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Working Across Cultures

Scenario: Your company is undertaking a new business venture in another country. Your boss has told you they want you to oversee this venture. You are excited about the opportunity, and you want to ensure the people you interact with are working harmoniously with you.

Go to the Hofstede Insights website. In the “Compare Countries” section, go to the “Type a country” dropdown. Select your home country and another country of your choosing. If your home country is not listed, please select a neighboring country or one you are familiar with.

Notes from my professor

  • After reviewing this week’s lecture notes, compare the 2 countries’ scores. Include a screenshot of the chart from the website.
  • Briefly explain why you chose the other country.
  • Discuss the similarities and differences between your 2 countries in each of the 6 cultural dimensions.
    • How can you use the similarities you identified to your advantage in your communications?
    • What hurdles might the differences you found present for your communications?
  • Referencing 2 of this week’s materials, what tactics would you apply to build rapport across the 2 cultures and overcome any intercultural obstacles?

Post your initial response by Wednesday, midnight of your time zone, and reply to at least 2 of your classmates’ initial posts by Sunday, midnight of your time zone.​

1st Response

 Maria Reyes RE: Week 3 DiscussionCOLLAPSE

Working Across Cultures- the United States versus the United Kingdom

Score Comparison

In most societies, individuals lead different lives and conform to different cultures. However, even though there are significant differences between countries, there may be similarities in certain situations. The United States and the United Kingdom are among the world’s top nations in all aspects, making it important to study their cultures based on the Hofstede framework. First, the power distance between the United Kingdom and the United States presents the fact that people are not equal in societies (Hofstede Insights, 2020). The score for the UK is 35, while that of the United States is 40. Secondly, under the individualism dimension, the US’s score is 91, while the UK’s is 89. Thirdly, for masculinity, the UK rests at 66 while the US is at 62. The fourth dimension, uncertainty avoidance, puts the UK at 35, while the US is 46. The United Kingdom has a long-term orientation score of 51, while the US has 26. Lastly, the indulgence dimension is close, with the US having a 69, and the UK follows closely with a score of 68 (Check Appendix).

Explanation

Several reasons can be associated with my selection of the United States and the United Kingdom. First, the two countries make the list of the world’s top economies. For this reason, understanding the differences and similarities of these nations provides a better understanding of what it means to work in these nations. Secondly, I chose the two superpowers because they enjoy a cordial relationship between trade and other associations.

Similarities and Differences

First, the power distance dimension presents a clear image of the large difference between the UK and US societies. The score of 35 under power distance indicates that the United Kingdom society believes and advocates minimizing inequalities. On the other hand, the US score of 40 also indicates a significant focus on equal rights in the American government and society. Secondly, the high score (91) of the US in individualism explains that people care about themselves and their families. The UK also has a high score of 89, indicating that British people are highly private and individualistic.

Thirdly, the masculinity score of 66 presents that the United Kingdom is a highly masculine society that is success-driven and oriented. On the contrary, the score of 62 means that the United States has high masculinity, which is evident in the general American behavior. Under the uncertainty avoidance dimension, the UK records a low score of 35, meaning that they are comfortable waking up without knowing what the day has in store. In the United States, a low score of 46 indicates a certain willingness to innovate and accept new ideas. The US’s long-term orientation score is at 26, which indicates that most Americans are not pragmatic. The mid-score of 51 means that the United Kingdom society has no clear dominant culture that people prefer. Lastly, the high score of 69 means that the British society is indulgent, while the high score of 68 means that the US society is also prudish.

How the differences and similarities impact communications

Cultural similarities are beneficial because there will not be any barrier to communicating once someone travels from the US to the UK. Cultural differences between the United States and the United Kingdom affect communications in many ways. For example, it may be complex to communicate where people have different norms and manners because they will not get it right.

Tactics I would apply to build rapport

Several tactics can help company members build rapport in the United Kingdom. For example, learning the client’s culture ensures no communication barrier (Whitmore, 2016). Secondly, getting ready to try new things while in that new environment is an effective way of creating rapport (Javidan & Zaheer, 2019).

