The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

September - 2007 - issue > Cover Feature

Cross-cultural communications: Managing organizations to effective exchanges

S Suresh
Monday, September 3, 2007
S Suresh
As companies globalize, they’re looking to new and different “hot spots” in the world where talent exists to augment their organizations and to operate more efficiently. Today’s global environment often requires that businesses place their functions where the resources are, to best serve their customers and investors. Businesses now may operate their headquarters in Silicon Valley, but also have a call center in Omaha, a manufacturing plant in Nanjing, support technicians in Dublin, a development arm in Bangalore, and so on.

But, with the decrease of centralized operations the need for communications “sensitivity training” has increased. Employees (and customers) bring with them their own cultural perspectives in which they contextualize all communications. To effectively communicate for best results across the globe, companies now have to look at not only ‘what’ they’re communicating, but also ‘how’, to understand the impact the different channels of communication have on employees and what communications styles and expectations employees bring into their business dialogues.

I often see this type of expectations mismatch when dealing with emails. More often than not, I hear from employees that they have gotten negative feedback about their emails from employees in another region. It’s a clear example of the need for cultural training and understanding of the differences in style and context across an organization.

In general, western culture is what I call a “low context” one where aspects like tone and even the seniority level of the person delivering the message are not as important as the message itself.

But in many eastern cultures, such as in India or Japan, messages are indeed context-dependent, and the perception of messages in this “high-context” environment are influenced as much by the “how” and “who” as by the information itself.

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