Global managers should feel secure that there exists a common set of core values in the corporation they are working for. Thus, the core values of the company are the same regardless of whether it is a branch in South America, Africa, North America or the Asia-Pacific region. As recorded in the case study given at the beginning of this chapter, that has been the steadfast philosophy of Nestl .
Define the problem from both points of view
Consider the case of a Latin American employee who takes an entire day off every time he takes his wife to see a doctor. His wife can drive and has her own car. This employee's US boss is not amused.
The first step is to examine the perspective of both men. How does each person view the situation? The boss thinks the employee is malingering, and is upset that his services are not available when he needs them. He may even deem the employee to be irresponsible. The employee, on the other hand, perceives his boss as being without human compassion.
Uncover the cultural interpretations
Each man is interpreting the other's actions from his own cultural premise . Suppose instead the boss were to view the situation from the employee's standpoint, and the boss examine the situation based on his employee's cultural programming. The boss might then see that in the context of the employee's culture, his position as head of the family required him to accompany his wife to the doctor, even if the visit was a routine one. The employee was thus fulfilling his familial obligations in a responsible manner.
If the employee were to consider matters from the standpoint of his boss's cultural heritage, he would realize that his boss believes that work responsibilities should take precedence over everything else. In the boss's scheme of things, family members should look after themselves in non-emergency situations. The issue now is, how can this situation be resolved?
Create cultural synergy
Once both men have perceived the situation from the other's point of view, they could try to find a feasible compromise. For instance, the solution could be that the employee uses the days off he is legitimately entitled to for domestic activities like accompanying his wife to the doctor. Alternatively he might not take the entire day off when he takes his wife to the doctor. What is of the essence is that both men try to understand the other's cultural programming, and accept that such cultural conditioning is going to influence work-life decisions.
Source: Adler (2001).
Argentina: People who have an informal manner are appreciated. Eye contact is direct.
Belgium: People who have a formal manner are well received.
Canada: Canadians like people who have an open and friendly manner. Eye contact is direct. Avoid pointing or using any grand gestures.
China: Chinese like people who are respectful. Once the Chinese get to know you, they can be ' touchy-feely ', but it is best if you are very polite until you know them. Eye contact is direct. Never put your feet on the table, do not raise your 'pinkie finger'. Avoid any aggressive gesture. Do not laugh loudly.
Finland: Eye contact is direct, but keep some distance. Avoid broad gestures.
Germany: Germans like people who have a formal manner.
Hungary: Hungarians like people who are straightforward and natural. Eye contact is direct.
Italy: Italians like people who have an informal manner. Eye contact is direct.
Korea: Koreans like people who are respectful. Eye contact is indirect. Instead of looking in someone's eyes, one should look just under their eyes, at their cheeks. Avoid pointing and any broad gestures.
Malaysia: Malays like people who have a respectful and quiet manner. Eye contact is indirect. Avoid crossing your legs or showing the soles of your shoes. Standing with arms on your hips is considered aggressive.
The Netherlands: The Dutch like people who have an informal and forthright manner. Eye contact is direct.
Norway: Norwegians like people who have an informal manner. Eye contact is direct. Norwegians like their space.
Poland: Poles like people who have an outgoing, easy manner. Even if they appear formal, they will warm up after the initial contact. Direct eye contact is essential. Otherwise, you will be thought to be hiding something.
Russia: Russians like people who have an informal manner. Eye contact is direct. Avoid pointing at your temple, that means 'you are an idiot'.
Singapore: Singaporeans like people who are respectful and polite. Eye contact is indirect. Gestures to avoid include pointing or standing with your arms crossed in front of you.
Sweden: Swedes like people who are open-minded. Eye contact is direct. Swedes feel more comfortable with some distance between them and you.
Thailand: Thais like people who have a respectful manner. Avoid speaking loudly. Eye contact is indirect. Avoid pointing a finger, crossing your legs or using your foot to point out something.
United States: Americans like people who have an outgoing and direct manner. Eye contact is direct. The gesture forming a circle with thumb and index finger means 'OK'.
Source: Urech (1998).
Communication is an important mechanism for holding an organization together, especially when it is a global organization with branches all over the world. Many global companies like Nestl believe that it is the core values of a company that enable it to grow as a vital , successful, humane organization. These core values have to be communicated to all its branches worldwide. This entails communication across a wide variety of cultures. Increasingly it is found that the content of what multicultural organizations communicate to all their branches is the same regardless of culture. What is varied depending on local culture is the process of communication. The process is aligned to local culture to ensure acceptance of the content.
Communication from headquarters in one culture to a branch in another culture, or from a branch in one culture to a branch in a different culture, is one facet of intercultural communications in a management context. The other facet pertains to expatriates learning how to communicate in cultures other than one's own. Intercultural communication possesses both pan-cultural properties and culture-specific properties. Expatriates need to cultivate sensitivity to the culture-specific properties. Knowledge of the local language is one of the many factors that enable an expatriate to communicate better with local national employees .