References

Hofstede Insights. (2021). Country Comparison. Retrieved 10 January 2021 from https://www.hofstede-insights.com/country-comparison/the-uk,the-usa/

Javidan, M., & Zaheer, A. (2019). How Leaders Around the World Build Trust Across Cultures. Leadership & Managing People, may.

Whitmore, J. (2016). Ways to Overcome Cultural Barriers. Retrieved 10 January 2021 from h

hhtps://www.entrepreneur.com/article/276998

2nd Response

 E: Week 3 Discussion AttachmentCOLLAPSE

Working Across Cultures: Canada and South Korea

I was born in Zimbabwe, became a naturalized South African citizen, and currently reside in Canada with Canadian citizenship on the horizon. I have chosen Canada as my ‘home country’ for this exercise because this is where I want to establish new life-long roots. For the export business venture, I have selected South Korea. In 2020 I launched a small new division in our company focused on producing a new product for the East Asian markets with South Korea as our bridgehead.  

Using the Hofstede Insights National Culture tool (1), the following insights can be garnered:

  1. Power Distance Index (PDI): Definition – how accepting a society is of power-inequalities. High PDI societies accept and are comfortable with hierarchical structures. Low PDI societies strive for equal distribution of power and ‘demand justification for inequalities of power.’
    Key difference: South Korea favours a more structured approach to hierarchy, and they would never naturally consider candidly giving feedback to a senior. 
    Steps: I need to be vigilant in ensuring I follow the proper introduction channels in accessing new contacts. Even though we are working with Korean partners, I must ensure that feedback or critique is given at the right time and to the right audience. I must also ensure that the right level of employee interfaces with the partner company as it would be a sign of disrespect to have a more junior employee engage with a senior Korean employee. 
  2. Individualism Versus Collectivism (IDV): Definition – Individualistic cultures favour a loosely-knit social framework in which the individual and immediate family are the focus of care. Collectivistic cultures show preference for a tightly-knit societal framework in which individuals are unquestioningly loyal to their family and grouping and can expect a high degree of care and support from such. The differences between these two are reflected in whether people’s self-image is defined in terms of “I” or “we.”
    Key Difference: Korea is highly collective, which translates into workers being very attuned to the needs and results of their company. On the other hand, Canada is highly individualistic, where the needs of the employee are measured against the needs of the company and can often come before the needs of the company.
    Steps: Attempt to build a “we” that centres around the consortium’s focus. Seek to build relationships with key individuals and build trust. 
  3. Masculinity versus Femininity (MAS): Definition – High MAS societies are highly competitive and have a preference for achievement, heroism, assertiveness, and material rewards for success. Low MAS (High Femininity) cultures are highly consensus-oriented and favour cooperation, modesty, caring for the weak, and quality of life. In the business since this can be summarized as “tough versus tender” cultures.
    Key Difference: Korea is more cooperative and consensus-oriented than Canada.
    Steps: I must avoid being too assertive and aggressive in pushing to achieve the project’s aims; while I won’t sacrifice results for harmony, I can certainly take time to gently build consensus and allow all voices to contribute. 
  4. Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI): Definition – UAI represents the measure to which a society is uncomfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity. High UAI societies have rigid codes of conduct and belief and are intolerant of unorthodox views. Low UAI societies have a more pragmatic approach, where practice and results count more than principles.
    Key Difference: South Korea is a very structured society that does not entirely favour radical thinking or unorthodox practices.
    Steps: I must ensure that our approach to project management and deliverables is handled with an awareness of our Korean partner’s thinking and methodologies. 
  5. Long Term Orientation versus Short Term Normative Orientation (LTO): Definition – low LTO societies tend to favour time-honoured traditions and norms and are suspicious of societal change. High LTO societies are more pragmatic; they encourage thrift and efforts in modern education to prepare for the future. For business purposes, this is referred to as “(short-term) normative versus (long-term) pragmatic”. 
  6. Indulgence Versus Restraint (IVR): Definition – High IVR (indulgent) societies favour freely gratifying basic and natural human drives related to enjoying life and having fun. Low IVR (restrained) societies have strict social norms that regulate gratification.
    I have combined 5 and 6 because they are interrelated.
    Key Difference: South Korea has almost no sense of ‘carpe-diem’ and entirely favours a relentless focus on building a promising future. They have strict zones of work and pleasure, and never the two shall meet. In contrast, Canadians have a much greater focus on work-life balance and enjoying the here and now.
    Steps: I will have to carefully coordinate the two teams of workers as there will be a propensity for the South Korean team to work late and on weekends, which will cause friction within the Canadian team. 

