TABLE OF CONTENTS TABLE OF CONTENTSi INTERCULTURAL SEMINARS1 PROBLEM1 INTERCULTURAL SEMINARS1 BENEFITS OF ATTENDING THE SEMINARS2 INSTRUCTIONAL APPROACH2 SEMINAR CONTENT3 Body Positions and Movements4 Concept of Culture5 Conflict Resolution5 Intimacy in Relationships5 Language. 5 Male and Female Roles6 Space and Time6 Religion, Values, and Ethics6 TENTATIVE SEMINAR SCHEDULE7 BIBLIOGRAPHYI TABLE OF FIGURESII INDEXIII INTERCULTURAL SEMINARS Heath R. Watkins, Director Human Resources Department March 10, 2012
The Marketing Department has been conducting surveys of our worldwide offices, foreign customers, and prospective foreign customers over the last several months. Information received through the use of mailed questionnaires has made us aware of an urgent need to improve our communication skills at the international level. Therefore, we are going to conduct a series of seminars to focus on intercultural awareness issues. This report addresses the process involved in developing the seminars, the instructional approach to be used, the seminar content that will be provided, and the schedule for conducting the seminars.
PROBLEM Some incidents have been reported to us in which we have failed to negotiate contracts with foreign customers and prospective foreign customers because of serious breakdowns in communication. Some of these setbacks have been the result of conscious negative acts on the part of our employees. However, the main culprit seems to be lack of awareness of cultural differences and lack of appreciation for the nuances that reflect these cultural differences. Indeed, there are almost unlimited possibilities for misunderstandings, insults, miscues, and avenues for people of good intent to miscommunicate.
These issues must be addressed immediately to preclude any future breakdowns in communications. INTERCULTURAL SEMINARS Three-day seminars designed to improve intercultural communication skills will be held at regional sites in the United States and in selected foreign cities where we have offices: * Beijing * Hamburg * Madrid * Melbourne * Oslo * Rio de Janeiro * Tokyo * Warsaw It will be our intent that all employees who have direct contact with people from other countries will participate in these seminars over a four-month period.
Depending on the success of these seminars, the programs will be made available to others in the company who express an interest in acquiring or enhancing their cultural awareness. Any future seminars will be scheduled on an as-needed basis during the upcoming calendar year. It would be unreasonable to assume that a small team of people from our company would have the breadth of knowledge needed to conduct these seminars in eight foreign cities. However, Celeste Fuhrmann, Robert Driscoll, and Han Lee have agreed to work together as the coordinating team for this effort. Ms.
Fuhrmann, Mr. Driscoll, and Mr. Lee will be soliciting volunteers to work with them in their areas of expertise. They hope to gain representative views and opinions for the purpose of molding an impressive array of seminar topics. Please contact one of these individuals if you believe you have the necessary background and/or experience and would like to volunteer. Each of these individuals has worked over the past two months with the managers of our international offices as well as with natives in specific countries to formulate a preliminary plan for these in-service programs.
Their plan will use the expertise of our employees who have had negotiating experience in each country and who have knowledge of local customs as demonstrated by natives. We are confident that through this team approach, everyone will gain an understanding of problems not only from the position of our company but also from the perspective of those with whom they conduct business. BENEFITS OF ATTENDING THE SEMINARS Besides the obvious benefits that seminars such as these provide, invited speakers will lead discussions on a variety of topics to provide answers to questions such as the following: How can I develop a good working relationship with other colleagues? * How can I avoid offending people? * Do I need to adapt to another people’s culture when I travel abroad? * Is cultural stereotyping harmful or helpful? * How do people from different cultures approach the decision-making process? * How can we improve international cooperation? It is our hope that the seminars will help all participants gain a much greater awareness and understanding of the cultural environment in which they work. We believe the seminars will assist all participants in avoiding cultural mistakes that might be costly to the company.
