Intercultural Communication Skills, Essay Example

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Essay

Ethics   

Ethics in an intercultural workplace involves worldwide issues of character and honesty in human exchanges, and they are largely interpreted as ethical or unethical based on the national culture to which they are connected. The authors mention the concept of Metaethical relativism, which they say is, “states that value statements are inherently relational—judgments based on prevailing conditions. Thus, in this analysis ethical assertions, as opposed to normative ethics, mean investigating the circumstances in which decisions or behavior occur. (Robert, Harris, & Moran, p213). The example the authors use here deals with the idea that a company can be ethical by one standard but unethical based on another standard. They use the example of the U.S. verses China and how the U.S. values the integrity of law, while China prefers the honor of granting favors as priority in business. This could be seen from a Western perspective and valuing bribery over justice. Corporate ethics is a more urgent concern in today’s society due to both globalization and its ability to make companies more influential on global markets, as well as the notorious unethical past of many companies like Enron and World Com.  They mention how Time Magazines persons of the year were all individual whistle blowers who revealed corruption in major corporations (p213).

Diversity issues

The European Union: Principally Great Britain, Ireland, France, Spain, Germany, Poland, Italy, East Europe/Eurasia, Russia and Turkey, has prevailing diversity issues in just the contrast of how many countries it’s attempting to manage economically underneath one currency, the Euro, as well as the issues that come into play when engaging in business with outsiders of the EU, specifically Asia and the United States. Currently, the EU encompasses 457 million people. One major diversity issue that the EU has encountered has to do with needing to spend over a billion dollars a year to maintain language equality by translating official documents into 20 respective languages. Over the course of the EU’s development and expansion into 25 countries the following diversity issues have arose:

  • Technical—differing national standards and regulations, conflicting business laws, and protected public procurements.
  • Free flow of goods, once they have cleared customs in the EU, as if national boundaries did not exist.
  • Free movement of workers, so that citizens of one state may seek employment in another without discrimination relative to type of job, remunerations, or other employment conditions.
  • Freedom of establishment, so that a citizen or business from one state has the right to locate and conduct business elsewhere in the EU.
  • Freedom to provide services to persons throughout the EU.

All of these goals of the EU bring about their own respective diversity issues, while at the same time they are seeking to diminish diversity issues in their continent and unify all of the respective countries within a globalized culture. Rank, Kouzes and Posner’s five strategies for empowering others p176-177

As noted by Kouzes and Posner, “feeling powerful—literally feeling ‘able’—comes from a deep sense of being in control of our own lives (P196).” For these five strategies, I will use the example of an assistant to a political candidate or CEO and the relationship that stem from it. Their five strategies for empowering others include:

Ensure self-leadership by putting people in control of their lives. The main concept here is the idea of sharing power. The authors note that when leaders share power it creates an environment of trust and respect and a mutually beneficial relationship between both the leader and their employees. An example of this would be how the assistant or advisor to a political candidate or CEO is entrusted with the duties to act on their behalf. In this subtle way the power is shared and by empowering the employee, the supervisor’s authority as a leader is also empowered and validated.

Provide Choice. Here the concept is to not micromanage. The author notes that, “Choice without skill can leave many employees overwhelmed (Robert, Harris, & Moran, p197).” This points out that the act of providing an employee with the power to choose can be risky if they don’t possess the skills to do the job.  Using that same above example, allowing an assistant to a powerful figure to make choices on that figures behalf can also open up situations of creativity as well as expand the employees skill set through encountering challenges and think on their feet.

Develop Competence. Here the importance of developing skills and confidence to do a specific job are addressed. As previously mentioned by the authors, it can be very risky to allow one to make choices when they are not proficient in the skills needed to make good choices or execute the task that will result from the choices they make.

Assign critical tasks. Entrusting an employee, or in the case of the example a campaign advisor, with tasks where it is mutually understood the success of the company or candidacy hangs in the balance if not carried out correctly, empowers the employee. This makes the employee feel as though they play a significant part in the company’s success and ultimately shares in the power. The book uses the example of a Steel company bringing issues of research and development to the factory floor.

