International roles are challenging, complex, and demand a broader range of capabilities as compared to domestic roles. Hence, they stipulate flexibility in the way that objectives are achieved. Given the complexity of operating within global organizations, cross-cultural competence remains indispensable. Cross-cultural competence is vital for global organizations to compete effectively within the universal marketplace.
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A vast majority of managers are poorly prepared as well as unaware of the requirements and skills essential in operating effectively and markedly different international environments, thus finding it complex to adjust to novel requirements and behaviors. To operate effectively within the international business arena, managers require a sturdy set of intercultural administration skills (Grosse, 2011). When dealing with co-workers, clients, and accompanying stakeholders abroad or at home, managers who embrace cross-cultural competence possess a distinct competitive advantage within the multicultural environment. Effectual managers no longer operate solely within the comforts of their domestic culture, but also learn to operate across cultures.
Definition of the Concept Cross-Cultural Competence
The concept cultural competence is progressively employed with respect to working efficiently with individuals from linguistically and culturally diverse backgrounds. There are numerous distinct definitions for the concept, which typically incorporate reference to policy and practice, organizational systems, and individual workers. Cultural competence is the ability of people and systems to work and respond efficiently and respectfully across cultures in a manner that respects and acknowledges the culture of the people and the organization being served (Department of Human Services, n.d.). Culturally competent people are conscious and respectful of the beliefs, languages, cultures, race, religions, classes, ethnic backgrounds, values, customs, and traditions of other individuals. At a personal level, cultural competence includes a person’s attitudes, skills, and knowledge, and stipulates an acceptance that long-standing, enduring, and persistent development is necessary.
Cross-cultural competence implies that individuals possess abilities, attitudes, and understandings that enable them to function not only in their own culture but also within and across numerous linguistic, cultural, and ethnic groups (Spielberger, 2004). Developing cross-cultural competence is a process. Typically, becoming cross-culturally competent does not occur by simply studying diverse groups of people. However, it is essential to have personal experience with culturally diverse populations as well. Cross-cultural competence entails affective and cognitive components, which involve attitudes, behavior, values, and skills. These different factors and dimensions should be taken into account when discussing further competence in multicultural management. It would emerge superb if all humans could possess the attitudes and skills that it entails to be cross-culturally effectual. Nonetheless, there exist no shortcuts to a cross-culturally effective world.
Issues in Cross-Cultural Competence
Issues linked with determining how, why, where, when, and for whom cross-cultural competence is significant have long entertained the minds of management practitioners. The strategic aim of identifying cross-cultural competence is to aid in providing the essential focus for development programs so that effectual international manager behavior ensues (Fish & Wood, 1997). In identifying cross-cultural competence, organizational decision-makers, must enhance that development is intended to support international business activities and the subsequent adjustment to foreign business and cultural societies.
As the global economy is progressively becoming globalized and interdependent, organizations are faced with a critical challenge of having the ability and competence to function effectively across cultural boundaries (Zhu, 2008). Challenges become immense when managers realize that the competence they function within their own culture may not appear as such within a cross-cultural milieu. Cross-cultural experiences emerge in numerous forms ranging from encounters with persons of distinct cultures, short visits to global divisions, long-term emersion into a novel host culture, and jaunts to overseas suppliers and customers. Hence, managers ought to develop an individual competence in adapting to novel cultural and organizational concepts. In this perspective, cross-cultural competence has proven to be an important management requirement, which should be part of daily strategy. It has been associated with diversity. Organizations must value and embrace diversity before they be considered as culturally competent. The conception diversity encompasses concepts that focus on organizational culture as well as the intersections of structure, communication, and power, all of which contribute to initiatives of diversity. Diversity initiatives are part of the human resources management approach and they seek and value employee input. Employee differences occur as a uniting component as opposed to a dividing one with diversity encouraging the inclusion of perspectives of the non-dominant and under-represented group within organizations to ascertain they have a voice. Managers need to be excellent at working with individuals of all diversities. Whilst a few people have been born and raised within cultural competent societies, the rest have to put significant effort to develop it. Understanding differences aids individuals learn how to get along with one another. This implies that effective management requires examining individual biases and prejudices, establishing role models, developing cross-cultural skills, and spending quality time with other people who embrace the passion for cross-cultural competence. Essentially, cultural competence brings forth strong diversity management, which helps organizations to efficiently draw upon intellectual capital, talent, and motivate employs.