Finally, for those employees who frequently work in one of our foreign branches, the seminars will enable these people to adapt much more quickly to the cultures of the country in which they work. INSTRUCTIONAL APPROACH Fruehauf and Chang suggest a framework of instruction that has been recognized by several international groups and has been used by seminar groups around the globe. This approach includes the following three components: 1. The cognitive component 2. The affective component 3. The experiential component The cognitive component includes information about communicating with people of other cultures.
The affective component is the area in which attention is given to attitudes, emotions, and resulting behaviors as they are affected by human interaction in a multicultural environment. The experiential component is the “hands-on” element that suggests several different possibilities. Others who have used this instructional approach have found that the use of simulations is a natural for this type of experience. Writing letters, memos, e-mails, and reports to persons in other cultures also provides beneficial learning experiences. In addition, the use of tutors can be very helpful to workers unfamiliar with a particular culture.
SEMINAR CONTENT The cognitive, affective, and experiential components would be applied as appropriate for each of the topics included. The coordinating team members have used the resources available to them at several local universities, including MIT and UMASS. The coordinating team has found that most colleges and universities now provide instruction in international communication. Many offer separate degrees in international communication, and the number of majors and minors in this discipline has been growing rapidly for the past several years.
While the content of international communication is integrated into several business administration and psychology courses, there has been a trend in recent years to provide a course or courses specifically designed for business interaction in an intercultural setting. The very nature of this type of study makes it very difficult to segment the broad topical areas, as all elements are so closely intertwined. The seminars must reflect the broad involvement of our international operations. There is a need for many workers in our domestic offices to develop an appreciation of the intercultural challenge.
This is true not only for those in the marketing and sales areas. Those in the Finance Department and the Legal Department are increasingly involved not only with foreign companies but also with huge multinational corporations that, at times, are as large as or larger than the biggest companies in the United States. Table 1, page 4, provides a summary of the largest multinational corporations around the globe with whom we have worked on numerous projects since the early 1980s. Table 1. LARGEST INTERNATIONAL COMPANIES(Doing Business With CanCom Inc. )| Company Name| Location| Global Rank|
HSBC Holdings| United Kingdom| 1| Royal Dutch Shell| Netherlands| 6| Toyota Motor| Japan| 8| BNP Paribas| France| 13| Allianz| Germany| 14| Gazprom| Russia| 19| Banco Santander| Spain| 21| ENI| Italy| 28| Petro China| China| 30| Nokia| Finland| 69| Table [ 1 ]:Largest International Companies Several seminar topics have been suggested to the coordinating team members, and the literature reviewed by the team suggests that there might possibly be more than a dozen from which to choose. Because of time constraints, however, we have decided to include eight topics that are recommended by Chernov, Uda, and Kapoor.
The topics and presentation times are displayed in Table 2 below. Table 2. SEMINAR TOPICS| Instructional Topic| Time| Body Positions and Movements| 2 hrs| Concept of Culture| 4 hrs| Conflict Resolution| 2 hrs| Intimacy in Relationships| 3 hrs| Language| 3 hrs| Male and Female Roles| 2 hrs| Space and Time| 2 hrs| Religion, Values, and Ethics| 4 hrs| Table [ 2 ]:Seminar Topics Body Positions and Movements. Body language—that is, facial expressions, gestures, and body movements—conveys messages about attitude and may be interpreted differently by people in different cultures.
For example, firm handshakes are the norm in the United States; loose handshakes are the custom in some other countries. The way we stand, sit, and hold our arms may convey different messages in different cultural settings. Concept of Culture. This session will be an overview of the various cultures in which we conduct business, including e-commerce. Boucher identifies the needs for varied marketing strategies within the different economic, political, and cultural environments:
International Web use and access are growing exponentially, and many businesses are wanting to capitalize on this trend and grab their fair share of this global market. English-speaking audiences are not expected to continue to dominate this market. Certainly, more than a literal translation will be required to reach this culturally diverse audience. Case studies will be reviewed that are considered classics in the field of international communication. In addition, summaries of some of our own successes and failures will be reported. Conflict Resolution.
