SSC263e Human Resource Management For Intercultural Communication Essay

Questions:

In a Financial Times article titled “How to bring cross-cultural teams together?”, Alicia Clegg highlighted that the primary challenge many companies face when merging with another company from a different culture centres on the integration of the two groups of employees.
This ECA places you in a scenario similar to that described in Clegg’s article. A Singapore company has recently acquired a company in Shanghai and your consultancy practice has been appointed to advise them on the integration of the two workforces from both companies.
Your client has handpicked a Singapore management team, comprising both senior and midlevel executives, to be stationed in Shanghai to complete the merger between the two companies and manage the new entity. As the senior cross-cultural strategist at your practice, you have been tasked to work closely with the Singapore team on the integration of the employees. The marks allocated below are a general guide to the relative importance of each part in your submitted response.
a) Identify and discuss the possible key intercultural communication challenges that the Singapore management team and the staff from Shanghai may face. Identify the potential misunderstandings and likely complaints between the Singapore team and the local staff. To adequately answer this question, you will need to understand the differences between the two cultures and how each culture communicates at the workplace. To gain further insights, you will need to conduct in-depth interviews with 2 persons. These interviewees must meet either one of the following two criteria: (i) a Singaporean who has worked in China for at least 3 months, OR (ii) a Chinese expatriate who has worked in a Singaporean company for at least 3 months.
b) How can a better understanding of cross-cultural communication help the Singapore management team to improve both engagement and communication with the local staff from Shanghai? Apply relevant concepts and theories from the course as well as the findings from the interviews you have conducted to present an evidence-based
explanation to your client regarding the importance of preparing the Singapore team on cross-cultural communication.
c) Develop an internal communication and engagement plan that will assist the Singapore management team to foster better communication and engagement with the Chinese staff in Shanghai. The proposed programme must utilise and address the key challenges and potential misunderstandings identified in part (a).

Answer:

a) Skills and knowledge in intercultural communication are aspects which are pertinent to employees’ citizenship rights, how they perceive their cultures and races, varying ethnicities, rights and responsibilities through the communication of information. Particularly, the way in which information is conveyed from cultures which are not similar enables an awareness of cultural relativism which allows employees from intercultural organizations to be knowledge about the responsibilities and rights discerned in other cultures. When integrating two teams from different cultures, good communication skills are critical to the success of the organization since employees need to communicate effectively to effectively carry out their roles and duties.

The Singapore management team and the staff from Shanghai may face various communication challenges in bringing the team together. According to Scollon, Scollon & Jones (2011) merging with another company from a different culture is a complicated process due to the intercultural differences present. In addition, organizations face differences in fairness in disclosure, zeal towards new training, decision-making process, conflict facing attitude, approaches towards completion of tasks and communication styles (Samovar et al., 2014). Merging the Singapore team with the Shanghai team requires strong managerial communication skills which enhance effective capabilities for making decisions. Since Singapore and China are on a globalization spree, the managers in charge of the merging organization should be striving to the achievement and realization of the best communication methods.

The two teams may face miscommunication and misjudge of requirements or when employees need to work as a team which may lead to a lot of time getting wasted in the process. To avoid such communication inconveniences, the organization should allow for positive space for dialogue, allow freedom of expression which the communicator can understand and reward new learners. Furthermore, the organization should understand that intercultural communication is the main hurdle which should be overcome when merging the two teams from different cultures and countries. According to Liu, Volcic & Gallois (2014) important strength is required in harnessing and enjoying the benefits of merging the team from Singapore and the Shanghai team, since merging diverse cultures provides great resources and opportunities in fastening the proposed organizational growth projectiles.

As the Singapore Company enters in collaboration and multicultural dialogue after acquiring the new company in Shanghai, several intercultural communication differences which are generalized should be considered as they may be of great assistance to the organization. Further research by Holmes (2014) shows that organizational managers should be able to see intercultural communication issues from other people’s viewpoint, shape their own reactions, be knowledgeable on how culture can shape other people’s reactions, and be able to solve various issues faced during the intercultural communication.

Different Communication Styles

Research by Sadri and Flammia (2011) shows that the methods of communication by people is different within and between intercultural teams. Language use is one aspect of the style of communication which may affect the Singapore team and the team from Shanghai. Across the two cultures, some phrases and words are used differently. For example, in the English language, the term “yes” has many shades including “definitely so”, “maybe, I’ll consider it”, “affirmative”, “sure” and other shades which are commonly used. In addition, Singapore and China vary in the level of importance accorded to the non-verbal communication which includes gestures and facial expressions, arrangements of seating in organizations, sense of time and personal distance. Furthermore, norms that are different in regards to the appropriate degree of assertiveness in intercultural communication can increase misunderstandings of culture. For example, Singaporeans typically consider raising of voice to signal the beginning of a fight while in the Chinese culture the raising of voice signifies exciting conversation among friends (Fang & Faure, 2011).

