Intercultural Communication and Diversity in Organizations


Despite some negative aspects that one might find with diverse organizations, it can be concluded that it is a positive phenomenon overall and for that reason, employers should use every available technique to accommodate as many diverse cultures as possible.


In the globalized world, it happens very rarely that a person’s communication related to work is limited only to the members of their own culture. When people from different cultures are involved in communication, certain problems arise and those problems are the object of study of intercultural communication. By culture, we can understand all of the traits that an individual has that are not a product of nature but are rather learned from his or her environment. These traits shape the persons’ worldview, social behavior, and attitudes to a great extent (Allwood, 1985, p.1). On the other hand, by communication, we can understand the exchange of information between people whose levels of awareness and control over the process are different (Allwood, 1985, p. 3).

In intercultural communication, problems can arise on multiple levels. On the level of the individual, the issue is mirrored in traits related to verbal and nonverbal signs, vocabulary, and grammar. For example, phonemes from one language often do not correspond directly to those of the other so when speaking in a foreign language people usually have an accent which often disturbs communication (Allwood, 1985, p. 5).

The second problem is related to the fact that information has to flow from sender to receiver and vice versa. Sender and receiver should both have a routine in all four linguistic dimensions in order to maintain communication because both production and comprehension demand it. For that reason, communicating in a foreign language can be difficult (Allwood, 1985, p. 6-8).

Interactive behavior is also a part of the issue. There are different ways in which people from different cultures take turns in conversations, keep their body posture give feedback, and so on. All of these have to be taken into account when communicating with a person from a different cultural background (Allwood, 1985, p. 9-11).

Finally, the communicative situation itself poses a lot of constraints on the way people use language. For example, French people do not greet each other in the same way in all situations (Allwood, 1985, p.11-13).

Due to all these problems and many others which do not concern the communication itself, diversity in organizations has been put under question. Those who support it have three main reasons. First off, there is a claim that workers from different backgrounds produce synergism in their work because they approach matters from different perspectives. Secondly, proponents of diversity management hold that it is much more economical to train employees in a diverse environment than to pay for a consultant in that domain. Finally, having a diverse staff greatly increases the company’s reputation in different countries because it is a sign of caring about their cultures and customs (Mayhew).

As far as drawbacks of diversity management are concerned, there are several arguments that can be launched. The first one is that employees can get tired of always minding the cultural differences of other employees; it is almost like assigning another duty to the employees on top of all the work they already have. In addition, the employees who belong to the majority culture often feel disregarded and disadvantaged. Secondly, many firms hire people from diverse backgrounds only in order to fill the quotas prescribed by the government which creates an artificially diverse workplace that can only produce frustration, never harmony. Finally, at the beginning of a business that is run according to the principles of diversity management, it is always necessary to hire an expert to train the employees; therefore, a small business can suffer great costs which might not let it even get off the ground (Mayhew).

Despite all the drawbacks, it seems that a diverse workplace is at the bottom a positive phenomenon and it is becoming reality. Therefore, it is useful to implement the following techniques in order to improve the functioning of a diverse organization.

Firstly, when starting a diverse business, one should examine the demographic structure of the area in which the firm is going to operate – from municipality to state. After that, the goal should be to try to make the workforce match that structure by contacting local cultural communities, churches, and schools to find employees (Wall Street Journal).

Secondly, it is crucial to have equal employment terms. The prospective employers should carefully design employment criteria that are gender, race, and religion-neutral so that the appropriateness of the particular work is the main criterion (Wall Street Journal).

Thirdly, the firm should build for itself an image of an attractive, culturally sensitive working environment by offering the possibility for the employees to get a day off when they are having a religious holiday or some other celebration related to their home country (Wall Street Journal).


Finally, the company should try to create a friendly working atmosphere. This can be achieved by having a lot of tolerance for newly received employees, particularly for those from different backgrounds since they might be having a hard time fitting in. In addition, it is a very smart move to encourage group work and form affinity groups so the employees can work together on different projects. This might be helpful for them to develop friendly relations but also for the company because, as it has been said, workers from different cultures can view problems from different perspectives (Wall Street Journal).

The modern working conditions are demanding that the organizations adopt a more culturally sensitive attitude and promote diversity management. Despite some negative aspects that one might find with diverse organizations, it can be concluded that it is a positive phenomenon overall and for that reason, employers should use every available technique to accommodate as many diverse cultures as possible.


Allwood, J. (1985). Intercultural Communication. Tvärkulturell kommunikation, Papers in Anthropological Linguistics, 12, 1-25.

Meyhew, R. (n.d.). Pros & Cons of Diversity Management in the Workplace | Small Business – Small Business – Web.

Wall Street Journal. (n.d.). How to Increase Workplace Diversity – Management – How-To Guides from the Wall Street Journal – Web.

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