Economía y Empresa

Cross Cultural Comunication


The rapid globalisation of the world's markets is now a reality, this globalization increases the competitive challenge of the companies with the risk that implies “the competitive challenge, in the environment of the economy and business, has been intensified as consequence of a larger internationalization of the economic relationships [...] what has been translated in the decrease of the margins of profitability, increment of the risk and the uncertainty” .

One of the immediate consequences of this globalization, is the necessity that the directive of those companies have a series of qualities to facilitate their management work in a multinational environment, this sensibility has arrived to the more prestigious management schools, among them for example Instituto de Empresa that includes the topic “Aspects of Cross-Cultural Management” in their program of international formation.

The present document, will present the most important theories related with cross cultural communication that should be included in a training program for managers in order to provide them the necessaries skills to work in a multinational environment.

The main work of the managers is the administration and direction of the companies, this labor can be defined as “that differentiated function whose existence is justified for its utility and that gives place to the search of instrumental procedures and technical of rationalization of the same one” .

These procedures and techniques are summed up in four main functions:

  • Planning: In the sense of the previous step to prepare the decision, in definitive as forecaster function.

  • Organization: Specification and practical concretion for taken decisions and transmission of the same ones.

  • Management - Leadership: Leader's Personality, capability for motivate others.

  • Control: Make sure that everything happens according to the planning and to be able to react and generate contingency plans if necessary.

Taking like reference these essential functions of the directive action and looking for keys of success in an international environment, the key issues that, in the author's opinion, are vital in a training programme for international bussiness managers are:

  • Planning ! Uncertainty Advoidance, Time.

  • Organization ! Verbal and Non-verbal communication.

  • Management - Leadership ! Motivation, Status.

  • Control ! Power - Distance.

Now each one of these issues and the way to develop into a programme for international bussiness managers will be described.

Planning ! Uncertainty Advoidance, Time

The daily activity, especially in big companies, it is subjected to permanent uncertainties and constant plannings for the future, the attitude with these situations depends, basically, on the cultural environment in which we are.

The sense of the past - present - future and the interpretation that each one gives to these concepts, as well as the interrelation among them, is a cultural aspect that can differ depending on the cultural context of reference.

Uncertainty Advoidance

According with Hofstede, we can define this term as the way used for the members of a community to face unknown situations .

Applied to a bussiness environment, deals with the emotional need for laws and rules, job security and avoidance of the future's uncertainties.

Planning an international project of big dimensions, it will be common to find intercultural problems related to this issue, “the concept of uncertainty avoidance is at the center of many intercultural encounters” .

The main differences between low and high uncertainty avoidance cultures will be:

  • Needing of rules and regulations Vs Only those strictly necessary.

  • Motivation by achievement Vs Motivation by security.

  • Innovation Vs Resistance to new projects.

The ability of a manager will be in the capability to reconcile both postures, sensitizing the members of cultures with low uncertainty avoidance about the importance that for their partners have the norms, even those when seem insignificant, will try also to dose the changes and to develop adjusted plannings that allow to fix a precise calendar that makes them feel more comfortable.

On the other hand, the members of a collective with high uncertainty avoidance have to be prepared to assume changes with relative easiness and they have to leave place to the improvisation omitting some strict behaviors.


“Cultures vary in the emphasis they give to short-term and long-term planning” . Basically exist cultures that will prefer to plan with long-term orientation and others with short-term orientation.

When thinking about long term projects, we will be able to meet with lack of interest from part of some participants, this situation will modify the original project generating sub-projects of shorter term that are easily assumed for all the participants. On the other hand, those cultures that are more comfortable with long term relationships will suspect of positions with immediate objectives and that are not based on durable relationships.

Moreover, exists others aspects related with this concept that are important, for example “whether our view of time is sequential, a series of passig events, or whether it is synchronic” .