Different Attitudes Toward Conflict

Different organizational cultures view conflict positively, with other cultures viewing it as something which should be avoided (Hua, 2013). In Singapore, conflict in organizations is not usually desirable, whereby employees are advised to directly deal with arising conflicts. Face to face meetings is recommended while dealing with conflicts in the organization and in dealing with existing problems. In the Chinese culture, a conflict which is open is always considered to be demeaning and embarrassing, whereby differences are quietly worked out. Mostly, written responses are preferred in addressing conflicts.

Different Approaches to Completing Tasks

Additional intercultural communication challenges the Singapore management team and the staff from Shanghai may face in bringing the team together is the diversity of approaches to the completion of tasks. While different cultures have certain ways of carrying out tasks, other cultures carry out the same tasks differently (Humes & Reilly, 2008). Some of the underlying reasons include ideas which vary about how task-oriented work and relationship-building work should go together, different notions of time and different judgments of the rewards associated with the completion of tasks.

Different Decision-Making Styles

Roles played by individuals in the making of decisions vary widely among cultures. For example, in the Singapore culture, there is a frequent delegation of decisions where an official assigns responsibilities to subordinates. However, in The Chinese culture, a strong emphasis is placed on holding responsibilities of decision-making by the leader. Therefore, communication and union between the two different cultures may be challenging.

Different Attitudes toward Disclosure

Being frank about emotions is not appropriate in some cultures or about the reasons behind a misunderstanding or conflict or about personal information (Gao, 2010). Therefore, when dealing with the team in Shanghai, Singaporean managers should ensure that they are mindful of the cultural differences in what the other team feels comfortable to reveal. The variations among the Chinese and Singaporean culture may bring different attitudes towards work and disclosure of experiences and views which may affect the organizational effectiveness.

Different Approaches to Knowing

When it comes to epistemologies, notable differences occur different intercultural groups which define the ways in which people understand various things (Nouri et al., 2013). Intercultural communication is vital in quickly knowing and understanding what the other party intends to say and do such as measuring and counting. The epistemologies of culture for the Singaporeans tend to consider information which has been acquired through ways that are cognitive, more than other of coming to understand and know things. On the other hand, The Chinese culture prefers effective ways of knowing, including rhythm and symbolic imagery. Therefore, working on the challenges brought about by intercultural communication when bringing the Singapore team and the team in Shanghai requires strong strategies to be implemented which would minimize the differences prevalent in the two cultures.

b) According to Hwang & Lee (2012), it is essential that employees communicating cross culture practices to work in their communication in order to increase their understanding and knowledge about foreign cultures. A better understanding of cross communication-cultural helps in the building of trust and a strong relationship between Singapore’s management team and the local staff from Shanghai. Furthermore, through effective trust and strong relationship, the engagement and communication are improved as Singapore team management develops an ability of understanding reactions of local staff from Shanghai that are culturally driven and appropriate. According to Ochieng and Price (2010) when cultures collaborate and take time, they establish an effective cross-cultural communication and their level of respect and trust are elevated. Furthermore, ignorance of negative cultural differences between the two parties can build a strain on the relationship as Lin (2008) states that respect for other communities cultures and their business process is critical in the establishment of an effective workplace and workforce relationship.

A better understanding of cross-cultural communication improves communication and engagement by significantly reducing miscommunication and misunderstanding that can cause tension and social conflict between Singapore management team and local staff from Shanghai. According to Neuliep (2009) when diverse cultures are gathered together or within limited geographical area results to miscommunication and misunderstandings that facilitates to conflicts between people from diverse cultures especially in a situation when one culture is suspicious over the other. Furthermore, failure of handling the miscommunications and misunderstanding at the right time can upset workplace relations between the two cases and if the issue is not controlled at the time, it may cause workforce conflicts. Therefore, a better understanding of local staff from Shanghai facilitates to effective flow of communication with Singapore’s management team hence decreasing the occurrence of miscommunication and misunderstanding. Furthermore, the understanding of the cross-cultural communications results to proper utilization of resources. For example, if there are crisis and conflicts between the Shanghai staff and Singapore team due to miscommunication; it can cause delays in work and leads to resources wastage. Therefore, an effective communication between the two groups is helpful in resource utilization.

A better understanding of cross-cultural communication cultures also helps in solving any rising ethical issues that can be detrimental to workplace stability. The ethical issues can be pertinent because globalization has a diversified workplace culture. According to Brown (2009), failure to implement effective cross-cultural communication can lead to “class of civilizations” because of a difference in morality. Therefore, through understanding and appreciating the culture of local staffs of Shanghai it solves any ethical issues that might exist and further call for strong engagement. Furthermore, neglecting the ethical issues can lead to permanent dissatisfaction or dissension between Singapore’s management team and local staff from Shanghai and result in low productions, job unsatisfactory and high rates of staff turnover. Research by Samuel & Chipunza (2009) indicates that ethics assist in the creation of easy and open correspondence between subordinates and seniors and therefore employees turnover are reduced significantly. If the interaction environment is conducive and subordinates are encouraged to communicate their concerns and ideas to authorities regarding work-related issues, employees become motivated by appropriate feedbacks and feel valued in their organization (Samuel & Chipunza, 2009). Thus, it can be concluded it is through an understanding of the cross-communication cultures where loyalty is created which attributes to good ethical practices and job satisfaction.