Cultural competence entails four components explicitly awareness of a person’s own cultural worldview and its impact on own behavior, a person’s attitude toward cultural diversities, cross cultural skills, and knowledge pertaining to diverse cultural practices. Self-awareness is the most significant element in establishing effectual collaboration with culturally diverse people. As Williams, (2001) avows, it acts as the bridge to being familiar with other cultures. In self-awareness, individuals ought to engage in self-exploration to examine their own culture and socialization processes, which influence how they perceive and interact with other people. To understand another culture, one must first explore his own culture on top of its impacts on development (Spielberger, 2004). The process encompasses acknowledging personal stereotypes and biases while recognizing the impacts of cultural attitudes and norms, and as well valuing cultural diversity and the validity of varying values and beliefs. In this perspective, managers ought to step outside their own cultural framework. However, it proves complex to see strength within individual or collective behaviors, which reflect distinct assumptions. While a person’s deficit may appear a weakness, it may be a strong point in their culture. Hence, developing cross-cultural competence leads to the ability to understand, interact with, and communicate with persons across cultures. An individual’s attitude toward cultural diversities refers to the ability to observe and interpret cultural diversities non-judgmentally. Moreover, in embracing cross-cultural skills, a person stands a position to manage specific multicultural situations. This entails effectual cross-cultural communication, development of effective associations with people from culturally diverse backgrounds, working with translators and interpreters, learning from interactions with individuals from different cultures, identifying systems and practices that hinder cultural competency, and distinguishing and implementing approaches to remove any hindrances to working successfully with individuals from linguistically and culturally diverse backgrounds. Finally, acquisition of knowledge pertaining to other cultures is a fundamental element to development of cultural competence. The knowledge of diverse cultures entails knowledge of theoretical frameworks as well as specific knowledge of both verbal and non-verbal individual and organizational behaviors. It is attainable through interaction with persons from diverse cultural backgrounds in both personal and professional life, talking with community organizations and service providers who work with culturally diverse populace, watching films and documentaries and reading articles on cultural diversity, researching, and taking part in seminars and workshops (Spielberger, 2004). As a starting point to effectual management, it is vital to identify the different cultural and ethnic communities living within an area where one works in order to develop an understanding of their cultures.
One major dimension of cultural competence is the aptitude to deal with ambiguity. Ambiguity is adaptive and thus the more managers’ deal with it, the more effective they become. Another skill entails dealing with complexity. From the cultural context, this refers to the ability to switch amid cultural paradigms. In this milieu, managers have a task in knowing what they do not know as well as in understanding other people’s expectations. The critical issue here is the aptitude to perceive issues from other people’s perspective. Even though it impossible to claim total identification with individuals from a distinct culture, one may empathize with the individual’s feelings while communicating respect, recognition, and care. Enhancing questions, responding, and listening skills is critical in demonstrating this understanding. As Zhu (2008) emphasizes, empathy is a relational process involving individuals and groups working mutually to generate a collective interpretation of a situation they encounter, and establish a consensus for performing a united action. Empathy results from communication and social interactions, and its results indicate mutual understanding, strong rapport, and affinity amid individuals from diverse cultures.
With cross-cultural management emerging with the introduction of globalization, it typically stipulated the ability of the managers as well as the senior corporate hierarchies to handle cultural differences within the workplaces. This greatly influences the ideas, behaviors, and values of employees with the endeavor of generating a harmonious and fruitful work milieu. Managers must seize the proficiency of cross-cultural competence management for employees to view them as excellent role models. An organization whose objective is to remain successful within the culturally distinct environment must hold the management accountable for revealing the capabilities of the professionals in flourishing in a culturally diverse institution.
Constraints or Limitations Developing Cross-Cultural Competence
In looking at cross-cultural competence in action, there arise numerous obstacles for sound cross-cultural communication. If cross-cultural competence is to emerge sensible, it has to be linked to other adjacent concepts on the one hand, and to challenges and problems that is meant to solve on the other hand.
A major limitation in developing cross-cultural competence is communication. With the development of technology, human interaction is hastily becoming vast. However, intricacies emerge in comprehending how to communicate efficiently with people who speak different languages. As Bennett (1998) affirms, it is quite complex to understand one another when people do not share a universal cultural experience. The greatest fear is that what people intend to convey across may not be interpreted the way in which they meant it to be interpreted. Generally, there are high context and low context cultures, and there are diversities in how people from these cultures engage in communication (Spielberger, 2004). For instance, high context cultures communicate with fewer words and less emphasis on verbal interactions, thus deeming them better at reading non-verbal cues.
The bulky task on mangers is to aid employees understand the diversities among themselves to establish effective work relationships with one another. In essence, superior cross-cultural management assists institutions in utilizing employee skills hence augmenting worker’s motivation. Nonetheless, the process is not without constraints and limitations. When the organization and management incorporate empirical approaches and ideas brought forth by diversity in the employees’ culture, there is a high probability that cross-cultural issues and conflicts will ensue. A major issue is the alienation of employees, which can result to misunderstanding of the workers cultural values, behaviors, and etiquettes. Another problem results in filing the pricey cases of discrimination resulting from poor communication as well as employee alienation. Equally, unnecessary termination of employees may prove to be a problem. This may arise from communication breakdown along with false assumptions of employees’ work attitude and behavioral patterns. Moreover, within some culturally diverse institutions where cross-cultural issues have not been appropriately addressed, management becomes hesitant or reluctant to hire and work with culturally different employees. Ultimately, the major common issues in cross-cultural management are discrimination and racism. Certain ethnic groups tend to feel superior toward other culturally distinct colleagues leading to discrimination and racism.
