A multiethnic team use intercultural communication in the office
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Using Japanese Values to Thrive in Global Business

Japanese companies have unique cultural, communication, and operational challenges. But they also have values that have led to remarkable longevity. Check out this seminar to hear how these values help earn trust from overseas head offices and develop employees.

Confirmation Bias

We all subconsciously collect information that reinforces our preconceptions. It's natural . . . but it does lead to a kind of flawed decision-making called confirmation bias. To become more objective and impartial, check out this course from GLOBIS Unlimited!

Career Anchors

What drives you to be good at your job?

Career anchors are based on your values, desires, motivations, and abilities. They are the immovable parts of your professional self-image that guide you throughout your career journey.

Try this short GLOBIS Unlimited course to identify which of the eight career anchors is yours!

Cultural diversity has found a niche in today’s post-pandemic workplace, and with good reason. There’s strong proof that it improves brand value, innovation, talent retention, and revenue growth. With an ever-more-distributed workforce, it’s an asset that many companies are wise to take advantage of.

But in such a dynamic work environment, communication can make or break business performance.

Understanding intercultural communication is key to organizational efficiency, especially when employees speak different languages and observe different beliefs, social norms, and value systems. It’s easy to imagine how the added complexity of culture can lead to personality clashes, bringing productivity to a halt. To find common ground in the workplace and reach shared goals, everyone needs cultural awareness.

Using Japanese Values to Thrive in Global Business

Japanese companies have unique cultural, communication, and operational challenges. But they also have values that have led to remarkable longevity. Check out this seminar to hear how these values help earn trust from overseas head offices and develop employees.

Here are five intercultural communication tips that can help improve professional relationships.

Next Article

8 Scales to Chart a Culture Map for Better Management

Erin Meyer’s The Culture Map is an essential resource for developing cross-cultural management skills.
People sit around a culture map of the world made of different cultural buzzwords

How to Overcome Distance When Managing Global Teams

Managing global teams can be tricky across geographic and social distances. But with the right tools and tricks, you can nurture the ultimate virtual collaboration.
Six different people working from home at desks, chairs, or hammocks, managing global teams with virtual collaboration

Be self-aware and open-minded.

Understanding other cultures starts with understanding how your own cultural norms have shaped you.

All cultures are inherently ethnocentric, which means that people tend to view their own culture as superior. While it is only natural to assess the world according to what you know, this does inevitably lead to subconscious discrimination and stereotyping.

Make yourself aware of your culturally embedded habits, preferences, and cognitive biases. As a first step, that will make it easier to understand how you naturally communicate in and out of the workplace. Intercultural communication isn’t just about studying “others.” It’s a powerful skill that helps us gain insights into our own cultural identities and learn more about ourselves.

Confirmation Bias

We all subconsciously collect information that reinforces our preconceptions. It's natural . . . but it does lead to a kind of flawed decision-making called confirmation bias. To become more objective and impartial, check out this course from GLOBIS Unlimited!

Educate yourself for cultural awareness.

Once you understand your baseline, it’s time to make the effort to be culturally aware of where others are coming from—raise your cultural competence. You’ll find most people appreciate this show of respect.

Learn the language, history, and social customs of the people you work with. Find out the dos and don’ts of how people greet each other, both formally and informally. Remember that gender and social dynamics also affect communication styles.

Sensitivity to all this is an important part of avoiding misunderstandings. And don’t be fooled: Honest misunderstandings are just as common as outright disagreements when it comes to intercultural communication.

Acquiring general knowledge about a person’s culture can help break the ice and provide shared topics of conversation beyond business. Just keep in mind that cultural backgrounds alone won’t tell you much about who people are as individuals. For that, you need to get to know them.

Engage, evaluate, and adapt.

While doing your own research is an important early step in learning about other cultures, firsthand experience is a more effective way of acquiring relevant knowledge. This is how you learn about the lived experiences that shaped the people you work with.

