Summary of Myriam’s article on the Philadelphia Business Journal website. Click here for the full article.

Myriam SiftarMiscommunication can cost businesses both time and money. When communications are between people from different cultures, the possibilities for miscommunication and damaging consequences are multiplied.

With increasing globalization and immigration, small and mid-sized businesses today often have to deal with international partners and customers as well as multicultural workforces. More and more business leaders are personally experiencing the problems that can arise in cross-cultural communications. Here are just a couple of examples of common cultural differences that can affect business.

  • In many cultures establishing relationships is very important before doing business with someone. Americans, who tend to believe that all you need is a common business goal to “do a deal” may not take the time to nurture.
  • People from many cultures are more deferential to authority and will not speak up to or disagree with someone they perceive as their superior. Employees or co-workers from these cultures may not contribute their own ideas unprompted, voice concerns they have, or even admit that they don’t understand something.

Cross-cultural training can help avoid costly failures of communication. Basically, this training addresses three issues:

1)      awareness of the effect of culture on one’s own communication;
2)      knowledge of and appreciation for the differences between cultures and the sources of those differences; and
3)      learning to pick up the subtle clues that can signal a problem in communication.

Companies other than large multinationals have only recently started to look for such training, but the trend will most likely continue with the U.S. government push towards increased exports for small and mid-sized companies.

If cross-cultural communication is important in your business, consider cross-cultural training for your employees before you learn the costs the hard way.

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