Cross-cultural management involves dealing with people from diverse cultural groups at the workplace. People come from different backgrounds and cultures thus affecting how we operate in the work place. This is because people have different values that lead to differences in their attitude feelings, behavior and thinking in the work place. People in management positions behave differently depending on their cultural background. For example, leaders in management positions in Arab Nations are traditionally oriented and rely on unwritten rules mostly. Due to the differences in management styles, sometimes conflicts may rise in the work place. I have worked for various organizations around the globe and interacted with people from different nationalities and cultures. This paper will mainly focus on my experiences in the work place due to the different cultures and religions I have worked with.
My personal experience at the work place has been interesting because I would meet various people from different cultures. Working in an international organization meant I would be meeting a new set of clients every day that had different beliefs according to their cultures. It was enjoyable waking up to work every day because I did not know whom I would meet or what to expect from clients I would come into contact with during the day. It was thrilling to interact with clients from different countries who had different cultures. Due to this, I adopted different behavioral cultures without my knowledge. One day, I overheard a conversation of how the manager had denied one of his employees a chance to further his education because he had a fear of being overtaken in the work place. He denied the member of staff the chance to further his studies by changing his working hours from regular to shifts even though he knew it would not affect his work at all. This particular employee could not further his studies because his timing had changed. This shocked me because I expected him to react differently. The boss is very individualistic and probably comes from an individualistic cultural background. This is because he denies the employee a chance to advance his education and improve himself, as he is afraid his position will become threatened. He is self-protective and self-centered because he only cares about himself and neglects the needs of the others who are below him. he is a leader who s interested in self-protection. According to a study, Al-Shakhis and Ali (1989) say leaders in the UAE region are individualistic. In this case, he acts in self-interest and does not care about the needs of the other person as long as he feels safe in his current position. Dealing with various cultures meant me adapting to ways that I was not necessarily brought up practicing. My everyday encounter with cultures that did not waste time made me someone who was time conscious. I developed a habit of not wasting people’s time and in turn, I expected my time not to be wasted. Time utility becomes a key factor that overflowed to my personal life. Flexibility was also another key element that I thought the manager did not posses. If he were flexible enough, he would have let his employees upgrade their skill without having fear of him being replaced in his position. I thought to myself that his management skill at this moment was not flexible. He did not have to change the shift making it impossible for that employee to further his studies. On the other hand, the power distance in this community is high because the manager had the authority to change the workers shift and the employee could not question this decision. This means that the manager has absolute power and he or she can use it to oppress or exploit the employees (Smith, Achoui & Harb, 2007). In this case, the manager used power to deny an employee an opportunity to improve his career without a genuine reason. According to the Trompenaars model in the dimension of change tolerance, the manager is not tolerant to change and feels threatened by the change. He wants things to remain the way they are as he is afraid status quo change might occur. The employee who is denied a chance to go school will no longer be motivated in his work place because he has been denied a chance to advance himself. He will be viewing his work as a hindrance to his person and professional growth. This is because by changing his shifts the manager is working towards denying him work life balance. This is because he will not be able to do other things besides his work and this will lead to stress.
Working in an environment of different cultures affected my altitudes, dressing, decision-making, negotiation, communication and religious practices. For instance, the choices I make have to be choices that do not rub off badly to other cultures that are at my work place. This really came in handy for me when I was working with an investment company in the UK. At this work environment, we had various religions but the quiet dominant one was the Jewish. I am a Muslim by religion and working with the Jews gave me an interest to know their culture in a new dimension. The work place brings different people, from different cultures of different religions together. The Jewish for instance, they treat each other as family and they hardly stare at the Muslims. According to Hoftede’s cultural dimension (Buda & Elkhouly, 1998). The Jewish can be placed under collectivism because they value the family a great deal. People care about others and put the needs of the society before their own needs. This means that in whatever one does it should serve the greater community. In the end individual needs are met eventually. That does not apply to the Jewish because they are stared at wherever they go mostly. This could be due to the history associated with the Jewish a long time when they had to wear a sign to identify them. Some of my colleagues were people who do not believe that there is a force greater than the human life while others were so dedicated to their religion to an extent of declaring their faith to anyone who cared to hear them. My colleagues who did not believe in another force that is greater than human life, found it irritating that the staunch believers were always ready to proclaim their faith at any given time. I do not mean that one is to shy away from your religion but rather everything should be done in moderation.