Understanding the cross-communication also helps in appreciating the unique traits, stereotypes, and prejudices of staffs from Shanghai. The appreciations of the unique traits assist to solve issues of racial characteristics that provokes and lies outside awareness of both Singapore’s team management and Shanghai’s staff. Furthermore, racial attitudes and cultures have resulted in insights lead into disagreements if there is no effective communication.

A better understanding of intercultural communication provides a solution to issues relating to speech from both Singapore management team and local staff from Shanghai. The interview with former Singapore’s employee who worked in China clearly has shown that adapting to china’s dialect is a great challenge even though it seemed to be similar to Singapore. Furthermore, the majority of employees who worked under Chinese culture feels isolated and not belonging to their workplace as Chinese have a tendency of communicating in their dialect in their workplaces. Moreover, the communication culture patterns of China varies and the concept of informality and formality is different. For example, in Singapore, several employees address their bosses using the first name that is considered formal while in China it is formal to address boss as either “sir or “madam” (Okamura, 2009). Therefore, understanding of the cultures assists employees also to curb shock upon experiences of these changes in foreign cultures.

A better understanding of intercultural communication assist in the maintenance of a positive attitude towards the culture of Shanghai’s staff as a little introspection has been conducted. According to Duh, Belak & Milfelner (2010) employees with dominant culture must identify their attitudes toward other cultures and how the attitudes can affect communication with other cultures. The positive attitude promotes health cross-cultural communication as it discourages discrimination and racism by strictly adhering to non-racist policy. Thus, if Singapore’s Team management develops a positive attitude towards local staff from Shanghai their engagement will be increased and less conflict is likely to be experienced. Furthermore, positive attitudes with ensuring better development in the future if both Singapore’s management team and Chinese local staff will continue to interact or do business.

c) Internal communication and engagement plan

Introduction

Internal communication and engagement plan articulates the uniquely qualified function that helps in driving outcomes for an organization. Furthermore, internal communication and engagement plan provides a clear map for communicating with others consistently so they are informed about what they goals they should achieve, and actions to take in order to achieve the goals. The communication plan in this plan consists of six elements including situation summary, communication objectives, target audiences, key messages, a method of communicating and monitoring and reviewing of the communication plan.

Situation summary

The current situation shows that there is a cultural difference between the Singapore management team and Chinese staff in Shanghai. The cultural differences are the key result of misunderstanding and miscommunication that tampers with effective understanding. Currently, Singapore’s management team is learning about Chinese culture to improve and strengthen their relationships. Due to this misunderstandings and miscommunication, the need for communication and plan has risen in order to maintain effective cross-cultural communication and make sure both parties are engaged.

Communication objectives

The general objective of the plan is to provide communication and engagement plan that will provide better communication and engagement between Singapore’s management team and Chinese staff in Shanghai. The specific objectives of the plan are to identify cross-cultural communication challenges that exist between the two parties, a potential misunderstanding that exists and finding a solution to those key problems.

Target audiences

Target group

Requirements

Expected benefit

How to reach

Chinese staff in Shanghai

Appreciate the cultures of Singapore’s management team

- Learn new Singapore’s dialects and culture that will ensure there is an effective flow of communication

Local meetings, video and teleconferencing and social media

Singapore’s management team

Interact on face-to-face or on social media

-Support the dissemination of the communication plan

-Easier adaptation to the new environment that will assist in eliminating misunderstanding and communication

Local meetings and press coverage, electronic media like emails and websites

Key messages

Methods of communicating

The key messages will be communicated through various methods including local meetings, face-to-face communication, papers, electronics, videos and internal social media. According to Chen, G. M. (2011) face-to-face communication makes personal connections and overcome any resistance to change. Thus, when the key messages of understanding cultures and eliminations of cultural barriers that exist between Singapore’s management team and local staff from Shanghai are communicated through face-to-face it will provide more learning opportunities and interactions between the two parties. Meetings communication will be the best for facilitating complex ideas or more input from both Shanghai’s team of management and local staff from Shanghai is required. Through the meeting, Chinese staff is able to communicate intercultural ideas that are helpful in strengthening the relationship between the two parties. The management team from Singapore will also learn and understand better the concerns of Chinese staff and look for a solution to address these issues. Communication with papers such as handouts at a meeting and flier on a bulletin board will be effective in recording the important details and references. Furthermore, through paper communication, Chinese staff will be in a position to read and reference the culture of Singapore’s management team. The audiences who are unable to speak in public will also contribute to the meeting by writing. The paper communication also includes cultural books that will provide insights to the readers about the importance of understanding each other culture. Electronic media such as internet page and email will work well when both parties are communicating over the internet and there is no face-to-face communication available. The video will be appropriate when Singapore’s team of management want to appeal to an audio and video senses and communicate a positive message that connects both cultures. Through the video communication, the management team is in the position of learning facial expressions and prejudices of other culture and therefore it strategizes on how it can improve their engagements.

References

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