Interculture Competence at the Workplace

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Introduction

Culture has a great impact on business life and communication between employees in daily business life. In general, the concept of German culture and life has been developed over a thousand-year history. The national culture was influenced by both the Latinate and Byzantine worlds. Due to a big number of ethnic groups on their territory, German people were always open to new artistic trends and influences coming from abroad. Similar to German culture, American culture was influenced by historical traditions and national uniqueness. All mentioned above factors encouraged the formation of the complex and versatile nature of German art. Intersection of different cultures has made its impact on many customs and traditions of both nations, including the manner to dress, which reflected both Western and Oriental elements, and national cuisine with various borrowings and trends.

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Business Culture

Individual rights and privacy concerns

In business America, the values of the local, largely native-born population, the values, were formed in conscious opposition to the perceived values of a higher social class: they stress the practical rather than the reflective, anti-authoritarianism, a contempt for ‘new chums’, larrikinism. Workplace, action is inevitably the prerequisite for success. It is easy to recognize a powerful ideology of American identity being created here. In the workplace, doubtless is the main feature of business life. The populist model of American business identity needs to be seen in perspective and balanced with less common or obvious ones. In addition to mistaking a part of the culture for the whole, critics should be aware of the ‘constructedness’ of the national issue of American business identity and its social and historical context. There is a connection between the national issue of identity and populist issues of national character in many other countries at the same time. Business people value privacy most of all privacy and human rights. For instance, before undercover police go into a business to purchase products, they should have to obtain a warrant to protect business people from the discretion of the police. Justice O’Connor, writing for the majority, did not see any reason to prevent the police from going where everyone else is allowed to go. In a sense, the part of a business that is open to the general public is like an open field on a farm. It is not an area where anyone has a reasonable expectation of privacy, and it is not an area where the property interest deserves protection. Once the police have the person in custody, they may search the person and the area immediately around him or her for weapons and evidence. The justification for this brief search is to protect the safety of the arresting officers. They may not conduct a full search of the home, however, without a search warrant (Knapp and Vangelisti, 2004).

Similar to America, German employees value privacy and protect their personal information. The need for privacy evokes the common features of the cultural issues of the noble frontiersman in other countries in the nineteenth century: respect for action and the practical, and indifference if not outright hostility to thought and learning, an overwhelming preference for the remoteness and solitude of the countryside to the crowds and culture of the towns. Nor is the frontiersman the only widely spread and trans-national issue comparable to that of the native-born American national lad. These manifestations of the cult of youth and, in slightly narrower focus, what White calls the ‘coming man’, are extolled in the popular literature of many societies (Thomas and Inkson, 2004).

Religious values and religious tolerance

In the USA, the most enduring issue of the national character consolidated in the latter part of the nineteenth century around the populist figure of the ‘bushman’, a clear descendant of the national lad. The daily life of business people is affected by religious principles and a need to apply cross-cultural communication methods in daily communication. The concept of need is very important. And needs are hard to define and difficult to measure. Of primary importance for effectively managing diversity is the manager’s understanding of the cultural beliefs and values of his or her organization. These beliefs and values coalesce to create an environment that employees perceive as supportive or not supportive of diversity. Within all organizations, there are culturally supportive and nonsupportive people, policies, and informal structures. The challenge of getting women and minorities into senior-level management positions is difficult. While the proportion of women and minorities in the workforce has increased significantly during the past decade, few of them have made it to the top. The bush ethos, and the urban bohemian culture which propagated it, extolled a kind of solitariness, the ‘lone hand’ or purely masculine camaraderie, with pleasure taken in hard drinking and gambling, that was the very antithesis of the idealization of home life and domesticity characteristic of Evangelicalism (Knapp and Vangelisti, 2004). During sharing experiences or work, people talk and communicate their cultures to each other. Ideally, they will discover differences, ask questions, offer support, and share emotions and feelings. This is the crossroad of communication. In diversity workshops, the participants make decisions about each other–about each other’s culture. Sometimes these decisions breed dislike, fear, and distrust. Vocabulary, syntax, idioms, slang, and dialects cause difficulty. Employees struggling to understand co-workers who use a different language experience firsthand the difficulty in crossing cultural barriers. In contrast to American employees, German staff values strong religious values and believes, but does not pay much attention to diversity issues in daily business life. In contrast to Germany, in America, the disproportionate strength of unskilled, working-class people in the population, the convict basis, the strong Irish influence, and the national system of values. The culture can be seen as a fluid society, one which debased and vulgarised the rich but which, on the other hand, tended to augment the integrity and self-reliance, although not to German the manners, of working people. Although the culture reinforced the viciousness and brutality of its convict origins, it also fostered physical endurance, resourcefulness, an anti-authoritarian cast of mind, and a collectivist social outlook (Thomas and Inkson, 2004).