Offer visible support. A leader being visible and available in a company makes employees feel they have an intimate connection with management. The authors also use the example of providing employees with visible appreciation of their skills and accomplishments. A real live example of this would employee of the month framed pictures of employees, or awards for high performers.

I believe the ranking order of Kouzes and Posner’s five strategies hit the nail on the head exactly. They also do a good job of communicating how empowerment is an essential part of management.

Bribery –bribe and tip

The authors address this concept by stating that, “Corruption and bribery are present in most, if not all, societies; more so in some cultures than others. Truth and honesty are noble ideals,

but they are also relative (p214).” This brings into play the concept of relativism as it relates to identifying the difference between a tip or a bribe within a particular culture. The authors refer to this as ethical relativism. They note that the difference between a tip or a bribe and the issues of morality that associate with it are “culturally conditioned.” The authors note that, “Payoffs to public officials, especially the police, have been reported in the media from Mexico City to the New York Police Department.” The issue here is that when dealing with bureaucracy and certain policies and political factions of international governments or those in one’s own nation the line between a tip or bribe can be very vague, and can also result in getting one thrown in prison for a very long time.

Corporate social responsibility

An example from the text shows that in the case of Iraq, corporate social responsibility simply means managing money fairly and with the wellbeing of its people in mind. For example, “Beginning with the rebuilding of Iraq, corporate social responsibility and financial profitability should be seen as inseparable ideologies because of the severe and systemic trauma experienced by the Iraqi people. With some simple but strategic trauma behavior modifications, over time corporations will be able to break down antagonism and build alliances across opposing sides. They will be able to use the trauma of their employees as a common opportunity for gain (p114).” The authors also bring up examples of companies like World Com and Enron where there was a complete lack of moral compass in regards to finances. He question here is can a company also show social responsibility and are their situations where one is unethical but not acting illegally. An example of acting unethically but not illegally would be a lawyer or law firm defending a client they know to be guilty. In this particular, case they are actually bound by law to be confidential and could actually risk breaking the law by denying that client council. Likewise, an area where a company is showing corporate responsibility can be seen in instances where companies invest their resources in proving or using alternative energy to better the environment, despite the fact it initially cost them more money.

Benefits and draw back of cultures maintaining a unique identity verses becoming part of a larger community.

In the section of the text, “Managing Cultural Differences”, the author talks about Majority to Minority culture and uses the example of a U.S. northeasterner moving through a company transfer to the Bible-belt of Texas. When he first arrives he is told to enroll in a “Talking Texas” course at a nearby university. The specific purpose of this is for him to learn the commoner view of Texas as well as how Mexican Americans see it, but also to learn key character traits that will allow him to better assimilate into the culture. In this case, the north easterner is the member of a majority culture entering into a unique culture where he is actually the minority. At one point the author says, “If you can adapt, you will probably fall in love with these friendly people, their jalapeno lollipops and chili pepper dishes, and even discover their diverse ethnic mixture and the “Austin country” and “Mariachi” sounds of music (p266).” This implies that if he doesn’t adapt, he won’t fall in love with it, and in return might also be subject to resentment and rejection from the culture as well.

Alder’s views on cultural synergy (p236) Alder’s views cultural synergy as an asset, he says that while some view cultural diversity as a resource others view it as a detriment to their success. He goes on to note that, “According to proponents of the synergic approach,  problem solving is enhanced when ‘organizations reflect the aspects of all members’ cultures in their strategy, structure, and process without violating the norms of a single culture” (Alder, p110).”As noted in the text, “Synergy is a difficult word to understand and even more challenging to implement. It implies a belief that we can learn from others and others can learn from us. (p244)” Synergy begins between colleagues, then extends to their organizations, and finally involves countries (p244). The basic premise here I that the more diverse a corporation is, the more compatible is with the rest of the world. On a global scale, a company cannot expect to compete effectively within a globalized market place without embodying globalized perspectives, and it’s difficult to truly embrace those perspectives without encompassing some of the traits they represent.