Whether people are involved in negotiating a contract, working together to remedy product quality issues, or resolving contract interpretations, the need for tact and skill is particularly important in the foreign setting. Many of the seminar topics have implications in the area of conflict resolution. While every effort should be made to prevent conflict, there is a need for guidance in resolving disagreements in foreign cultures. Intimacy in Relationships. The degree of physical contact that is acceptable varies considerably. Hugs and kisses are the standard, even in the business office, in some countries.
By contrast, the act of touching a person is considered an extreme invasion of privacy in other places. The use of first names may or may not be acceptable. To ask a personal question is extremely offensive in some cultures. While socializing with business clients is to be expected in some countries, it would be highly inappropriate in others. These are only a few of the relationship concerns that will be explored. Figure [ 1 ] Communication plays a significant role in business. Figure 1 Communication plays a significant role in business. Language. It is obvious that language differences play a major part in business miscommunication.
Whenever there is an interpreter or a written translation involved, the chances for error are increased. There are over 3,000 languages used worldwide. Just as with English, there are not only grammar rules but also varied meanings as words are both spoken and written. Even with the English language, there are differences in usage between the English used in the United States and that used in England. Although English is the language usually used in international communication, the topics identified in Table 2 illustrate the complexity of communicating accurately; and the problem continues to grow.
For example, literal translations of American advertising and labeling have sometimes resulted in negative feelings toward products. As world trade increases, so does the need for American businesses to understand the complexities of cultural differences. Matthews offers this example: A businessperson must change his or her expectations and assumptions away from what is customary and acceptable in the United States in terms of personal and social conduct to what is customary and acceptable within the culture of the country where he or she is conducting business.
Any other assumption can have serious consequences and undesirable results. In the other person’s mind, you are the foreigner, and therefore you will be the one who might look out of place or act in a way that is considered socially unacceptable. A good sense of humor is an asset not only in our personal lives but also in the business environment. However, it probably should be avoided in multicultural settings because the possibilities for misinterpretation are compounded. Do not use humor that makes fun of a particular individual, group, or culture.
Remember that what may appear to be humorous to you may have a negative connotation in another culture. Figure [ 2 ] Cultures perceive male and female roles differently. Figure 2 Cultures perceive male and female roles differently. Male and Female Roles. There are major contrasts in the ways male and female roles are perceived in different cultures. The right to vote is still withheld from women in countries all over the world. Opportunities for female employment in the business environment vary considerably. Pay differentials for men and women continue to exist.
Opportunities for advancement for men and women often are not the same. Space and Time. The distance one stands from someone when engaged in conversation is very important. If a person stands farther away than usual, this may signal a feeling of indifference or even a negative feeling. Standing too close is a sign of inappropriate familiarity. However, it should be recognized that different cultures require a variety of space for business exchanges to take place. In the United States, that space is typically from three to five feet, but in the Middle East and in Latin American countries, this distance is considered too far.
There is also the element of time—a meeting that is scheduled for 9:00 a. m. likely will start on time in the United States, but in other cultures the meeting may not start until 9:30 a. m. or even 10:00 a. m. Punctuality and time concepts vary with the customs and practices of each country. Patience really can be a virtue. Religion, Values, and Ethics. While we can recognize the difficult challenge presented by language differences, this category (religion, values, and ethics) is in some ways the area that can bring about the most serious breakdowns in relations with those from other cultures.
The very nature of religious beliefs suggests that this is a delicate area, especially for those involved in business transactions in foreign countries. Also, religious beliefs affect the consumption of certain products throughout the world. Examples are tobacco, liquor, pork, and coffee. Values are a reflection of religious beliefs for most people. We have previously heard of references to right and wrong as applied to the ideals and customs of a society. Values relate to a range of similar topics, and they may pertain to areas such as cleanliness, education, health care, and criminal justice.