Overall my approach would be to start from a position of humility and not ethnocentrism (JWMI, 2). I would take time to talk to the South Korean senior team and make time to engage with them socially. In my experience, South Korea is very relational but also has a high focus on achieving results. As such, I would follow an approach of ‘declaring intent’ (Covey, 3) and then showcasing where that intent has been met; this showcasing of results would help build trust. I would also build trust by demonstrating my commitment to build relationships and care for employees and their personal lives (Javidan, 4). I would also look for trusted counterparts that I could leverage to better understand my unconscious incompetencies concerning their culture (Hyun, 5). I would ask them for guidance on approaching these incompetencies in a genuine way that doesn’t come across as obsequious pandering. 

(1) https://www.hofstede-insights.com/product/compare-countries/
(2) JWMI505. Week 3. Lecture Notes.
(3) Stephen Covey. July 18, 2016. Harvard Business Review. The Connection Between Employee Trust and Financial Performance.     https://hbr.org/2016/07/the-connection-between-employee-trust-and-financial-performance
(4) Mansour Javidan. May 2019. Harvard Business Review. Leadership and Managing People: How Leaders Around the World Build Trust Across Cultures
(5) Jane Hyun. April, 2019. Harvard Business Review. Cross-Cultural Management: 3 Ways to Improve Your Cultural Fluency

JWI 505: Business Communications and Executive Presence Week 3 Lecture Notes

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Intercultural Communication What It Means Think back to a time when you traveled outside your hometown. Perhaps this was when you were moving to college, or taking a business trip, or just going on vacation. Regardless of where you went or how long you stayed, you experienced a cultural shock. You met people who did not handle business the way you do, or who did not have the same ethical values you do. They may not have even looked like you. As a result, you were forced to adjust to your new surroundings. In the business world, this is something you do every day without noticing it. In today’s environment, the people you work with come from a variety of backgrounds, norms, and belief systems. Your coworkers may not even be sitting in the same office as you – they could be on the other side of the world! Regardless of where they are located or where they are from, they need to engage with you if you want to achieve your goals. And you will win their engagement if you know how to communicate your ideas across cultures. In this lecture, we will explore why cultural literacy is so important, and what cues to look for when interacting across cultures. We will also explore a framework for how different cultures approach business and learn how to apply this framework to our own communications. Why It Matters

• Our cultures and backgrounds significantly impact the way we conduct business.

• Globalization necessitates interacting with people from different cultures.

• Leaders must know the right cultural cues to sidestep conflict and promote collaboration.

“Most of my important lessons about life have come from recognizing how others from a different culture view things.”

Edgar H. Schein

JWI 505: Business Communications and Executive Presence Week 3 Lecture Notes

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The Foundations of Culture Before we learn how to communicate effectively across cultures, we need to understand what exactly culture is. Like many of the terms we discuss in this course, culture can be abstract and tricky to describe. Writing for the Intercultural Development Research Institute, Dr. Milton J. Bennett defines culture as almost synonymous with “worldview.” It is “a generalization about how a group of people coordinate meaning and action among themselves.”1 Culture entails various institutions and rules, and it is comprised of elements like religion, customs, education, and aesthetics. But underlying all of these components is a shared understanding of how to experience the world. The clothes you wear and the music you listen to illustrate some of your cultural values very clearly. It is also easy to distinguish other cultures based on their aesthetics and ideas of beauty. But what makes communicating across cultures particularly challenging is that many cultural differences are not so easy to recognize. For example, think about how authority is demonstrated in your workplace. If you work for a company in the United States, you may have no problem calling your boss by their first name. But if you work for a company in India, you would almost always refer to your boss by their title or an honorific to show respect. Similarly, it used to be an American business tradition to give a gold watch to someone who was retiring. If you tried giving a watch to an employee in China, however, you would offend them immensely; in Chinese culture, watches and clocks are associated with death. Nobody is perfect, and communication errors can happen even if you are talking to someone with the same background as you. Regardless, you must be on the lookout for even the subtlest cultural differences between you and your colleagues. Being able to modify your behavior to accommodate varying cultural norms is one of the strongest communicative skills you can develop as a leader. It shows that you are adaptive and can make your message understandable to many different audiences. When you are culturally literate, you are better able to manage employees, develop products, and conduct negotiations. Your cultural savvy demonstrates that you respect your listeners enough to learn about their worldviews.

