BUS210 Study Guide

Unit 8: Intercultural and International Business Communication

8a. Solve problems with intercultural miscommunication, prejudice, and ethnocentrism by using appropriate communication strategies

  • Explain how the eight elements of communication can be used to bridge divergent cultures
  • Discuss the role of corporate culture on communication
  • Discuss the impact of prejudice in a business environment
  • Discuss the impact of ethnocentrism in a business environment

It is important to remember that elements of communication apply to all cultures, languages, and values. If we only consider the people sending and receiving the information, without considering the many other elements of communication – message, channel, feedback, context, environment, and interference – we are in danger of losing the meaning of our message. When we understand variations in cultures and differing points of view, we can communicate and build bonds of trust in the relationship more effectively.

In addition to communications among cultures of people, there are also corporate cultures to consider. Think about companies where you have worked or conducted business. How did the company present itself? Were there some organizations that were customer-focused more than others? This all stems from the culture that is prescribed by the leaders of the company. Also, within a company, there may be differences between the various departments. People within the accounting department may behave in ways that differ from workers in marketing or manufacturing.

Prejudice is the negative opinion or view we have of others based on assumptions we have made without any person's real knowledge. This may be based on their gender, race, ethnicity, religion, or lifestyle. These assumptions can impact how we behave toward those people and cause us to make business decisions that are not based on fact, knowledge, or skill.

Ethnocentrism is when people view those from other cultures as being inferior to their own. While there is value in having national pride, not considering other cultures and nations' contributions can be hurtful and threatening. We are less likely to be open to new ideas from others. The global business environment has made it more important than ever to work together with honesty and openness.

For a review, read Intercultural and International Business Communication.


8b. Recognize examples of divergent cultural characteristics

  • Identify examples of behavior from both individualistic and collectivist cultures
  • Explain the differences between people from Explicit-Rule Cultures versus Implicit-Rule Cultures
  • Discuss the seven axioms of uncertainty
  • Discuss the impact of different time orientations in the business environment
  • Explain how gender impacts business expectations in different cultures
  • Discuss direct vs. indirect approaches, materialism vs. relationships, and low-power vs. high-power distance

People from individualistic cultures focus on their individual freedoms and personal independence. This might be reflected by someone's innovative ideas or ability to overcome personal or professional obstacles in business.

Collectivist cultures place value on the needs of the nation, community, family, or fellow workers. Property and resources may be community-owned, as well.

When interacting with people from different cultures, it is important to consider the characteristics that define these people and explore how this might impact interactions and business decision-making.

If you have been in a meeting where rules are understood but not spoken, you are involved in an implicit-rule culture. There might be no agenda set for the meeting, but participants understand why they are there.

If you attend a meeting where everyone is aware of the rules and guidelines and agendas are known to everyone, then you are participating in an explicit-rule culture.

To reduce uncertainty when we meet others for the first time, we apply what we have learned in the past to our current situation. In some cultures, people are less comfortable with this uncertainty, such as those in the Arab world, while people from the US and Great Britain are more tolerant of uncertainty. These attitudes can impact our business interactions and decisions. Explore the seven axioms of uncertainty to understand the role these factors can play in the business environment.

How we allocate our time is dependent on our personalities, the cultures from which we come, and the business environments in which we work. In monochromatic time, everything is done at a specific time, and interruptions are avoided. The US, Germany, and Switzerland are examples of countries that value this kind of orientation.

Countries such as Greece, Italy, and Chile have a more flexible relationship with time. With a polychromatic time orientation, meetings may not begin at their scheduled times, and business, family, and social activities may be combined. Before attending an event hosted by people with this orientation, it is best to check the true time you should arrive. By understanding the time orientation of the people with whom you are interacting, you can improve your communication levels.

In conjunction with time orientation, there is also the issue of short-term and long-term orientations related to desiring immediate results or understanding the bigger picture. Working in a culture with a short-term orientation requires immediate action for all activities, such as sending follow-up notes quickly or reciprocating sooner than later.

A long-term orientation may be characterized by dedication and persistence, with age and status playing a large role in how individuals are perceived. When we understand these factors, we can better interact with our counterparts and work toward common goals more effectively.