Relation between Team building, success and synergy

The text identifies teambuilding as a gateway to success and synergy because team building establishes specific skill-sets among employees.  The skills mentioned are:

  • “Tolerance of ambiguity, uncertainty, and seeming lack of structure.”
  • “To take interest in each member’s achievement, as well as the group’s.”
  • “The ability to give and accept feedback in a nondefensive manner.”
  • “Openness to change, innovation, group consensus, team decision making, and creative problem solving.”
  • “To create a team atmosphere that is informal, relaxed, comfortable, and nonjudgmental.”
  • “The capacity to establish intense, short-term member relations, and to disconnect for the next project.”
  • “To keep group communication on target and schedule, while permitting disagreement and valuing effective listening.”

(Robert, Harris, & Moran, p260 )

These skills are seen as major success defining factors and they ultimately lead to enhanced cultural synergy. The key argument in favor of the relationship between teambuilding, success and synergy is that teambuilding makes companies more adaptable to change and just synergize-able with the rest of the world and global corporate culture. It also diversifies and empowers what the authors on many occasions throughout the text refer to as ‘brain capital, or ‘brainpower’ as a corporate concept.

Challenges of transition and relocation

The section of the text titled “Managing Transitions and Relocations in The Global Workplace,” opens with a defining common French saying, “We need to throw our hats far away to make retrieving them interesting (p266).” This quote perfectly embodies the theme of transition and relocation which focuses on learning objectives necessary to smoothly travel across global boarders, explore, and assimilate with other cultures. An example the text uses has to do with the author’s business trip to Brazil. He is delayed in the Airport, for being a U.S. citizen; he is then fingerprinted and interrogated about his politics. After all of this a Brazilian reporter approaches him with the intent to spark controversy by asking him for an interview about the entire Brazilian airport customs process. He is wise to avoid the interview, but others are not. The core challenges of transition and relocation are role shock or, its reverse counterpart, reentry shock. The challenge these concepts pose to the individuals dealing with them, as well anyone who may have to associate with those individuals, is major obligation to attain cross-cultural competencies and foster acculturation. The author mentions a pilot who was not as wise as he in avoiding the interview and actually became so upset by the process he jailed and fined for his outbursts. This is the perfect example of a traveler who had difficulties transitioning into and identifying his new role as an outsider to a culture that was not his own. A key point the text makes about transition and relocation is that in every situation of transition and relocation, “each situation represents a life turning point that can cause the person to advance or regress (p264).”

Compare Role shock with reentry shock

On Role Shock the text notes that, “Each of us chooses, or is assigned, or is conditioned to a variety of roles in society and its institutions—man or woman, family member, son or daughter, parent or child, husband or wife (single/married/divorced), teacher or engineer, manager or union organizer, amateur or professional. In these positions, people have expectations of us, as we do of their varied positions (p277).” The text goes on to note that these roles can change at an alarming rate, and in fact have been doing so over the past 60 years, making the roles fuzzy and very vague. Role shock can result in identity an crisis; the book uses the example of an individual who closely identifies their psyche with a particular job title, like manager, only to have the true meaning or core responsibilities of that job altered beyond comprehension. This creates a shock to one’s ideological perspective that could be severe and long lasting. The best example used to clearly define this is demonstrated by the book in Exhibit 10.7 on page 279. It uses the example of two stereotypically masculine husbands forced into the role of being house parents to their daughters, while their wives go off to fight in the Iraq War. In comparison, the concept of reentry shock is even more devastating and poses a level of trauma to which it can be very difficult to adjust. Reentry shock is reverse culture shock when an individual returns home. Examples of reentry shock used in the text refer to expatriates and war veterans returning home only to find their positions in society forfeited due to a loss of social connections, or attaining an objective perspective of their national politics with which their fellow nationals could not identify. The most intriguing of examples had to do with astronauts who ventured to the moon only to re-enter the earth’s atmosphere and find the day-to-day concerns of their fellow Americans insignificant in comparison with their extraterrestrial point of view (p280). The key difference between role shock and re-entry shock is that role shock is the result of being ignorant or absent minded of one’s new role due to a lack of information, while reentry poses the same effect as the result of knowing too much.

References

Moran, Robert T., Philip R. Harris, and Sarah V. Moran. Managing Cultural Differences.Amsterdam: Elsevier/Butterworth-Heinemann, 2007. Print.

 

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