from colleagues goes a long way in easing the process of ‘fitting in’ for the immigrant employee. This article explains to you the importance of intercultural communication in the workplace. [1].
Important factors.
Intercultural communication mainly relates to issues pertaining to speech and culture of those belonging to an environment or land different from their own. It is obvious that a person who grows up in China is going to have a different culture than someone born and brought up in the United States. Even people from the United Kingdom find it difficult to adapt to the United States and vice versa, though these are seemingly similar countries and even speak the same language.
In the work environment, these cultures affect the behavior and values of the employees. How they respond to superiors, to colleagues and to subordinates, are all determined by the culture they have been bred in. Their attitude towards and their comprehension about their surroundings is also different. Their pattern of communication is varied and their concept of formality and informality is different. For instance, several organizations address their bosses on a first name basis in the West. However, in other countries such as India, it is considered informal, so every superior is addressed as either ‘Sir’ and ‘Ma’am’. It is when a person has to work in a country other than his own and is exposed to these changes, that he experiences a ‘culture shock’. Culture shock is defined as the anxiety and disorientation experienced when a person is made to operate in an unknown culture. In such cases, programs that advocate intercultural communication and encourage healthy communication among employees belonging to various cultures, are required to help each other adjust easily. This is extremely important because the environment impacts the efficiency of employees, local or immigrant. The only way you can get the best out of them is to give them a positive environment that they can embrace and move on. [4].
How to aid intercultural communication in the workplace.
Miscommunication due to cultural barriers can be avoided and the process of adjustment for an immigrant employee can be eased if the organization makes an effort to make him feel welcome. Remember, he may already be having a tough time dealing with learning the language, or just adapting to such drastic changes. Anything that the organization can do to at least have his problems in the workplace sorted is helpful.
Maintaining a positive attitude.
Before conducting an interaction with employees belonging to another culture, a little introspection is required. The employees of the dominant culture in the workplace need to identify their own attitude towards other cultures, and how this attitude is going to affect overall communication with those belonging to other cultures. This thought process is normally affected by certain prejudices and stereotypes, which have to be kept aside while interacting with immigrant employees and their abilities should be assessed at an individual level. Furthermore, taking for granted that all norms belonging to the dominant culture are understood is wrong. There has to be an effort in understanding the nuances of the immigrant employees culture. All this can be done only by maintaining a positive attitude. [5].
Understanding diversity.
It is important that employees of the dominant culture are educated about other cultures so that they are able to accept and understand the concept of diversity in the workplace. Just assuming that owning to citizenship of a particular country one becomes British or American is not acceptable. Any person carries his values, ethics and his culture wherever he goes. If he is making an effort to understand the difference and accept cultural diversity in the workplace, so should the organization.
Encouraging individual interaction.
Apart from educating employees, personal interaction with the immigrant employee to understand the nuances of his culture and explain the nuances of yours also makes a difference. A generalized study is never adequate or as effective as a one-to-one interaction. Furthermore, a person who is new to a culture, may fear interaction with other employees. It is the job of the organization to draw them out of their shell and genuinely include and accept them as part of the organization.
Conducting induction programs.
The first phase after recruitment includes an induction program for employees. If these are held keeping immigrant employees in mind, it is going to ease the process for both, the organization and the employee. In this induction program, the organizational culture can be explained and the policies of the organization can be made clear. Even the office jargon is a part of daily functioning in the organization and should thus be explained to the immigrant employee. For instance, local employees know that the weekend comprises a Saturday and Sunday. However, for those belonging to the Middle East, the weekend comprises Friday and Saturday, and in fact, Sunday is the first working day. Such minor details should be made clear to the employee. [2].
Discourage racism and discrimination.
Lastly, the best way to promote healthy intercultural communication is to discourage racism and discrimination by strongly advocating a non-racist policy. This will prevent any embarrassing situations that can lead to serious problems, among colleagues. While personal attitudes cannot be altered, workplace communication can be positive only if such rules are implemented.