There was a time when many cultures and religions valued a female figurehead, and with the rise of Western cultures, we have observed a shift toward a masculine ideal. Each carries with it a set of cultural expectations and norms for gender behavior and gender roles across life, including business.

Consider the characteristics of both the men and women with whom you work. What aspects of their personalities and traits are most valued by the organization? Also, consider the traits that each culture values and how those factors impact business operations and decision-making.

US business practices tend to be to-the-point and direct, while people in Latin America may discuss family, friends, or the weather before getting down to business. When interacting with people from different nations, it is important to understand how others approach each other to ensure that customs are respected and observed.

Let's explore how people look at material goods compared to the relationships they have formed. Materialistic cultures value goods and services and see these objects as a reflection of their status. Other cultures place greater value on the people they interact with and are more concerned about the relationships they form with each other.

Consider how this understanding can help you communicate better with people from these cultures and conduct business more effectively.

Finally, let's look at the impact of high-power vs. low-power distance. Someone from a low-power distance culture will freely tell a superior their views and opinions, as they see themselves as equals. However, people from a high-power distance culture will not offer their opinions unless asked and will accept their superiors' decisions without question. Think about people with whom you conduct business and evaluate their distance cultures and how this impacts business practices.

For a deeper review, read Divergent Cultural Characteristics.


8c. Contrast different styles of management in terms of their influence on workplace culture

  • Identify the characteristics of Theory X and Theory Y, and explain their differences
  • Discuss Ouchi's Theory Z

Theory X managers tend to be authoritarian and do not seek feedback from their employees. These employees are considered to have low-level needs, avoid work when possible, and need constant supervision. Workers are motivated by control and incentives for punishment and reward.

A Theory Y manager holds the view that workers are ambitious and self-motivated. They are rewarded by the actual work and value a job well-done. Workers tend to work as a team and generally need little supervision.

Ouchi's Theory Z is a combination of both Theory X & Y. In this theory, it is presumed that workers need supervision and reinforcement but are also trusted to do their jobs. Management will seek to ensure worker well-being but expect excellence from employees.

Consider your own managers, both past and present. Can you identify their management styles? If you are a manager yourself, how do you view your staff?

To review, read Styles of Management.


8d. Explain how to prepare for an international assignment and the acculturation process

  • Discuss the points to consider before accepting an international assignment
  • List and describe the factors of the acculturation process

Working in a foreign country may sound exciting and exotic. However, it can be more difficult than you might anticipate. The nation's culture, how people interact, not to mention a foreign language, may all be unfamiliar to you, making it difficult to adapt.

To make an informed decision, it is important to consider the impact this may have on your life, including family and friends. Researching the country from multiple points of view is essential, as is understanding your own ability to make changes and adjust to new situations. Review the list of questions in the chapter to understand the factors better to be considered.

Living and working in another country can be both rewarding and frightening. Since so much is unknown, it is essential for anyone considering this move to think about their own ability to adapt to uncertainty and new situations. Many things a person might not anticipate, such as how people shop, eat, or approach their tasks and responsibilities. Considering how you might react to these new situations is important. As a person becomes more comfortable with their host country, they may find that visits to their home country feel different from the past, and the individual may come to adopt some of the host country's behaviors.

Before making such a move, someone needs to take a deep and honest look at how they might, or might not, be able to adjust to a vastly new environment.

For more details, read The International Assignment.


Unit 8 Vocabulary

This vocabulary list includes terms that might help you with the review items above and some terms you should be familiar with to be successful in completing the final exam for the course.

Try to think of the reason why each term is included.

  • Interpersonal communication
  • Individual cultures
  • Corporate culture
  • Prejudice
  • Ethnocentrism
  • Individualistic cultures
  • Explicit-rule culture
  • Implicit-rule culture
  • Uncertainty-accepting cultures
  • Uncertainty-rejecting cultures
  • Time orientation
  • Masculine and feminine orientation
  • Short-Term and Long-Term Orientation
  • Direct vs. Indirect culture
  • Materialism vs. Relationships
  • Low-power vs. high-power distance cultures
  • Seven axioms of uncertainty
  • Theory X
  • Theory Y
  • Ouchi's Theory Z
  • International assignments
  • Acculturation