Talk to your coworkers from different cultures. Observe how they communicate, and try to tune in to where they’re coming from. Even the most seemingly dissimilar people share some common ground.

Career Anchors

What drives you to be good at your job?

Career anchors are based on your values, desires, motivations, and abilities. They are the immovable parts of your professional self-image that guide you throughout your career journey.

Try this short GLOBIS Unlimited course to identify which of the eight career anchors is yours!

Apart from paying attention to words and tone, look for non-verbal communication cues such as facial expressions and body language, as well as subtext. In high-context cultures, these sometimes carry more weight than what’s said out loud.

Consider this while you talk to coworkers, clients, or employees: Are they direct or indirect when they ask questions? Do they find it easy to disagree or say no? Do they prefer small talk or only talk about work-related matters? These observations can help you adapt your communication style to high- and low-context communication norms and overcome cultural barriers.

Next Article

Cross-Cultural Barriers at Work & How to Overcome Them

Effective cross-cultural communication can bring great advantages to your business. But you’ll need a strategic approach to these cultural barriers first.
Man sits between two frustrated coworkers trying to overcome cross-cultural communication barriers

How to Develop Cultural Empathy for Better Teamwork

Many people believe they are showing empathy when they are in fact expressing sympathy. Here’s the difference between sympathy and empathy, and why Japan in particular struggles with cultural empathy.
Three people communicate with different shapes in speech bubbles over their heads, attempting cultural empathy for understanding

Check your understanding.

When working with people from other cultures, it’s important to clarify that both the sender and the receiver of a message mutually understand what is being said and meant. Asking questions during intercultural interactions is an absolute must. Clarity early on may help prevent confusion and costly mistakes later.

While you might not always agree with how your coworkers respond to situations, try to approach intercultural communication from a dialectic perspective. A dialectic approach considers that opposing forces and tensions influence identity, and that cultural differences aren’t black or white. Some of these dialectics include:

  • Differences-Similarities: being aware that people are simultaneously similar to and different from one another. Too much focus on cultural differences can polarize groups, while too much focus on similarities can trivialize other important cultural traits.
  • Static-Dynamic: accepting that cultures may change over time, but that some cultural values will endure—and that changes may only reflect outwardly. As an example, a person may dress fashionably and follow popular culture, but still uphold conservative religious traditions.
  • History/Past-Present/Future: knowing that current cultural conditions have been shaped by past collective events. How a society responds to its present circumstances influences the future of their culture.

Use your emotional intelligence.

Whether you’re talking culture or communication, raising your understanding needs to go beyond the verbal. There may be unspoken rules that require intuition and emotional intelligence. On the other hand, you could be wasting time and energy looking for subtext that just isn’t there.

Respect is the foundation of any effective intercultural exchange.

You may not agree with or even like everything about a person or their culture, but that doesn’t mean you can’t apply cultural empathy, patience, and understanding. Use your emotional intelligence, or EQ. Respect begins with appreciating that people are uniquely shaped by cultural conditions and experiences.

Remember, too, that giving respect earns respect.

Intercultural communication is a must-have for the new global workforce.

In 2001, UNESCO officially defined cultural diversity as “a set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual, and emotional features of society or a social group.” Now, years later, it’s a global prerequisite for achieving inclusive dialogue, local development, and even world peace.

The rise of remote work caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has made international collaborations easier and faster, highlighting a growing need for intercultural communication skills. At the same time, changing behavioral patterns are creating cultural trends that may persist over the next decade. Both businesses and workers will need to adapt.

What began as a corporate buzzword in the 2000s has now become company policy. Gen Z and Millennial job applicants—tomorrow’s workforce—actively seek diversity and cultural sensitivity in potential employers. Failing to make your company culture multicultural could cost you some truly great talent.

Now is the time for you and your team to retrain and upskill for cultural awareness in the workplace. Cultural diversity is here to stay.

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