The diversity workplace assumes people from different countries or people with different ethnicities, beliefs, and backgrounds. As a result, employees have various styles of communication. It creates misunderstandings that need to be addressed.
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Communicative barriers often occur due to the different traditions and world views but, what is more important, due to different communicative styles. Each person has his or her own style of communication that imposes distinctive imprint on their behavior and interaction with other people. For example, the Chinese use the indirect style of communication while Americans the direct ones.
The direct style is associated with the expression of the true intentions of the person. It is a peculiarity of the American culture that leaves little room for understatements. Americans tend to call a person on straight and clear conversations. Such style takes great care to preserve the position of the speaker in the conversation. Most often, this style develops in individualist cultures. In its turn, indirect style enables people to hide their desires, needs, and goals during communication. In such cultures, preference is given to indirect and ambiguous communication that is dictated by the importance of respecting the other person’s position. As a rule, it is a collectivist culture.
Thus, the Chinese do not give negative answers such as “no” or “I do not agree with you.” Usually, they use evasive answers like “I agree with you to some extent” or “I feel sorry for you.” “Some people may even feel that Asians are deceptive or hiding pertinent information while, in fact, they may have been socialized to communicate in a less directive style to demonstrate respect” (Harvey & Allard, 2015, p. 212). The context of the situation is the key to understanding such cases.
Moreover, non-verbal communication is also important. For example, hugging is one of the cross-cultural misunderstandings. In China, people ask consent before hugging someone, as hugging someone without permission is considered rude and a violation of one’s personal space. In the United States, hugging someone is considered a friendly greeting.
However, the employer has to resolve confusing and challenging situations created by communicative styles in the workplace. Speaking of the negotiations, the decisiveness of Americans manifests itself in readiness to make decisions during the meeting. On the contrary, the Chinese have come to the talks with a ready-made solution or decide after negotiations. First of all, it seems essential to consider all the cultures working for the company or for the department in the case of a large company.
Special meetings and programs aimed at understanding each other might be quite effective in avoiding misunderstanding. It is also important to develop appropriate management strategies to be sure that communicative messages are accurately received and correctly understood. According to Tashakova (2011), a founder of the Academia of Human Potential, there are several measures promoting effective communication in the diverse workplace (para. 9).
In particular, the employer should raise cultural awareness and tolerance of employees’ teaching them empathy. Tashakova (2011) states that all the managers should provide a policy of integration and engage employees in workplace communication (para. 9). Besides, it is necessary to use no metaphors and slang as they can have no sense or even be offensive for the other culture representatives. In addition, asking for feedback and using intermediary are useful tools in establishing a safe and friendly workplace.
Harvey, C. P., & Allard, M. J. (2015). Understanding and managing diversity: Readings, cases, and exercises (6th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson Education.
Tashakova. O. (2011). Workplace communication and cultural diversity. Diversity in the Workplace. Web.