Such values are often very personal and as such can have a variety of interpretations. The more interpretations there are, the more likely it is that miscommunication will occur. Ethics can be considered as standards of conduct that reflect moral beliefs as applied to both one’s personal life and one’s business life. Delaney suggests that now more than ever, a code of ethics is essential within the business environment. When this code of ethics is missing or if it is not enforced, chaos and financial ruin for everyone associated are often the result.
A quality code of ethics is presently being recognized as an intrinsic and critical component in any business environment. Newspapers are filled with reports of scandalous, unconscionable, unethical behavior that has led to the downfall of otherwise successful businesses. TENTATIVE SEMINAR SCHEDULE Figure [ 3 ] International travel is important for intercultural understanding. Figure 3 International travel is important for intercultural understanding. As indicated earlier, all employees who have direct contact with people in other cultures will participate in these continuing seminars.
That means that we need to have two identical three-day seminars scheduled at each site. These seminars will be conducted in the cities shown in Table 3. Table 3. FOREIGN-CITY SEMINARS| City| First Seminar| Second Seminar| Melbourne| May 2-4| July 5-7| Rio de Janeiro| May 9-11| July 11-13| Beijing| May 16-18| July 18-20| Hamburg| May 23-25| July 25-27| Tokyo| June 6-8| August 1-3| Warsaw| June 13-15| August 8-10| Oslo| June 20-22| August 15-17| Madrid| June 27-29| August 22-24| Table [ 3 ]:Foreign-City Seminars The Marketing Department is to be commended for calling our attention to the seriousness of our international communication problem.
Celeste Fuhrmann, Robert Driscoll, and Han Lee also deserve our sincere thanks for their planning efforts for implementing the intercultural communication seminars. Through their efforts, we have experienced a high level of cooperation from all departments. As can be seen, special attention is being given to the seminar topics for these in-service programs. Efforts are also being made to identify instructors and resource persons who will develop instructional strategies that will be effective, interesting, and well received by the participants.
These seminars will help significantly in increasing our market share in the international market. BIBLIOGRAPHY Boucher, Sandra, “Cultural Comparisons in E-Commerce,” January 17, 2010, <http://www. ecommerce. com/news. htm>, accessed on February 23, 2010. Chernov, Vasily, Yoshifumi Uda, and Deepak Kapoor, The Dynamics of Intercultural Seminars, Gateway Publishing, St. Louis, 2009. Delaney, Denise C. , Business Ethics and Workplace Compliance, Empire Publishing Company, New York, 2009, p. 35.
Fruehauf, Faye, and Chao Chang, “Communication Across Cultures,” International Business World, April 2010, pp. 33-47. Matthews, Craig, Comparing Cultural Differences, Grant Publishing Company, Los Angeles, 2010, p. 37. TABLE OF FIGURES Table 1:Largest International Companies4 Table 2:Seminar Topics4 Table 3:Foreign-City Seminars8 INDEX B body language4 C cultural environment2 I instructional approach1 instructional strategies8 intercultural communication1 international communication3 L language differences5 P physical contact5 punctuality6 ——————————————– [ 1 ].
Faye Fruehauf and Chao Chang, “Communication Across Cultures,” International Business World Monthly, April 2010, pp. 33-47. [ 2 ]. Vasily Chernov, Yoshifumi Uda, and Deepak Kapoor, The Dynamics of Intercultural Seminars, Gateway Publishing, St. Louis, 2009, p. 42. [ 3 ]. Sandra Boucher, “Cultural Comparisons in E-Commerce,” January 17, 2010, , accessed on February 23, 2010. [ 4 ]. Craig Matthews, Comparing Cultural Differences, Grant Publishing Company, Los Angeles, 2010, p. 37. [ 5 ]. Denise C. Delaney, Business Ethics and Workplace Compliance, Empire Publishing Company, San Francisco, 2009, p. 35.