In this case, events can be interpreted like an sorted and programmed chain (sequential) or as a group of situations that can be managed in an aleatory way without affecting the final result (sinchronyc). Both are also related with the capacity for doing several things at the same time or the planned organization where only a single thing is done searching more efficiency, this diferenciation establishes two different types, linear “they prefer to do one thing at a time, concentrate on it and do it within a scheduled timescale” or multi-actives “the more things they can do or handle at the same time, the happier and the more fulfilled they feel” .

A manager will reconcile these ends keeping in mind that can produce conflicts, don't respect the beginning hour of a meeting for somebody with a synchronic conception of time can be offensive, on the other hand, “sequential planning processes work less well in turbulent environments” , these differences, well used by a skilled manager, can allow to assign works subjected to very variable conditions to those people with a perception multi-active and sinchronyc about the time reserving others more strictly planned for people who perceive the time in a linear, sequential way. Working this way, will be possible to generate contingency plans exploding the abilities of both groups.

Lastly, a concept that will vary is the perception about the time horizon, this is, “how different cultures assign different meanings to past, present and future” .

The importance given to each one of those temporary spaces will have a relevant influence on business, with a orientation more focused on past and present tradition and background will have high importance, it is more important the past glories of the company than the actual high performance. In the other hand, for people with future orientation planning is vital, past and present are only tools for the future that is the only important thing.

The manager's ability will be to establish common points among both visions, marking the last achievements as well as the spirit of establishing durable relationships with long term objectives for not hurting the sensibility of some and planning with enthusiasm the future with short term clear goals to motivate the other ones.

Organization ! Verbal and Non-verbal communication

After the planning and specification of the decisions, it is the moment to transmit them for activation, that communication and the way used can have different interpretations depending on who is the speaker, also, in a very hierarchy structure, the information can be degraded passing by the different levels of the technostructure, “at more levels bigger communication difficulties. the objectives and detailed plans are not strange that be distorted little by little while be transmitted” .

Now, the keys that, in the author's opinion, should be consider to maintain an effective communication in an international business environment are presented.

General Aspects

Any communication type needs a series of components that will make it to be or not effective :

  • Who will communicate.

  • To whom is going to communicate.

  • What is going to communicate.

  • How, what will be the medium.

  • When will occur the communication.

  • Where, the location.

Also, it should be considered the way the speakers will act and what expects one from each other :

  • One-Way, linear communication, the receiver doesn't contribute with anything to the communication, simply receives the message that should be sufficiently clear and doesn't need answer.

  • Two-Way, linear communication, contribution from the receiver of the message is expected but only one person at a time contributes.

  • Transactional, interactive communication, all the participants send and receive messages at the same time.

Non-Verbal Communication

Most of the information transmitted is made by non verbal means, expressions, postures, the voice tone even transmits relevant information, without forgetting the written communication with a lot of importance in business.

A manager involved in a multicultural environment will have to keep in mind the way used to communicate, sometimes in written communication managers abuse of the one-way model, using too much memos and notes that can generate a marked power-distance environment (concept described later on), written communication should use a non aggressive style that allows to evolve to a two-way model and promote a system of “participative group, the most advisable according to Likert where the superiors have full trust in their subordinates” .

Respect the components, they should be carefully elected to avoid the degradation of the information while is transmitted amog the different levels, is for this reason that doesn't seem advisable a transactional way in non verbal communication, especially in written communication.

Looking for that participative group, mentioned above, the transactional way is the most suitable in non verbal communication (excluded written communication), associated with the verbal exchange of information.

Related to the personal relationships, different communities interpret as an insult what is a affective expression for other, in these cases, the previous study of the cultures that integrate the reference environment will be the best way to avoid embarrassing situations.

Verbal Communication

In general, we can say that the transactional way promotes a more comfortable environment, but the use of this system will depend on the components, it is not the same speak to an informal auditory that to pronounce a corporate speech to transmit strategic decisions of the company. Here is where managers will develop their abilities to transmit the precise information in the way that is more appropriate for the goals.

Finally, will be necessary the use of a common language that all the speakers know, in this situation and to avoid bad experiences, it is not a mistake the use of a professional translator, these experts not develop single functions converting words among languages, a good professional will also develop a work of cultural connection adding or eliminating shades to transmit the same message without giving place to different interpretations.

