Importance of Intercultural commutation

by Sai 2016

1.    Introduction

In the last few decades globalization has changed the environment of political and economic conditions of various countries. Especially globalisation had influence in business environments and their workplaces by allowing people belonging to different cultures to work in one place. Providing common workplace for different cultures is not new to the world. Arthur M. Tchlesinger states that the “history of planet itself has been in great part of mixing people” (Arthur, 1991). Even though concept of mixing people belonging to different social cultures is not new to the world, but to effectively communicate with people belonging to different cultures it is necessary to know about intercultural communication. Another important aspect that is to be considered while communicating with cross-cultural social groups is the non-verbal communication. Non-verbal communication is a commutation process which involves actions of the persons with the help of various objects, sounds and signs and they have social significance and it provides meaning to the participants of the communication. Non-verbal commutation has the power of providing meaning to verbal communication. Non-verbal cues are usually performed to negate, monitor, drawl and restore verbal messages. Among all non-verbal competition has become integral part of communication process. Most of the times Non-verbal behaviour of the participants provides clues that could possibly create misunderstanding among people from different cultures working in cross-cultural work environment. In this essay various issues related to the intercultural communication and non-verbal communication are discussed to show how important it is to have particular strategies on effectively communicating with cross-cultural teams.

2.Importance of Intercultural commutation

2.1.         Understanding Cultural aspects

Developing commutation strategies to address is observed to be complex task but many researchers have attempted to understand how cultural differences between two different countries could be understood. Hofstede in their research studies it was identified that  if countries are having common borders and people living in those countries speak common language, it could be stated that language they have come cultures and common communication strategies could be applied to communicate with people belonging to such countries (Hofstede, 1980, p . 228; 2001, p. 63). There are many other researchers who argued against Hofstede’s research outcomes, for instance, Claes and Gerritsen states that arguments a countries having common boundaries and common speaking language do have different cultures. Gerritsen and Verckens, have conducted a research to realise facts on those two statements. It was identified that in most of the cases Hofstede’s statement was false and it is found that the countries having common boundaries and common speaking language are differ in their cultural backgrounds (Gerritsen and Verckens, 2006). Based on the above statement it could be understood that cultural factors of a social group are far ahead of cultural aspects such as language and boundaries of the country. For example, if a country like India is considered it could be understood how diversified people are even though they are living in one country. As it is very difficult to understand aspects of the cultural differences, it could be stated that developing common strategy is to understand intercultural communication and non-verbal communication standards to deal with multicultural teams.

2.2.         Characteristics required to lead multicultural team

Drury-Grogan, et al, states that it is very important to the person leading multicultural teams to have certain characteristics such as Ability to adapt multi cultures and having respect towards other cultures (Drury-Grogan, et al, 2013). These two factors are more than understanding age, race, religion and behavioural of particular social groups. Having aforementioned characteristics definitely avoids cultural conflicts between manager and their peer groups. It was identified that by Jameson in their research study that breaching cross-cultural norms and, people against diverse cultures and customs of other social groups results in causing cultural conflicts in workplace (Jameson, 1993). Another important fact is having good understanding over intercultural communication strategies and non-verbal commutation of people from different cultures enables leaders to avoid misunderstanding of non-verbal cues, and it also helps manage their emotions while communicating.

It is discussed by Aritz and Walker in their research study on managing people working in multicultural work environments that leadership styles influences effectiveness of the performance of multicultural teams (Aritz and Walker, 2014). It is also stated by Aritz and Walker that organisations having multicultural groups have an advantage, then having homogeneous workforce committed to work for the organisation. As in multicultural teams participants belongs to different cultural backgrounds and there is a possibility of knowledge sharing and mutual learning when multicultural teams are engaged in performing particular task. Du-Babcock confer that the way leadership styles influenced efficiency of the performance of multicultural teams, similarly performance of the multicultural teams also influences effectiveness of the leadership (Du-Babcock, 1999), (Du-Babcock, 2005), (Du-Babcock, 2006). Overall exchange of information between leadership and participants of the multicultural teams should be done open-mindedly and respecting information exchanged

 (Ganesh and Holmes, 2011, p. 81). Bargiela-Chiappini and Witteborn states that by doing so, it is possible to improve trust among participants of the multicultural teams and it enables the leadership to take appropriate decisions and present appropriate non-verbal signs that satisfies participants  (Bargiela-Chiappini, 2004) (Witteborn, 2011).

2.3.  Intercultural Communication in different situations

As concepts dealing with intercultural communication are complex and sensitive they are least studied. Even though they have important role in improving effectiveness of the communication managers attempts to deal with intercultural communication aspects as normal communication aspects. For instance, let’s discuss two different situations to present complexity of intercultural communication and to provide appropriate solutions for the situation, dealing intercultural communication issues in virtual teams and to deal intercultural communication in multicultural workplace where power distance is accepted. Berg Roberta in their research study discusses that it is very important to have particular intercultural communication strategies while dealing with virtual teams because usually virtual teams consist of participants from different cultural backgrounds (Berg, 2012). Berg had quoted that an appropriate way to improve performance of the virtual teams is to maintain anonymity of the participants and provide interaction between participants. Berg’s research provided an outcome that maintaining anonymity has provided an opportunity to share implicit knowledge among the participants and it improves the performance of the multicultural team (Argyris, 1993) (Adler, 2008). Therefore, in virtual teams anonymity provides an opportunity to overcome separation of people based on their cultural backgrounds and it also overcome failure of the assignment (Jameson, 2007). It is remarkable to recognise that there are still some cultures where power distance is considered as a social norm and is acceptable. For example, research study conducted by Madlock discusses about how our distance influences the effectiveness of communicating with Mexican workers (Madlock, 2012). Madlock states that power distance is accepted as a social norm (Hofstede,1980) (Hofstede, 2001) in Mexican society and it is also reflects on work environment of the organisations. It is also observe that communication between leadership and participants of the work are considerably effective, and it satisfies participants in terms of job performed and their commitment to organisation because of the power distance.