1 Milton J. Bennett, “Intercultural Communication,” Intercultural Development Research Institute, n.d., https://www.idrinstitute.org/resources/intercultural-communication/.

JWI 505: Business Communications and Executive Presence Week 3 Lecture Notes

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Getting Lost in Translation In 2018, to celebrate the upcoming FIFA World Cup, a German brewery named Eichbaum tried a new marketing campaign. They printed the flags of each of the competing national teams on their beer bottle caps. This may have seemed like a fun idea, but Eichbaum failed to account for a very important cultural distinction. One of the competing teams was Saudi Arabia, where alcohol is banned. Even worse for Eichbaum, the Saudi flag contains the shahada, an Islamic creed; alcohol is forbidden in Islam. The brewery immediately moved to recall bottles with the Saudi flag and apologized for offending adherents of an entire religion. The business world is rife with examples of cultural misunderstandings and oversights. They happen when you do not carefully research the cultures you interact with. It did not occur to Eichbaum’s marketing team that the campaign might offend someone. Because of their lack of foresight, the brewery found itself at the center of controversy. The team may have made an honest mistake, but it was a particularly careless one. Not picking up on cultural nuances and details can derail even the most ambitious business plans. For a company like Eichbaum, it meant a significant amount of bad press. In some cases, though, it can destroy an entire business venture. For example, Walmart operates thousands of stores around the world. But the company never attained a foothold in Germany, and not for lack of trying. In the late 1990s, Wal-Mart (as it was called at the time) bought two local retail chains in an effort to expand into the German market. Over the next decade, it quickly became obvious that the qualities that made the company popular in America were not working at all in Germany. In Germany, companies and unions are very closely connected, a scenario that Wal-Mart’s management did not appreciate. Additionally, Wal-Mart employees were instructed to be casual and friendly with customers. In America, that is quite commonplace. But German customers found smiling, chatty cashiers to be inauthentic and even flirtatious. In 2006, Wal-Mart bowed out of Germany, having lost roughly a billion dollars. Being culturally fluent would have helped Wal-Mart to avoid this major loss; you cannot assume that all of your ideas and messages will get translated perfectly, or that your values are universally shared. Just as importantly, you cannot assume you never have to tailor your message to different audiences because it is “great the way it is.” One of the biggest mistakes

JWI 505: Business Communications and Executive Presence Week 3 Lecture Notes

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you can make when communicating across cultures is to adopt an ethnocentric approach. Ethnocentrism is the belief that your own culture – and everything it entails – is superior to other cultures. Ethnocentric people see no point in being culturally savvy; everyone else needs to adapt to them. This is an immensely problematic worldview. On an ethical level, it distorts your views of other cultures and makes you more likely to rely on stereotypes. On a business level, being ethnocentric can blind you to valuable opportunities. Think about how many international deals have failed because one side did not want to work with a “backwards” country. There is nothing wrong with being proud of your own culture. But never assume it is the only culture worth knowing. Recognizing Intangible Differences One of the easiest ways to think about culture is to use comparative dimensions. Think of these dimensions as broad issues that define how a society is organized. The idea of cultural dimensions was most famously developed by Dutch psychologist Geert Hofstede. After studying employees’ values, Hofstede suggested that we can understand cultures through six dimensions. Each country can be placed on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being the most extreme form of that dimension. Those dimensions are:

1. Power Distance. Is there a clear and unquestioned hierarchy, or do people question authority? Do employees place their supervisors on pedestals, or do they feel comfortable approaching their bosses? On Hofstede’s scale, Russia scored 93; authority is very clearly set in stone. The United Kingdom, on the other hand, scored 35. People have fewer issues talking to or questioning authority figures.

