Intercultural Communication in the Workplace

632 words | 3 page(s)

The assigned video portrays communication difficulties between employees on the construction site. Clearly, the portrayed interactions between an engineer and managers are rather intense both because of the objective challenges they face to ensure that the work on this project continues and because of the cultural differences that undermine mutual understanding and stand in the way of reaching consensus.

In this particular case, it is clear that all the involved parties have troubles understanding each other clearly because of the different norm of communication that exist in their cultures. Namely, being British, Ms. Jones is used to being very direct and straightforward with her subordinates while Miguel and Carlos, representatives of a Latino culture, are used to a softer and more evasive style of communication to avoid direct confrontation on difficult topics. Hence, Ms. Jones has difficulties getting her messages across because she does not pay enough attention to gestures, facial expressions, and general niceness, while Miguel and Carlos have difficulties explaining the issues they are dealing with to Ms. Jones because cannot overcome the barrier of directly communicating opposing views and problems to their superior because of the norm installed in their native culture.

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Lastly, another major issue that prevents the whole team from moving ahead on the project is the lack of understanding of the cultural context on the side of Ms. Jones, who refused to hire a customs broker to facilitate the process but offensively offers bribes where it is inappropriate assuming that the country she is working in right now is just the same as all the other Latin American countries. In other words, Ms. Jones engages in cultural stereotyping of people from this country. Overall, all of these little issues accumulate and contribute to the high level of frustration experienced by all the involved parties and does not allow them to resolve the work-related matters promptly and efficiently.

Considering the communication patterns that are common at my workplace from the perspective of intercultural communication, it is evident that most of the issues that frequently get in the way of people understanding each other and getting along have to do with the implicit norms of communicating in different cultures. Namely, people coming from American background tend to always try to make a small talk whenever they are around someone in the shared areas and people from some cultures often find it somewhat strange and tend to shy off. Also, we have a guy from the Italian background working with us and whenever he speaks to someone personally, he tends to rely on gestures a lot and often touches other people while discussing something with them. While being close and touching each other is normal for Italians, people from other cultures often feel like this practice is invading their personal space. Lastly, the other intercultural communication issue we face at my office is differences in treating supervisors and bosses among people in some cultures. Namely, compared to Americans, people from other counties tend to be more respective and fearful of their superiors which sometimes stands in the way of honest and effectively communicating and problem-solving.

Watching the assigned video, one thing I could not stop thinking about was that all the identified communicating issues were amplified by the fact that Ms. Jones has adopted a very pushy, demanding, and accusing tone of voice when speaking to her managers. This style of talking on the border with yelling has intensified the managers’ desire to avoid conflict with their superior and highlighted the lack of personal approach on the part of Ms. Jones. The key conclusion I made out of this video is it is crucial to be very delicate and considerate when communicating with people from other cultures while also avoiding any bold and loud moves, at least at first.

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