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In a multi-cultural business environment

  • Published at 10:14 am February 12th, 2019
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Overcoming cultural barriers is the next great step for international businesses

The understanding of cross-cultural differences and how to manage them is critical to effective management in the international and multi-cultural business organizational environment. Cross-cultural management is knowledge about management perspective that breaks the concept of culture that has affected management thinking, education, and research for several decades. It is the management of people and things that involve a different cultural background.

Cross-culture management teaches how to handle conflicts of the heterogeneity culture and actualize effective management. Its aim is to design a feasible organization structure and management mechanism across different cultural backgrounds. It also plans to use enterprises’ resources, especially the exert potential value of enterprises efficiently and effectively.

Importance of cross-cultural management

Ethnic or national contexts has been changing. Cross-cultural management can provide an opportunity for an organization to learn a new way of social interaction -- helps to become more effective and efficient in multicultural business environments -- therefore, increasing the organization’s global fluency.

Global fluency could establish a good business relationship creating a competitive advantage in the global marketplace for the organization. The improvement in production, delivery service, technologies that fulfill customers’ needs should increase the organizations’ competitiveness.

Competencies are views as a competitive strategy. Thus, an organization must improve itself by running competence development programs. The purpose of competence development programs is to prepare for an uncertain future. For a cross-cultural organization, it is very important.

The expectations, behaviour, and attitudes of a new employee will affect the organization in a different manner. Recruiting candidates that can be effective in cross-cultural environments, handling the differing regulatory environments, training employees to handle inter-cultural communication issues, facilitating cross-cultural teams, aligning HR policies, and procedures across corporate entities in different nations are very much needed for an organization.

Common cross-culture barriers

Communication is a major barrier between different cultures. This can come in the form of a language barrier, where some team members aren’t fluent in the language in which business is conducted. It may take them longer to communicate their ideas. They may also be unable to get their message across correctly, or team members may not take their ideas seriously because of their lower level of language skills.

The way an organization is structured can also be a barrier for cross-culture teams. Organizational structures vary from company to company. They include horizontal organizations where there is no official hierarchy and companies with several levels of management, where the word of the superior is law and not following directives is seen as a sign of disrespect. When working with cultures that view authority differently, the way the organization is structured can cause problems.

One’s culture can also affect decision-making style. Conflicts between the manager and an employee, or between two employees, can arise if one makes decisions analytically and the other instinctively. Similarly, some employees may make decisions quickly, while others take their time. This can cause friction between team members. If the barriers between cultures are not dealt with effectively by management, they can slow down daily tasks, affect team relationships and derail larger business initiatives.

Strategies for cross-culture management

In order to successfully perform as a cross-culture manager -- adaptation is the most important strategy among many a number of strategies dealing with issues that arise as a result of cultural differences. Ignoring cultural differences or not understanding their importance can be harmful. Instead, it’s imperative to acknowledge cultural gaps that may exist on the team and figure out ways to work around them. A manager needs to be able to think of creative solutions to cultural barriers.

With the help of global communication tools such as the internet and mobile phones, it is easy for companies big or small to operate on an international level. Multi-national giants such as Google or Apple operate in several countries all over the world, their leadership team deals with people from a variety of cultures.

Many universities offer courses on cross-culture management as part of a business degree. In addition to getting a formal education in cross-culture management, some leaders may choose to learn on the job by delving into the day-to-day aspects. Others may try a course from an organization that specifically deals with cross-cultural education for professionals, such as Global Integration, which provides practical tips and tools leaders can apply in the workplace to better deal with cultural differences within the company.

Cross-cultural management is an interdisciplinary field of study, and aims to improve communication, management, and interaction of people from different cultures in society and in an organization.

TaslimAhammad is the assistant professor at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science and Technology University (BSMRSTU).

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