3.    Conclusion

In this essay need for understanding intercultural communication and non-verbal communication tool improve the efficiency of commutation process in the organisation is discussed by quoting certain examples and providing theoretical evidences. Based on my investigation it was identified that understanding on various aspects of culture to communicate with various social groups is a complex task and it’s hard to understand. Rather than developing a common strategy to resolve cultural conflicts it is better to understand what characteristics as a leader should have to effectively manage multicultural teams. Based on the two situations provided at the end of the essay about managing intercultural conflicts in virtual teams and among multicultural groups where power distance is considered to be social norm, it could be concluded that there are many aspects of culture that are to be understand to effectively mitigate multicultural teams but it is the complex task.


  1. Adler, N. J., 2008, International dimensions of organizational behavior (5th ed.). Mason, OH: Thomson South-Western.
  2. Argyris, C, 1993, Knowledge for action. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  3. Aritz Jolanta and Walker Robyn C, 2014, Leadership Styles in Multicultural Groups: Americans and East Asians Working Together, Journal of Business Communication, Vol. 51 Issue 1, p72-92.
  4. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr, 1991, The designing of America: Reflections on a multicultural society
  5. Bargiela-Chiappini, F, 2004, Introduction: Reflections on a new research paradigm. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 2004(166), 1-18.
  6. Bartoo, H., & Sias, P. M, 2004, When enough is too much: Communication apprehension and employee information experiences. Communication Quarterly, 52, 15-26.
  7. Claes, M.-T., & Gerritsen, M, 2002, Culturele waarden en communicatie in international perspectief [Cultural values and communication in international perspective]. Bussum, the Netherlands: outinho.
  8. Drury-Grogan, Meghann L, and  Russ Travis L,  2013, A Contemporary Simulation Infused in the Business Communication Curriculum: A Case Study, Business Communication Quarterly. Sep2013, Vol. 76 Issue 3, p304-321
  9. Du-Babcock, B, 1999, Topic management and turn taking in professional communication. Management Communication Quarterly, 12, 544-574.
  10. Du-Babcock, B, 2005, Communication behaviors in intra- and inter-cultural decision-making meetings. Journal of Asian-Pacific Communication, 29, 147-170.
  11. Du-Babcock, B, 2006, An analysis of topic management and turn-taking behavior in the Hong Kong bilingual environment: The impact of culture and language use. Journal of Business Communication, 43, 21-42.
  12. Falcione, R. L., McCroskey, J. C., & Daly, J. A, 1977, Job satisfaction as a function of employees’ communication apprehension, self-esteem, and perceptions of their immediate supervisors. Communication Yearbook, 1, 363-376.
  13. Ganesh, S., & Holmes, P, 2011, Positioning intercultural dialogue: Theories, pragmatics, and agenda. Journal of International and Intercultural Communication, 4, 81-86.
  14. Gerritsen Marinel and Verckens Jan Pieter, 2006, Raising Students’ Intercultural Awareness And Preparing Them For Intercultural Business (Communication) By E-Mail, Business Communication Quarterly. Mar2006, Vol. 69 Issue 1, p50-59.
  15. Hofstede, G, 1980, Motivation, leadership, and organization: Do American theories apply abroad? Organizational Dynamics, 9, 42-63.
  16. Hofstede, G, 2001, Culture’s consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions, and organizations across nations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  17. Hofstede, G, 2001, Culture’s consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions, and organizations across nations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  18. Hofstede, G., 1980, Culture’s consequences. International differences in work-related values. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
  19. Jameson, D. A, 1999, Using a simulation to teach intercultural communication in business communication courses. Bulletin of the Association for Business Communication, 56, 3-11.
  20. Jameson, D. A., 2007, Reconceptualizing cultural identity and its role in intercultural business communication. Journal of Business Communication, 44, 199-235.
  21. Madlock Paul E, 2012, The Influence of Power Distance and Communication on Mexican Workers. Journal of Business Communication, Vol. 49 Issue 2, p169-184.
  22. Madlock, P. E., Martin, M. M., Bogdan, L., & Ervin, M, 2007, The impact of communication traits on leader-member exchange. Human Communication, 10, 451-464.
  23. Perlow, L., & Williams, S, 2003, Is silence killing your company? Harvard Business Review, 81, 52-58.
  24. Poncini, G., 2004, Discursive strategies in multicultural business meetings. Bern, Switzerland: Peter Lang.
  25. Wiig, 2012, The Anonymity Factor in Making Multicultural Teams Work: Virtual and Real Teams., Business Communication Quarterly, Vol. 75 Issue 4, p404-424.
  26. Witteborn, S, 2011, Discursive grouping in a virtual forum: Dialogue, difference, and the “Intercultural.” Journal of International and Intercultural Communication, 4, 109-126.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s