This, together with an ethic of individualism, created a business community of small-holders (see appendixes, 1 and 2). The different conditions of the USA, together with a determination to keep the price of land high, created instead large single properties employing many casual hands. Following the classification of Geert Hofstede, it is evident that US employees are more individualistic than German staff. It was the lot of the overwhelming majority of workers on the land to work for someone else, in an essentially impermanent way although often for relatively high wages. These conditions are the origin of that semi-nomadic rural working class, almost exclusively male in composition–there were few women in the outback, and in many cases married life would have been impossible in the barrack-style accommodation provided for the shearers–which is the basis of the bushman issue. The dangers, loneliness, and sheer hardness of life made the practice of ‘mateship’ not only necessary for survival, but, in the absence of marriageable women, education, and religion–in short, what we think of as ‘culture’–provided the only vehicle for what Eleanor Hodges has called ’emotional release, altruism, and commitment’ (Thomas and Inkson, 2004).

Literary culture is spreading the business world, the authors underline that there is the nature of the paradoxes involved in a process whereby an essentially anti-intellectual outlook was transmitted within what was essentially a culture of intellectuals. Furthermore, the power of the issue was spread by a small and unrepresentative section of the population. Whatever the extent of the real-life bushmen in the outback, the powerful business world was in many ways the creation of an emergent class of urban intellectuals. Whether the issues about the USA society were exemplified in the literature about the pioneers or the bushmen, their view of identity is essentially founded in simple ideas of working life and what is popular culture. t is very striking in this view how important it has become to speak of culture in ways which transcend the limitations of local history, or time and space in general for that matter, which stress the role of the individual imagination and will rather than the experience of the collective, and find ways of contextualizing identity which link it with European high culture and philosophy, and with the wider history and ideology of the classical world (Knapp and Vangelisti, 2004).

This is not the first time that the desire for leadership in German business culture is more traditional, high cultural, the sense was voiced. They hoped that an American business culture could still be built which would be loyal to the values, working-class and nationalistic, with the bush continuing to be the mainspring of its literature, and yet free of their parochialism. It was a tall order and the delicate balance implied was destined to be broken. Germany constructed by the bohemians of the late nineteenth century was gradually reduced to what calls wattle, sunshine, and White (Thomas and Inkson, 2004).

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The great social role of the Roman Catholic Church information of German business culture should be stressed since it represented the most powerful institution that was able to unite national life. Clergymen have brought into, and disseminated among, masses the idea that German traditions and German nationality were associated with Catholicism as identical. The biggest attachment to the Church was in rural areas among peasants, though their religious culture did not have deep roots. National feelings and faith in God, matched together, turned into a powerful instrument for the German people in their striving for national independence.

