International Management: Cross-Cultural Communication

International business management is a complicated area that should develop methodologies that aim at closing cultural gaps and destroying the barriers. Growing numbers of multinational corporations and demographic changes, such as migration, challenge international communication practices. Due to the emergence of diverse teams, the managers need to adopt new approaches that emphasize variety and value each individual. The dominance of Western-based approaches is the primary challenge of contemporary cross-cultural management that has to be resolved through the development of global culture-inclusive strategies.

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International Communication

Due to globalization trends and current technological advancements, international business communication takes place more often than ever before. Although transportation and ICT development make communication accessible, cross-cultural differences persist and affect the success of such interchange. Fatehi and Choi (2019a) have identified how cultural differences challenge macro-level international cooperation. Scholars claim that the primary cause of misunderstanding is “a widening gap between developed and developing countries” (Fatehi and Choi, 2019a, p. 113).

They highlight the role of international managers in tackling the issues of cultural disparities through the development of an appreciation of the views and concerns of the host countries. The fundamental contribution of this work is in defining and summarizing the key issues of cross-culture communication and the development of suggestions for managers on how to deal with them.

The role of effective international communication is vital during the transition periods, such as a cross-border acquisition. Gunkel et al. (2015) explore the emotional reactions of employees in the companies during such processes and the ways how managerial communication can influence them. Importantly, the scholars have empirically proved the existence of connections between the emotional condition of the staff and their work performance. The support of managers was found to reduce the feelings of dissatisfaction and insecurity among the employees. However, the major difficulty is that these emotions are difficult to identify and interpret given the unfamiliarity of cultural dimensions.

Human migration and the tendency to hire the foreign workforce also test the communication models within companies. The qualitative exploration of the experience of Indian expatriates in an Australian IT company conducted by Shah and Barker (2017) explores the socio-cultural challenges they encounter during communication. The scholars raise the issues of socio-cultural environment and its acceptance of foreign workers creating a new perspective for the companies who receive expatriates (Shah and Barker, 2017). While they report the lack of understanding regarding the ‘unwritten’ rules and codes of behaviour, the solution lies in the explicit norms reinforced by cultural learning and training program.

Language is one of the most explicit cultural barriers to communication that challenges the efficiency of international cooperation. Miyuki (2017) explores the disempowering factor of insufficient linguistic competency on international communication. The scholar claims that disempowerment is related to the level of linguistic competence in the global business context, but it can be negotiated with the help of other sources of power. Such aspects as goal sharing, the value of information, and economic relationships mitigate the impact of low linguistic competency. Thus, the research contributes to the study of power relations in international business communication and the factors that influence them.

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Cross-Border Negotiations

The issues that emerge in the process of international communication directly influence the outcomes of cross-cultural negotiations. The differing cultural backgrounds of the parties have been the subject of many studies. Ahammad et al. (2015) empirically examine the role of organisational and national cultural differences on the outcomes of negotiations during the cross-national mergers and acquisition.

The main focus is on the issues that negatively influence the negotiation process and the ways of how their impact can be reduced. Their principal findings prove the hypothesis that “national cultural distance and organisational cultural differences negatively influence the effectiveness of concurrent phase” (Ahammad et al., 2015, p. 1). The research has several practical implications as it provides insights for strategic planning of deals and communication processes.

The research by Anku-Tsede and Dedzo (2016) predominantly explores the strategies that can close the gap between developing and developed countries in the negotiation process. The scholars raise the issue of “cross-cultural competence and functional diversity in cross border transactions” (Anku-Tsede and Dedzo, 2016, p. 85). The evidence from Ghana suggests that mutual adaptations and trust enhance the joint decision-making process.

Although there is no direct connection between cultural distance and overall agreement outcomes, the qualitative insight proves that the negotiation process can be facilitated or slowed down by the management of cross-cultural issues. The study advocates for the necessity of intercultural sensitivity and adaptation for the managers from the developed economies while dealing in the business environment of the developing nations.

The in-depth analysis of specific components of culture helps to understand how they influence the negotiation process. Richardson and Rammal (2017) take a close look at the impact of religion on managerial behaviour during the negotiation process in Malaysia. The exploration of negotiation practices in the Islamic context shows the main ways in which negotiation behaviour is affected by religion.

The research findings demonstrate that for the majority of participants “religious values appear to override monetary gain” (Richardson and Rammal, 2017, p. 405). It is expected that common beliefs shared by the parties facilitate the negotiation process as the appeal to shared values can be effectively used for persuasion. However, the study demonstrated that the commitment to different religions could also enhance negotiations. Thus, the researchers give critical insight that cultural differences can be seen as a positive factor in cross-border negotiations.

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Several other studies see the cross-cultural differences not as obstacles for negotiation, but from the perspective of their synergistic potential. Barmeyer and Davoine (2019) explored “how new work and managerial practices emerge in international joint ventures” (p. 1). The research objective was to demonstrate how international cooperation facilitates the outcomes and process of negotiations through the shared experience and construction of mutually beneficial projects and practices.