Management - Leadership ! Motivation, Status

The definition of leadership could be “exercise of power or influence in social collectives” .

How is used the control capacity and the easiness or not to mobilize the participants in a project are vital factors of success on business. The essential keys related with these aspects are presented.


Exist different groups of theories related with motivation:

  • Content theories, focused on the idea that “people have some core set of basic needs wich provide the motive force for their actions” . From this point of view, when the basic necessities are covered the motivation capacity will tend to disappear.

  • Process theories, “rather than being concerned to identify innate needs [...] direct attention to explaining motivation as a dynamic process” . In this case the motivation will come from the fixation of desirable objectives for the participants and as consequence, obtaining a satisfactory reward.

Management function in this case, first should identify the type of motivation that the participants have, later on outline objectives at several levels:

  • Fast and easy achievement with immediate reward.

  • Long term with important reward.

  • With this, motivation according with process theories will be achieved, also a intelligent manager will add components related with the quality of live in order to activate people more ascribed to content theories.


    Elements that make a component of the group to be respected above the rest, vary depending on the cultural environment, basically two ways exist of granting that recognition :

    • Achievement, recognition is given for the goals obtained, others elements are not importat. Usually only recent past is valuable.

    • Ascription, age, gender, social connections, education, the hole career is taken in consideration.

    The way to face this issue for a international business manager must respect both orientations, recognising the career of people involved but implementing objetives according to this career, expecting more from people with better and more difficult goals obtained.

    When looking for a leader within a group, experience is always somethig that everybody respects and will be a valid argument to avoid tensions related to status.

    Control ! Power - Distance

    “Control consists on assuring that everything happens according to the traced plans [...] points out the weaknesses and errors with the mission of rectifying them [...] acts on things, people and actions” .

    Power - Distance

    With this vision, where control implies actuate over the hole project, the way that work is exercised will depend on the perception that people have about the hierarchy inside an organization. In this sense, power-distance could bo defined as “the extent to wich unequal distribution of power is accepted as right and proper” .

    Hofstede presents two categories :

    • “Small power distance [...] limited dependence of sobordinates on bosses, and preference for consultation, that is, interdependence between boss and subordinate”.

    • “Large power distance [...] considerable dependence of subordinates on bosses [...] sobordinates respond by either preferring such dependence”.

    Management must reconcile both visions, those sobordinates that feel more comfortable in a large power distance environment will need clear guidelines and will assume normally the control labour from the managers, as Hosfstede presents on his PDI survey (Power Distance Index), often large power distance is asociated with low status and education level.

    In the other hand, small power distance environment is more appropriated for middle management and upper classes, here the key is collaboration, people will fell comfortable working in a team with shared responsabilities, control labour should be discussed with the affected people and dictatorial behaviours should disappear.

    Summing Up

    Along the document, important theories related with cross cultural communication that, in the author's opinion, are relevant to be included in a training program for managers have been presented, also the main aspects for the implementation of those theories in the program.

    Others concepts closely related with some of the presented have been omitted, this does not mean that are not important, the reason is specification and concentration on principal aspects. It is not operative to include too much concepts all related among them in a training program, probably the next step should be a personal deeper research in all those theories.

    The goal of the presented program is that the participants realize that all the presented concepts are related and each one affects the others.

    In the same way that the management labor can't be understood without any of its components (Planning, Organization, Leadership and Control), the issues presented compose a net:

    • Power - distance and uncertainty avoidance are cloesly related and both are connected with status.

    • Motivation are connected with the vision of long-term and sort term projects and objetives, finally communication affects all the relationships with independence about the environment.

    Finally, a skilled international bussiness manager will always consider cultural ascriptions of all the participants. Cultural asumptions are the most important part of the people behaviour and affect the hole relationships, personal study of these cultures and asumptions will help in the management labor.

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    Enviado por:Javier Romero
    Idioma: inglés
    País: España

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