Man sits between two frustrated coworkers trying to overcome cross-cultural communication barriers
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CAGE Distance Framework

Want to expand overseas? The CAGE distance framework can help ensure you're constructing a solid global strategy in four areas: cultural, administrative, economic, and geographic. Learn how to leverage useful differences between countries, identify potential obstacles, and achieve global business success.

Critical Thinking: Hypothesis-Driven Thinking

Anyone can come up with a good idea. The real challenge is putting that idea into action. In this online course, explore how to form compelling, testable hypotheses and bring ideas to life in your own organization.

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.

Conflict Management

Conflicts in the workplace are inevitable. But they can lead to positive outcomes if they’re managed well. Check out this online course for a two-step process that can help you manage conflict successfully.

Communication is a top priority for companies in our interconnected and global workplace. Workplace communication statistics show that efficient communication significantly boosts employee productivity, engagement, retention, and trust. But when an organization employs people from various backgrounds, communication can be difficult.

Culture is a powerful force that shapes people. Each culture has its own belief systems, codes of conduct, and social norms. These in turn influence people’s attitudes, behaviors, thinking processes, and values. In today’s global village, cultural diversity is inevitable—and an asset that companies can use to their advantage.

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.

It’s almost impossible to overstate the importance of cultural diversity in the workplace. A multicultural working environment empowers people to develop their skills and learn from each other while improving innovation and productivity. Its lasting benefits to business as a part of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies include better employee retention, higher revenues, and a stronger brand reputation.

But you’ll need to help members of your diverse workforce understand one another to improve teamwork and performance. Here are a few of the most common cultural barriers they’ll face.

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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

High- Vs. Low-Context Communication Survival Guide

High-context communication and low-context communication are often overlooked in cross-cultural interactions. But they are vital for understanding counterparts across borders.
A businessman and businesswoman stand on a deserted island struggling to communicate with each other as sharks swim around them

Language (Verbal and Non-verbal)

Verbal communication is central to every social interaction. In a multicultural working environment, it’s likely some people won’t share the same native language. This dramatically increases the risk of misinterpretation and conflict.

Conflict Management

Conflicts in the workplace are inevitable. But they can lead to positive outcomes if they’re managed well. Check out this online course for a two-step process that can help you manage conflict successfully.

While English is widely considered the “global standard” language, less than 20% of the world’s population actually speak it. To accommodate the other 80%, try learning simple keywords and phrases in the native language of people you work with. This can help establish trust and communication.

Investing in English language training for employees, hiring a translator, or using digital translation programs are other ways to overcome workplace language barriers.

Body language and gestures are also a significant aspect of communication. Certain gestures and mannerisms mean different things in different cultures. For example, prolonged eye contact is expected in Western culture as a reflection of engagement and interest. But this may be considered rude in Asian countries such as Japan and Korea.

Norms, Traditions, and Values

Respecting different cultural beliefs social norms, and values is a vital part of a healthy and inclusive workplace environment. Making the effort to learn about someone else’s culture and adjust to their social expectations can help them feel safe and appreciated.

CAGE Distance Framework

Want to expand overseas? The CAGE distance framework can help ensure you're constructing a solid global strategy in four areas: cultural, administrative, economic, and geographic. Learn how to leverage useful differences between countries, identify potential obstacles, and achieve global business success.

In Japan, certain practices such as bowing and using honorifics are expected in workplace communication. While Westerners are direct with their opinions and thoughts, Asians are less comfortable with expressing disagreement—especially with a superior. In Japan, it is considered rude to say “no” outright. At the same time, “hai” or “yes” is often a filler word signifying attention, rather than agreement.

It can help to establish a code of conduct in the workplace and require every employee’s participation. Similarly, inclusive office norms that reflect company culture can foster a sense of teamwork and unity.

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Japanese Values for Better Business in the Modern Age

Traditional Japanese values and business philosophy can help any organization in the modern era.
Stack of pebbles on a workplace desktop show how Japanese values impact business philosophy

How to Avoid Management Bias in the Workplace

There’s no longer a place for management bias in the workplace. Here’s how to replace it with authenticity, critical thinking, and compassion.
A man in a suit raises up one employee peg above others, showing management bias in the workplace

Prejudices and Stereotypes

Stereotyping is often unavoidable in a multicultural workplace.

While some stereotypes have positive connotations (such as that Asians are good at math, African Americans are athletic, and Germans are punctual and hard working), they are still a form of discrimination. Preconceived notions based on ethnicity, nationality, or religion prevent you from knowing people as individuals.

However, awareness of the patterns that exist in different cultures can also benefit intercultural relationships. Cultural generalizations may help guide people in unfamiliar social contexts.

Curiosity about culture is natural. But it’s important to direct that curiosity in a healthy way, both personally and professionally.  

Ethnocentric Bias

People tend to view the world through the lens of their own culture, no matter their race, nationality, or religion. However, the ethnocentric view that any one culture’s beliefs, practices, and values are superior leads to biased thinking.

Critical Thinking: Hypothesis-Driven Thinking

Anyone can come up with a good idea. The real challenge is putting that idea into action. In this online course, explore how to form compelling, testable hypotheses and bring ideas to life in your own organization.

Historically, ethnocentricity has been the cause of violence, war, and genocide. Today, cultural relativism—appreciating differences by valuing a culture from its own point of view—is a courtesy in and out of the workplace.

Humanity’s Collective Strength as an Asset in the Workplace

Cultural diversity has been described as “a necessity in our changing world.” For human rights advocates, it is a crucial component of inclusive dialogue, sustainability, and peace. According to the United Nations, “cultural diversity expands choices; nurtures a variety of skills, human values, and worldviews; and provides wisdom from the past to inform the future.”

All of that can benefit your team, as well.

When fostered in a healthy way, cross-cultural communication skills lead to open-minded team members who can navigate cultural norms across unfamiliar borders with grace. That sensitivity will reflect positive vibes back on your company. As with other diversity initiatives, a winning strategy to overcome cultural barriers will also attract more diverse communication styles and backgrounds to your organization over time. All of that will spur innovation.

For those with lingering doubts, it’s worth noting that the world is smaller and more connected than ever before. Communicating with people from diverse backgrounds is fast becoming the norm. Cultural diversity should be valued as the advantage it is for the twenty-first century workplace.

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