Family values are truly respected in German business culture and the importance of this social institution is perceived in the way of life of German employees. Shortage of housing after the war was the main cause for why now German people usually live in extended families, both in cities and villages. The relations in the family are based on mutual help and respect for the elderly. Important family events in rural areas include Sunday mass, weddings, funerals, and christenings. Children usually live with their parents until they get married. Many couples, especially in cities, now tend to have only one or two children. Ideological differences between the Roman Catholic Church and the communist regime influenced attitudes toward women. On one hand, the Communist Party fought for gender equality, on the other hand, the Church stressed women’s roles of mother and wife. But, in general, when it comes to husband and wife, families value partnership. Women usually have successful careers and even predominate in such professions as teachers, doctors, and accountants. However, they still perform most of the housework (Warren, 2005).

Interpersonal communication at the workplace

In Germany, the business image shifted from the capitalist to the less socially threatening one of the ‘digger’, an essentially white-collar worker with a ‘larrikin’ streak, to the final indignity. Many of the employees who might have formed the cultural avant-garde of American left the country, spending long periods overseas, twenty or thirty years in some instances, or, in many cases, not returning at all. The phenomenon of expatriation is one of the most striking in the period. Over one-third of scholars never returned to their native land. The shift from the country can also be seen in the transformations of the US cultural icons and issues. White associates this period with the growth of the cult of the lifesaver. While this is a development of the digger and still an issue centered on physical prowess and ‘health’–it is hardly a sophisticated image–it is a strong city image as well (Wood, 2003).

In contrast to Germany, American employees are more friendly and open in daily business communication. Emigrants from Europe left their native land for centuries. Due to this, so-called racial communities were formed across the globe since the end of the 20th century. Having analyzed a wide range of factors influencing cultural and social life in the USA, immigration and corruption aspects, as well as its political and economic relations with Europe, some particular conclusions and recommendations may be presented. A rich and long history of German employees is reflected in their well-established traditions and values which are being transferred from generation to generation, making the business world an all-sufficient national entity. Although immigration was a major problem during the last two centuries, now this process is shortened, which means that the well-being of people is being improved. However, there is present such negative evidence as racism which requires a specific state approach that would change prepossessions to representatives of particular races. The high corruption level index speaks for another issue of concern. Taking into account the political and economic relationship between Germany and the United States, positive dynamics and intensification may be observed. With Germany, being a high developing member of the European Union, and the US, treated as the most powerful state of the world, their cooperation in any field of business has the potential to bring in future fruitful results and profits for both countries (Wood, 2003).

Conclusion

In sum, cultural diversity must be accepted and recognized – in particular through the use of media and other modern technologies. The main similarity between these approaches is that they see an employee as the main driven force of productivity and effective performance. Much of the work that needs to be done requires a range of skills from low to high, from relatively little training and experience to a great deal. The experienced craftsperson moves easily from one level of skill to another in getting a job done. In some instances more work can get done, greater productivity is achieved if skilled workers have assistants who can help out with the less skilled work (Campbell et al 1994). Most complete jobs in any field consist mostly of low- and medium-skilled work and a considerably smaller proportion of highly skilled work (Schuler, 1998). Persons doing the lower-skilled work can be allowed to do the more skilled work if properly coached and supervised. Employers are finding they can achieve greater productivity by having a flexible workforce rather than depending on IS specialists to perform specific work. Achieving this greater IS productivity requires management to contract with workers in good faith to maintain pay, benefits, and working conditions commensurate with their increasing value to the organization. In such a work situation workers grow naturally to achieve greater skill and experience. Flexibility, thus, can be an advantage to both worker and employer.

References

Knapp, M.L. Vangelisti, A. (2004). Interpersonal Communication and Human Relationships. Allyn & Bacon; 5 edn.

Thomas, D.C., Inkson, D.C. (2004). Cultural Intelligence: People Skills for Global Business. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

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Warren, Th. (2005), Cross-cultural Communication: Perspectives in Theory And Practice. Baywood Publishing Company, Inc.

Wood, J.T. (2003). Interpersonal Communications. Wadsworth Publishing.

Appendix

Geert Hofstede
Geert Hofstede. Cultural Distance. Germany
Geert Hofstede
Geert Hofstede. Cultural Distance. The USA

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