Thursday, September 9, 2010

Skills in Cross-Cultural Communications: Success Overseas?

A manager skilled in cross-cultural communications is more likely to succeed in an overseas assignment than a manager with stronger functional skills; true or false?

A manager who is skilled in cross-cultural communications, while he may have the proper training, may not have the willingness nor capacity to use the skills. Having cross-cultural communication skills would make this manager no more likely to succeed or fail than the manager with stronger functional skills.

While the manager with stronger functional skills may not have formal cross-cultural communication skills, he/she may have the natural ability to interpret cultural differences in a way that allows him/her to consider many perspectives and respect the culture in which the behaviour was learned. According to Connerley & Pedersen (2005), "[i]t is our contention that the majority of leaders want to treat employees, clients, coworkers, suppliers, and everyone else with respect, but may not have the tools to do so".

Certainly an awareness of multicultural differneces, and the ability to communicate accross those differences will be beneficial for a manager. However, "[d]eveloping multicultural awareness, knowledge, and skills is not an end in itself, but rather a means toward increasing a person's power, energy, and freedom of intentional choice in a multicultural and diverse world" (Connerley, et. al, 2005, p. 7).

Moran, Harris, & Moran (2007) stated,

[e]very individual communicats a unique perspective of the world and reality. Every culture reflects the group view of teh world. From time to time, one must check whether one's view of the world, or that of an organization, synchronizes with the collective reality. (p. 44)

Essentially, the manager's success will rest in his/her ability and willingness to check his/her own personal views or that of their organization, against the collective reality or norm; and to adjust to a changing reality or norm.


Connerley, M. & Pedersen, P. (2005). Leadership in a diverse and multicultural environment: Developing awareness, knowledge and skills. London: Sage Publications.

Moran, R., Harris, P., & Moran, S. (2007). Managing cultural differences: Global leadership strategies for the 21st Centrury. Burlington, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann

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