2. Individualism. Do people feel independent, or do they rely on help from their society? Do your own decisions matter more than your larger group’s decisions? The U.S. scored 91 for Individualism; Americans feel they can make their own choices. China scored 20. Relationships with broader communities matter more.

3. Masculinity. How important is winning? Are people openly competitive, or are

relationships more important? Japan scored 95, indicating that employees are

JWI 505: Business Communications and Executive Presence Week 3 Lecture Notes

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assertive and expect to be rewarded for their success. Sweden only scored 5, suggesting that being cooperative is much more important than being rewarded.

4. Uncertainty Avoidance. Does ambiguity make people anxious? Are people

comfortable with different or risky behavior? Turkey scored 85 here. Rules and guidelines are very strictly interpreted. Vietnam scored 30; different ideas are more widely accepted.

5. Long Term Orientation. What is more important, adaptation or tradition? Are people

actively preparing for a different future? In this dimension, Taiwan scored 93. For Taiwanese workers, new problems require new and innovative solutions. The U.S., by contrast, scored 26. Adhering to “what worked in the past” is more important for American workers.

6. Indulgence. Can people do what makes them feel good? Is having fun more

important than having responsibilities? Nigeria scored 84 for Indulgence, suggesting that Nigerian workers feel free to include enjoyable activities at work. Poland scored 29, indicating that, for Polish employees, work is not meant to be fun.

While Hofstede’s framework contains many generalizations, it is extremely helpful for remembering the philosophies that guide each of our cultures. When you know these philosophies, you better understand why people think and act the way they do. Considering Culture in Your Communications In Winning, Jack talked about the obstacles he faced when he advocated for differentiation around the globe. He was told that Danish society was too egalitarian and that Japanese workers valued politeness over candor. But Jack kept pushing his message, and he found that those cultural obstacles were not insurmountable at all. Delivering your message across cultures is definitely more complicated than it looks, but it is not impossible.2

2 Jack Welch, Winning (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2005), 47-49.

JWI 505: Business Communications and Executive Presence Week 3 Lecture Notes

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The key to intercultural communication is being cognizant of your differences. There are two ways to demonstrate this. The first is to never make assumptions about your listeners. You may be used to adding idioms and figures of speech to your conversation, but not all of them translate very well. If you are an English speaker and you want to bring up an uncomfortable and unstated topic, you might say, “We need to talk about the elephant in the room.” That expression might make sense to other English speakers, but not necessarily to everyone else. Be careful with your body language, too. If you are American and you want to show that something is “a-okay,” you might make a circle with your thumb and index finger. But if you are Brazilian, that gesture would be extremely vulgar. Also, if someone’s words or gestures offend you, do not assume that they mean to be disrespectful. They may just not be familiar with your cultural norms. The second way to demonstrate your consideration is to pay attention to details. This can really help to establish that you care about your listeners. When you host a webinar or a conference call, think about what time zones your attendees are in. If it is a recurring webinar, consider alternating meeting times if possible. If you are unsure of how to pronounce someone’s name, ask them before you say it. This shows you take that person seriously enough to get their name right. Do not feel like you can only talk about work with your listener. If both of you feel comfortable, ask them about their hobbies, their social lives, or their families. Get to know them as a person, not just a coworker. Looking Ahead In this lecture, we explored the value of strong intercultural communication. We examined why it is so difficult, and we learned how to deliver messages and display understanding across different cultures. Remember, excelling at intercultural communication is not just “being politically correct.” It is thinking very carefully about how your message will be received and how to best communicate with all of your listeners. In the next lecture, we will delve into the fundamentals of team communication. We will learn the unique approaches you need to take in delivering your messages to groups of people. We will also identify ways to run effective meetings and to build strong, productive relationships with your closest colleagues.