Written by Luciana Gazzoni
Today, work teams are being exposed to challenges of greater relational complexity. International teams, different locations, mergers and acquisitions require people to increasingly develop their intercultural communication skills. Professionals with interpersonal skills and understanding of cultural differences can directly contribute to improving the efficiency of communication, cooperation and, consequently, organizational results.
And what is culture? According to Geert Hofstede, it is “the collective programming of the mind distinguishing the members of one group or category of people from others”. Culture is a shared system of attitudes, values and beliefs. If we think about the word programming, it means we have a software installed that works like a cultural lens of how things are and how they should function. Based on this understanding, facing a cultural difference can lead us to significant conflicts because each side sees the world from a different perspective. Superficial aspects of those differences can be more easily managed, but other aspects related to values tend be more challenging.
When we understand cultural differences, identifying the origin of some discussions makes things clearer and, therefore, we can use negotiation strategies to find solutions in a way that meets the needs of both parties. Expanding intercultural awareness also enables understanding the different styles of communication and social interaction. For example: some cultural dimensions encourage more direct and objective communication whereas others contribute to a more indirect, soothing and conflict-avoiding language. With that in mind, we can more assertively encourage team cooperation.
Cultural dimensions have six aspects:
• The way we deal with authority or power
• Individualism versus collectivism
• Performance orientation or quality of life
• The intensity of the need to control uncertainties
• Long-term or short-term orientation
• The degree to which people feel in control of their lives and allow themselves to enjoy simple pleasures
Before trying to identify other cultures, the most important thing is to understand our own culture and how we impact others. This will lead to greater awareness when we are experiencing a cultural shock or conflict. The development of cultural intelligence begins with self-perception and involves the ability to create collaboration in various situations impacted by cultural challenges. It is a combination of emotional intelligence, cultural knowledge and the practice of methods to bridge differences. Investing in interculturality directly impacts team efficiency and organizational results. Are you ready for this challenge?