The scholars question the applicability of approaching negotiations through the limitations of cultural distance, claiming that it can be operationalized to facilitate the emergence of synergistic practices. Although cross-cultural differences can be considered as the obstacles to the agreement, proper management and positive intentions can summarize positive practices from all cultures, providing the synergetic effect.

International Leadership

The importance of leadership and motivation is a commonly accepted assumption in all cultures, but the visions of these processes significantly differ. Fatehi and Choi (2019b) review the traditional leadership theories and their applicability in the context of multinational companies. The scholars question these theories claiming that the majority of them was developed in the nations with low uncertainty avoidance and low power distance, and thus, they are not applicable in the majority of non-Western cultures. The roles of power in other countries differ, so their requirements for effective leadership change accordingly. The research contributes to the exploration of the different cultural contexts of leadership and the development of the applicable approaches towards them.

Traditional Western perception of leadership styles as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, based on how democratic they are, is questioned in the context of other cultures. Jackson (2016) claims that this stereotypical one-size-fits-all approach diminishes the value of paternalistic leadership in the countries where it is still prevalent. Making a clear distinction between democratic and authoritarian management may be the wrong direction for international leadership. The scholar argues against the dominance of the Western understanding of the leadership styles and advocates for a change in the approach that would bring cross-cultural management on a new level.

The adaptation of cultural differences to international leadership has a commonly recognized practice of cross-cultural management. However, globalization sets new challenges, creating the demand for so-called ‘global leaders’ – managers that lead the teams that are not culturally homogeneous. Bird and Mendenhall (2015) explore the development of such a tendency in a quasi-historical study that explores the evolution of global leadership. The scholars highlight the deficiencies of modern research of the issue, claiming that its limitation only to international leadership is insufficient. The significant contribution of the article is in highlighting the direction for further exploration of global leadership through multiple theoretical perspectives.

Globalization brings new requirements for modern business management, creating the demand for a new type of international leaders that can work in culturally diverse teams. Current practices of international leadership that assume adaptation to the foreign environment are not applicable under such circumstances. Hanges et al. (2016) also discuss new trends of rapidly changing patterns of global leadership and pose new questions for further research. The scholars highlight the necessity of the development of a new leadership theory that would focus on culturally diverse followers.

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Reflection

Contemporary issues of cross-cultural communication require a specific approach that adapts to the culture of host countries. Understanding of cultural dimensions is essential in this process, as it facilitates communication and positively influences performance. Cross-cultural differences can be a barrier to successful negotiation outcomes. However, modern practices show that they facilitate the synergy achievement, when cultures mutually contribute, not eliminate. The key issue of international leadership is the dominance of the theories of Western origin that are inapplicable in most parts of the world. Moreover, globalization creates a demand for the new leaders of diverse teams that can design and implement unique styles of motivation suitable for non-homogenous followers.

Reference List

Ahammad, M. F. et al. (2015). ‘Exploring the factors influencing the negotiation process in cross-border M&A’, International Business Review, 10, pp. 1-13.

Anku-Tsede, O. and Dedzo, B. Q. (2016). ‘Cross-cultural competence and functional diversity in business negotiations: a developing country’s perspective’, Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing Advances in Cross-Cultural Decision Making, pp. 85-98.

Barmeyer, C. and Davoine, E. (2019) ‘Facilitating intercultural negotiated practices in joint ventures: the case of a French-German railway organization’, International Business Review, 28, pp. 1-11.

Bird, A. and Mendenhall, M. E. (2016). ‘From cross-cultural management to global leadership: evolution and adaptation’, Journal of World Business, 51 (1), pp. 115-126.

Fatehi, K. and Choi, J. (2019a) ‘International communication and negotiation’, in Fatehi, K. and Choi, J. (eds.) International business management: succeeding in a culturally diverse world. 2nd edn. Cham: Springer, pp. 109-143.

Fatehi, K. and Choi, J. (2019b) ‘Managerial leadership and motivation in an international context’, in Fatehi, K. and Choi, J. (eds.) International business management: succeeding in a culturally diverse world. 2nd edn. Cham: Springer, pp. 145-189.

Gunkel, M. (2015). ‘The human aspect of cross-border acquisition outcomes: the role of management practices, employee emotions, and national culture’, International Business Review, 24 (3), pp. 394-408.

Hanges, P. J. et al. (2016). ‘Cross-cultural leadership: leading around the world’, Current Opinion in Psychology, 8, pp. 64-69.

Jackson, T. (2016). ‘Paternalistic leadership: the missing link in cross-cultural leadership studies?’ International Journal of Cross-Cultural Management, 16 (1), pp. 3-7.

Miyuki, T. (2017). ‘Power in international business communication and linguistic competence: analyzing the experiences of nonnative business people who use English as a business lingua franca (BELF)’, International Journal of Business Communication, 6, pp. 1-28.

Richardson, C. and Rammal, H. G. (2017). ‘Religious belief and international business negotiations: does faith influence negotiator behaviour?’ International Business Review, 9, pp. 401-409.

Shah, D. and Barker, M. (2017). ‘Cracking the cultural code: Indian IT expatriates’ intercultural communication challenges in Australia’, International Journal of Cross-Cultural Management, 17(2), pp. 215-236.

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