Through my stay in various organizations in the world I have come to realize that the workplace in Arab countries has changed in the recent times. The countries are basically masculine as per Hofstede’s cultural dimension. The society is patriarchal and men dominate most aspects of life. However, in the recent past women have risen to the challenge and now have equal access to education and most are taking up business courses and this has changed the workplace as women take up jobs. In fact, in some universities women outnumber men (Neal, Catana, A& Catana, D, 2007). This change will give women power to participate in decision-making in workplaces as well as in homes.
When conflicts arise in the work place, negotiations can be hectic because some cultures require one to go through an argument until they are heard or they reach a conclusion that would benefit the both parties involved. This is because cross-cultural communication involves a discussion between people from diverse cultural settings who aim to come to an agreement that will benefit all. It is therefore imperative to find out what people from a different culture look for in a negotiation. This is important as it enables one to choose a side on the negotiation that will be comfortable for the other person and to minimize miscommunication. Different cultures approach negotiation differently and therefore knowing how a certain community behaves during a negotiation will make the process smooth. More importantly, it is good to listen to the other person and show that one understands their viewpoint. The level of emotions one deals with mostly depends on the culture they believe in. Sometimes one’s emotions may take full control of a situation causing chaos in the work place. For a person to understand cross-cultural communication it is important to know their style of decision-making, situation and things such as gestures, office surrounding and personal proximity. In order to deal with such extreme cases, I had to tone down some of my beliefs in order to make the working place tolerable. I do not mean that I start shaping my life according to the different cultures at work so that I please them but rather all the cultures in the work place should strive to make going to work bearable for all cultures.
We cannot simply ignore the fact that dealing with different cultures can bring conflicts that require negotiations to be handled differently. For this negotiation talks to take place effectively, it is advisable to choose a location for the talks to take place. This is actually the first stage when dealing with negotiations. The second step is building trust and knowing the counterpart. It is important to know the negotiation style used by people from different countries.
I conclude that different cultures need different negotiation skills. All cultures have a different approach when dealing with them and whether we like it or not there cultures rub off in us affecting different aspects of our lives. This paper has also helped us learn that for a workplace to be more conducive, employers should make an effort in learning their employees’ cultures to avoid continuous conflicts in the work place. Cultures are what shape us and make us who we are therefore it is an important factor not to be ignored. Thus, it is important to learn about different cultures especially when working in an international organization more so during this era of globalization. This will help to work effectively with people from diverse backgrounds and make the working relationship easy for the workers, as they will have less communication breakdown instances. It is also important to avoid cultural stereotyping and using words that are culturally biased. One should use simple words and repeat the idea so that the other person understands it clearly. To make sure that a person has understood one may kindly ask them to paraphrase the idea. If not understood then the best thing would be to look for ways to make them understand. Another interesting thing in cross-cultural communication is use of gestures. One should be very carefully with their use because they mean different things in different cultures. Putting a little effort in cross-cultural communication will go a long way in improving the working experience with diverse people. More importantly, one should not treat people as individuals because some people from countries classified in a certain way by Hofstede may not conform and may behave in a different manner. Thus, generalization of individuals according to cultures may complicate the conflicts in a work place further. As Sonderberg and Holden (2002) say we need to come up with new ways of meeting the modern challenges in cross-cultural work places.
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Buda, M.H. & Elkhouly, S.M., 1998. Cultural Differences between Arabs and Americans: Individualism-Collectivism Revisited, Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 29 pp. 487-492.
Neal, M., Finlay, JL, Catana, A & Catana, D. 2007.A comparison of Leadership prototypes of Arab and European Females. International journal of Cross Cultural Management, 7(3), pp. 291-316
Smith, P.B. Achoui, M. & Harb, C. 2007. Unity and Diversity in Arab Managerial Styles International Journal of Cross Cultural Management, 7pp. 275-289.
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