What About the Multiculturalism Gap in Global Business?

When we talk of “cultural competence”, it is also necessary to remember this expression must always include sensitivity to themes such as social class issues, education, ethnic or racial origins, personality, sex, etc. Themes for which all people should have an open approach and aimed to use cultural differences as a strategic lever for the development of people, teams, and organizations.

The gap between the rules at home and how we need to act in a foreign culture is a question of considerable importance. Some aspects are even fundamental to know how to move and face meetings of any kind but above all at work. In some cases, those of complex cultures having the support of a local expert can make the difference.

We can cite several examples.

Think of professional training across the culture. It can be very tempting for trainers to take for granted that, as their tried and tested methodologies have been proved to raise standards of excellence at home, the same method should be adopted worldwide. It is believed, erroneously, that there may be some initial cultural resistance but, in the face of excellent results, people will soon get used to “our way of thinking and operating”!!! Instead, the opposite often happens: if certain ideas go against deeply held cultural values, they will always be adopted under duress and that will inevitably create a stressful working environment. A really, effective, training program will take this into account: listen and adapt itself to the opinions of local managers. The watchword must be: to know and respect local cultures.

Another example is the “Power Distance”, the extent to which people accept respect power difference, the level of importance that is given to the degree in corporate and social hierarchies, but also social. In an increasingly globalized world of work where you have to work with people of different ethnicities and cultures, this variable, or rather, this “value” (because that is, especially for those countries where the PD is high) it can affect the organization of work, the relationships with subordinates or with high levels of the company with which you have to work. So, it is really important to get to know this particular aspect of the country in which you have to work.

Even arguing across cultures can be a problem: some people prefer to resolve conflicts with the direct approach by talking clear, while others prefer the metaphors and turns of phrase. Knowing how to juggle between these differences is essential not to offend the interlocutor, especially when it comes to business.

Also, the system for transmitting information about each culture should be respected. To cite even some cases rather extreme, but not at all isolated, it is opportune to remember that, for example, in some countries, the level of literacy is minimized and, therefore, all knowledge is handed down orally. In these cases, you need to be able to transmit stories instructive to those who must listen.

During the meetings, there are some important factors to consider.

For example, communication in Asian and Arab countries tends to be much more subtle and indirect, so as to be aware and ensure that at the end of the meeting everyone leaves the room with a clear understanding of what has been discussed. Furthermore, as regards the Arab partners, dialogue in their culture is fundamental to determine the validity of the project.

There are specific forms of greeting at the beginning of a meeting. If formality is a common denominator across Asia, the most important principle to master in China is the gradual building of trust and respect through interaction, so that businesses can build a long and lasting bond.

Very often people are not aware of the way others exchange communications on similar subjects, this leads to misunderstandings and problems that, when they realize that something had to be managed differently, have now had their negative effect.For effective communication, it is necessary to understand and integrate into the culture of the people with whom you are interacting. Each nationality has its own way of relating to its interlocutor in the world of work and knowing the differences between the various countries can make the difference for the success of the negotiation.

It is necessary to understand the direct impact that the ability to understand and relate to different cultures has on decision-making processes: using a formal or informal approach, being aware of the different hierarchical systems, knowing how to respect the sensitivity of others, for example, are all elements key in international communication.

Global management combined with virtual offers a demanding challenge. Much of the interpersonal communication effectiveness is lost when switching from face to face to sending e-mails or a phone call.

These approaches tend to create communication problems with people of the same culture, let alone what can happen with people belonging to others. It is therefore always advisable to meet in person, especially at the beginning of the relationship. When this is not feasible, then it is essential to clarify expectations, the preferred working style, and take time to create good relationships.

It is, therefore, necessary to be very well prepared in grasping the different knowledge concerning Time, Jurisprudence, Networking, Decision Making (just to name a few).

Aldo Delli Paoli
Aldo Delli Paoli
Aldo is a lawyer and teacher of law & Economic Sciences, "lent" to the finance world. He has worked, in fact, 35 years long for a multinational company of financial service in the auto sector, where he held various roles, until that of CEO. In the corporate field, he has acquired skills and held positions as Credit Manager, Human Resource Manager, Team leader for projects of Acquisition & Merger, branch opening, company restructuring, outplacement, legal compliance, analysis and innovation of organizational processes, business partnerships, relations with Trade Unions and Financial Control Institutions. After leaving the company, he continued as an external member of the Board of Directors e, at the same time, he has gone back practicing law and was a management consultant for various companies. He has been also a columnist for newspapers specializing in labor law, automotive services and work organization. His interests include human behavior in the organizational environment, to the neuroscience, the impact of new technologies, the fate of the planet and people facing poverty or war scenarios. He loves traveling, reading, is passionate about many sports, follows the NBA and practices tennis.

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