In today’s world of fast paced organizational growth and expansion, it has become very important to understand and respect the cultural diversities it brings with it.
Today we no longer have an organization which can boost of growth and yet have no cultural heterogeneity. Such being the situation, understanding and respecting these diversities would help overcome any cultural barrier that may exist within an organization.
The cultural difference has a powerful influence on communication in any organization. This can be best explained when we look in detail at the context. Context here refers to the background, circumstances and inherent behaviors that influence an event or communication.
Broadly we can divide this into High Context Culture & Low Context Culture
A High Context culture means highly bonded, relational, sentimental, intuitive people who emphasize on trust and inter personal relationships. Typically Asia, Africa, Middle East and South America would fall under this category
On the other hand Low Context culture would refer to people who are mostly individualistic; action oriented and would emphasize more on facts and direct communication. Typically all of North America and most of the Northern Europe region (Germany etc) would fall under this category.
Each of these cultures have their own distinct behaviors and this may sometimes become a huge barrier in an organization when one culture fails to understand the other or one becomes more predominant than the other.
As an example : In a board meeting where an important decision to be made is being discussed, if you have a few Indians , a Chinese and a German, you would notice that of the lot, the German would turn out to be the person to speak the most and voice out his opinions and seek clarity. He belongs to a low context culture which is highly individualistic, where directness,seeking information and stating facts is of utmost importance. On the other hand you may notice the Asians discussing amongst themselves, taking down some notes but may not be very forthcoming in voicing their opinion immediately. This comes from the background that this high context culture has a collectivist behavior and they would rather have consensus amongst themselves before stating their needs.
This should not be misread as the German being the more active decision maker while the rest just talk to amongst each other. Both categories are equally knowledgeable and contribute at the same level, but their style of contribution is very different.
In summary, it is inevitable in an organization to have a mix of both high and low culture and having understood that a cultural diversification is a given thing, it then becomes important to understand how to effectively manage and use these diversities for the organizational benefit.