Implementing the above-mentioned steps are sure to bring about the much required healthy intercultural communication in the workplace. Remember that all these will not only enhance the reputation of the organization and the country in the eyes of the immigrant employee, but he will embrace it willingly and give the job his best input. [3].
There is no denying the importance of communication in the workplace, considering the fact that, in an organization, people belonging to different social and professional backgrounds come together to work for the same goals. Effective communication amongst employees has many benefits for the company.
Creates job satisfaction.
Organizations which encourage an open and easy correspondence between seniors and subordinates, face lesser employee turnover. If the work environment is friendly where the subordinates are encouraged to communicate their ideas to their managers regarding work-related issues, and their feedback is given due consideration, it motivates the employees to work better and makes them feel valued in the organization. Thus, effective communication in the workplace helps in building loyalty and trust which eventually attributes to greater job satisfaction. [
Lesser conflicts.
Open communication in the workplace can help prevent and resolve many conflicts. For example, if two employees have a disagreement over some issue, and instead of resolving it and arriving at a solution, they end up taking the whole thing personally. If it continues for a very long period, it may lead to work-related problems wherein they might even refuse to talk or work together in the future. Such issues can be nipped in the bud if the managers act as a mediator and let the two warring employees put across their thoughts and opinions to each other through open and clear communication. When a conflict is resolved through mutual discussions, the employees develop respect for each other, and this can lead to personal and professional growth.
Increases productivity.
Effective communication at work is the most important issue for the success and failure of an organization. Every organization has a set of clearly defined goals, objectives and vision. The manager should be able to clearly explain to his employees these goals and ensure that all his team members are working towards the same objective. He also needs to communicate to his employees their job responsibilities and duties, ways and protocol of doing work as well as the results which are expected of them. If the manager is clear in his communication, the subordinates will know exactly what the organization wants and thus, will be able to deliver the same to the best of their abilities. Thus, the importance of communication skills can be judged from the fact that it leads to better deliverance of work, increasing workplace productivity. [2].
Better work future.
We all know that communication is a two-way process, and being vocal and communicative leads to a better work future. All employees and managers in an organization should communicate clearly, openly and honestly. Managers should establish a congenial working relationship with their employees, so that the employees don’t hesitate to approach them for resolving any work-related issues that may arise in the organization. Thus, by establishing a good rapport with your subordinates and co-workers, you not only boost their morale but also increase their work efficiency, leading to enhanced productivity. In addition, employees too, should be given an opportunity to provide feedback to the management. This will help the management orient their policies and programs to suit the needs of their employees. Thus, building a good working relationship between employees and managers can go a long way in securing a better work future for the organization. [5].
Formation of relationships.
Open communication, whether between the employees and managers or between the management and employees, leads to the formation of better personal and professional relationships. This makes the employees feel genuinely cared and valued for, and they are more likely to remain loyal to the company. This creates a friendly environment and promotes a better working relationship which is conducive to the employees.
Proper utilization of resources.
If an organization faces problems, crisis and conflicts due to miscommunication between the employees, it causes unnecessary delays in the daily work. This leads to wastage of resources and lowers the overall work productivity. So an environment of good communication is a must for any organization to better utilize its resources and increase productivity.
The importance of communication in the workplace can be summed up in two words, «work satisfaction». If the employees are satisfied working in an organization, there is no denying the fact that the future of that organization is absolutely secure. All organizations today should create an environment wherein problems, plans, issues, opinions, thoughts and ideas pertaining to work, are discussed and handled in a professional, proficient manner through positive and effective communication. Communication, like all human behavior, is governed unconsciously by deep cultural values, and preferences for particular value sets produce distinctive communication patterns. In today’s multicultural work environment, it is increasingly important to understand the implicit values that affect our own and our workers’ communication styles and to be able to address differences openly and check for clarity and comprehension in order to enhance our collaboration, our success, and our relationships. To work in the global environment, we have to develop communication as a conscious skill. [1].


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