The efforts towards welcoming novel ideas and approaches especially for transformation and overall modification within organizations have not been an easy task. Managers encounter complexities in trying to maintain leadership that understands and respects the cultural differences of employees while at the same time keeping a high regard for their clients. In encapsulation, cross-cultural competence implies that persons are aware of their own cultural constraints and limitations. Hence, learning about complementary cultures obliges them to take risks as well as have a willingness to be appreciative, open, and respectful of cultural diversities.
Benefits of Developing Cross-cultural Competence
Effectual cross-cultural management endows people with an opportunity to create a harmonious and productive environment. In the organizational context, it keeps and preserves skilled employees from diverse ethnicity and cultural background. Similarly, it sets up better communication in spite of the existing language barriers. When managers understand the cultural customs and behaviors of thee employees across diverse cultures, the employees are more likely to be motivated to work and enhance the culturally diverse environment. Furthermore, culturally diverse people are appropriately assessed devoid of the misconceptions of their behaviors, perceptions, and attitudes. In addition, cross-cultural management establishes a comfortable and harmonious environment where the entire populace understands one another in terms of perspectives and motivations.
Opportunities in Developing Cross-Cultural Competence
Cross-cultural interactions are learning opportunities given that there is value and integrity within every culture an individual encounters. For individuals to remain cross-culturally competent, they have to explore the opportunities designed to enhance their knowledge and acquaintance of cultures different from their own. It is merely by enhancing intercultural awareness and knowledge that people can enjoy the benefits of mutual interaction and respect, understanding, and trust. Furthermore, development of cross-cultural competence lays the foundation for establishment of cross-cultural training programs. This creates opportunities for participants to gain knowledge pertaining to the underlying cultural values driving behaviors, particularly behaviors that have a propensity of triggering misunderstandings and conflict.
Development of cross-cultural competence creates opportunity for effective education. Effective education is allied to an understanding of other people along with their backgrounds, traditions, values, and customs (Roux, 2002). In future, access to work opportunities will depend mainly on an individual’s skills at networking and interpersonal skills. More than ever, teachers’ responsibilities have extended to the social development of students within a setting where traditional cultures and values are challenged daily. Hence, effective education is linked to a socially just democratic society based on equality for all its citizens. Whilst effective education ought to adapt constantly to the changes and needs of the society, it can never be relevant unless it passes to the next generations the foundations, attainments, and benefits of human experience. Moreover, to attain effective education, people have to develop a sense of tolerance and respect toward other population groups different from their own. In this context, there is a prime requirement to introduce students to the actuality of a diverse human race, while emphasizing the similarities amid and the interdependence of the entire human race globally. Encountering others through debate and dialogue is a major tool in effective education. Students will get to understand others and their backgrounds, cultures, values, and traditions, therefore creating an intercultural sensitivity and awareness.
Cross-cultural competence creates an opportunity for combating the existing racial and culturally associated stereotyping, prejudices, and conflict. It embraces familiarity with diverse cultures, including their nature, how they operate, and the manner in which they intertwine with people’s relationships in times of harmony and conflict. Cross-cultural competence entails developing the ability to identify and empathize with the values, mores, and beliefs of others. This incorporates the skills and educational components that allow people to address the issues of discrimination, bias, and prejudice that tend to ruin people’s relationships.
There exists a trenchant requirement for all individuals to portray sensitivity to the vast cultural diversities that characterize humankind and as well be acquainted with the verity that cultural diversity is a lifelong process. Hence, cross-cultural competence remains a significant element within the globalizing society since it enhances the development of individual and institutional cultural competence that underpins social cohesion. The importance of cross-cultural competence is manifest in development of awareness of cultural dimensions of interactions within environments and situations characterized by cultural diversity. Hence, addressing the identified constraints and limitations of the practice in cross-cultural competence will enhance its contribution to development and enhancement of both individual and organizational cultural competence.
The reality of cultural diversity today presents a demanding and tremendous challenge. Hence, it is recommendable for organizations to embrace knowledge management systems to create global cross-cultural competence. Knowledge management systems offer the capacity to codify knowledge as well as personal experience, rendering it available to the entire organization. Equally, it encourages a continuous learning process in which individuals attain knowledge on the diverse cultural backgrounds.
It is as well recommendable to develop cross-cultural communication competence, which brings nearly everyone in contact with persons of other cultures and languages. Contact with other people’s languages and cultures endow persons with an excellent opportunity to endorse the development of intercultural competence. Thus, cross-cultural communication competence is vital as it encourages individuals to bring differing motivations and goals to multicultural experience resulting to varying extents of interaction and competence.
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