It is often difficult doing business with people who are from a different culture due to the various values each culture possesses. Of course the easiest way to get a message across is via the optimal form of communication, which is usually speech, but this is not always possible when there is a language or cultural barrier, or just a different communication style due to the culture valuing one way of communicating over the other.
Perhaps the exchange between people who speak different languages is where values are exemplified the greatest. Clear communication is particularly important in the globalized economy, where regular cross-culture communication is vital to business. And a respect for the customs can be paramount to a business deal. “Activities such as exchanging information and ideas, decision making, negotiating, motivating, and leading are all based on the ability of managers from one culture to communicate successfully with managers and employees from other cultures,” (Radford, N.D.). It should be noted that even if both groups understand each other’s language, communication can still be lost and this could imply a disrespect for the country’s values. For example, in a culture where eye contact indicates honesty, the same eye contact may be abrasive to those in other cultures. This could be drastic for business relations because someone might take eye contact as an insult, and for operations if a member of the team makes an unwise business decision because of a misunderstanding. [“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]
Those working with people from different cultures should assume there will be miscommunications, and because of this, they should seek out other ways to communicate, to ensure there is full understanding. This difference can be assumed until there is evidence of similarity. To communicate with a different culture clearly, and eliminate the constant uncertainty, it may be necessary to immerse oneself in that culture to understand its values (Adler, N.D.).
Even the way a person dresses could be considered demonstrative communication that represent the culture’s values. Depending on the culture, certain clothes may be offensive or misleading to a person when communicating cross-culturally. For example, it is normal for women in some cultures to wear miniskirts, while in other cultures, it is only appropriate for a woman to wear a veil (Utah, N.D.). Miniskirts could offend the values of a culture. Even within the same culture, certain clothing is appropriate during certain occasion, such as in North America, where is might not be appropriate to wear a miniskirt to a business meeting.
People within the same culture also have personal limits about touch. For example, many feel that touching ones arm is a sign of attentiveness and caring, while others might consider it an invasion of privacy. This contrast is even more pronounced when communicating with those of other cultures. In the United Kingdom, for example, the average person touches another person zero times each hour, while those in Puerto Rico touch 180 times per hour (Utah, N.D.).
But other options exist to help limit misunderstandings if demonstrative devices are used to paint a clear picture. Other ways of communicating are often neglected, but they can be the most vital in communicating as clearly as possible so that the values of each culture are valued. People often only focus on a verbal message, but more than just the words are being interpreted by the receiver of that information. For example, head position, posture, facial expressions, eye contact, and arm and hand gestures all contribute to the way a message is communicated and each one carries its value implications. If someone is at a job interview and they have a slouched posture, that might indicate they are unengaged. However, the person may be very interested, but they are just unaware of the way they are physically communicating (Speech, 2012).
Voice tone, which is a demonstrative part of verbal communication, is an important part of conveying a message in the intended way. For example, a person with a low voice is interpreted to have more authority than a person with a high voice, according to research from the Department of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. When hearing a deep voice, people have an instinctive judgment of the person who is speaking. The Corporate Coach Group states it is more effective to vary tone (Farmer, 2011). Varied tone can emphasize key words and phrases, and this can make what is being said more interesting because it can stimulate emotions. When certain words are emphasized, the listener might become more enthusiastic, humoured and excited. < Click Essay Writer to order your essay >
But the listener is also communicating, though they aren’t saying anything. Eye contact is a major factor in demonstrative communication that many North Americans consider to be paramount to communication. When the listener doesn’t make eye contact, the speaker might think they are uninterested or snobby. People who are listening might also nod their head to indicate they understand what the speaker is saying. Facial expressions are also important, because the person listening might want to smile to indicate they are accepting of what the person is saying, or that they understand the humour in what is being said. Conversely, if someone is making eye contact, nodding and smiling, for example, the person who is speaking might think they are ingenuine. This is a common difficulty when communicating and it is what causes certain people with compatible communication styles to get along, while those with different communication styles don’t get along.
Sociologist Geert Hofstede’s work is some of the most celebrated and cited for its role in the study of leadership and its manifestations in the values of various cultures in the business environment. The information he has collected proves extremely valuable in the study of these cultures and how the cultural experience relates to their values. Hofstede completed studies to come to his opinions about the role of leadership and how it determines values of people in leadership roles in different cultures. The study analyzes whether people are the same, despite where they are from, but it concludes that there are profound differences due to the cultural upbringing. The research offered in Hofstede’s studies helps to determine whether the culture in which a person is raised affects the way they behave. While there are differences of opinion about the value of Hofstede’s work, it can’t be denied how extensive it is and how it adds to the debate about the cultural value effects on people, particularly leaders.
In his studies and conclusions about the characteristics of people in various cultures, Hofstede completed a survey that consists of 116,000 questionnaires. This included responses from 60,000 people from more than 50 countries throughout the world. He worked with IBM to complete this research, which was extremely extensive. After collecting the data, Hofstede developed a factor analysis of 32 of the questions in 40 of the countries. This information was used to identify four dimensions he classified as bipolar. These include “Power Distance,” “Individualism/Collectivism,” “Uncertainty Avoidance,” and “Masculinity/ Femininity.” This information became the basis for the way he characterized each country’s culture of values among the leaders, (Jones, 2007).
While this work is largely celebrated for the way in which it communicates clearly and truthfully to the public, it is also criticized — as are many large bodies of work. Some academics have even discredited all of his work, saying his conclusions are all assumptions. It should be noted, however, that many more intellectuals support his body of work than those who oppose it. “Not all of what Hofstede has said stands up to the public enquiry, the majority of his findings have weathered the storms of time, and will continue to guide multi-national practitioners into the ‘global’ future,” (Jones, 2007). [Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]
Various components are identified in Hofstede’s study, including law, respect for individuality, nature of power and authority, rights of property, concept of deity, relation of individual to state, national identity and loyalty, and values, customs and mores. These categories can be applied as a broad starting point in determining the values of a culture and how they relate to leadership. The relationship between the aforementioned sections lead to an understanding the differences in cultures and what leads people to act the way they do. In looking into these factors, Hofstede needed to come up with a way in which to define cultural values. He points out that there are about 164 definitions of culture that were documented up to 1951. But he settles on culture being, “A collective programming of the mind which distinguishes one group from another,” or “Mental programming … patterns of thinking and feeling and potential acting,” (Jones, 2007).
Hofstede made several discoveries in the differences of behaviors among leaders in different cultures. He placed these into the following categories: “Power Distance,” which relates to the degree of the unequal distribution of wealth and power among the demographics. He classifies this into what is generally tolerated by the general public. He ranks each country based on its degree to which it has a wide separation between wealth and power among the population. For example, Malaysia ranks extremely low on his scale. This means there is a large distance between the ranks in organizations. He also implies through this area of study that the communications from the top to the bottom of the employee ladder is not direct. Instead, the information is passed down through a command chain, meaning a leader won’t speak directly to an entry-level employee, for example. Rather, the message will be passed on. Israel is at the other end of the scale, which means a boss and lower-level employee can speak quite freely to each other, (Wu, 2006).
Adler, N.J., (N.D.) Communicating across cultural barriers. Retrieved from
Farmer, C. (2011, March 25) Communication skills training: voice tone. Corporate Coach
Jones, M.L. (2007) Hofstede – Culturally Questionable? University of Wollogong.
Speech Improvement Resources. (2012). Nonverbal communication says a lot.
University of Utah (N.D.) Engaging in nonverbal communication.
Wu, M.Y. (2006). Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions 30 Years Later: A Study of Taiwan and the
United States. Western Illinois University.