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Any single culture is multidimensional, and in this time of globalization, people belonging to various cultures are sharing common workplace where they are bound to interact with one another. This situation certainly calls for a thorough training on cultural competency for all members of any multicultural organization, and especially for the managers who have the job to unify all employees’ aims and aspirations with the goals of their company. Such a task is easier said than done; as there is plethora of instances where cultural difference has shattered the dreams of the company.
However, there is no dearth of opposite instances too, where successful implementation of multicultural philosophy has brought in sustainable competitive advantage for the companies. In either way, this state of affairs substantiates the importance of seriously considering “organization as culture” and adopting right steps to achieve the status of a true-blue multicultural organization. With this point of view, this paper explores how the organizations can impart quality training to their managers, besides evaluating the efficacy of the established theories/ideas on this issue, before reaching its own conclusion.
Multicultural Environment Any workplace comprising of employees from more than one culture can be called a multicultural organization. Here the word “culture” contains several interpretation, though in general, it speak about a package of perception, belief and acquired behavioral process, containing elements like “learned and shared values, beliefs and behaviors to a particular group of people” (Yamashita, 2004). On the other hand, multiculturalism is a “Doctrine asserting value of different cultures coexisting within single society; globally, vision of cultural diversity deliberately fostered and protected” (Globalization, 2000).
In plain words, it is a concept of aligning various cultures to serve a common purpose. Common Problems in Multicultural Environment Problems occur when cultural difference and consequently, difference in perception about a particular issue/act/custom/or policy stands between the individuals or groups. Such situations can occur anytime at any multicultural set up, which can begin with little differences like meaning of a word, eating habits, or religious practice, whatever, and that can fuel a bigger set of difference, if not timely diffused.
For example, the word, “monkey” contains hint of racism in some parts of the world, while it is only a simple definition of primate in the other. Now if someone from that special part of the world is called a monkey, s/he might react furiously, no matter how innocent the caller is. Understandably, such channel noises , are the outcome of one’s ignorance about others’ culture. Specific Problems in Multicultural Environment This takes place when cultural difference puts spanner in the process of work.
This too, can emerge out of various situations like managers’ or employees’ biases about their culture, or from ignorance about “what means what”. It is not uncommon for a manager to find difficulty in catering a multicultural audience at one go, if some of the members do not understand managers’ spoken language, or their idioms sound idiotic to their ears. This again points towards the importance of grooming to the tune of multicultural philosophy. Theories for Help No matter how much humans developed their science and technology, they are yet to discover a device that would be able to interpret one’s thought for another.
It is for this reason, the age-old art and science of effective communication still works wonders for every sphere of life and it is in fact the oxygen of any multicultural organization. Thus it would be pertinent to mention about two such theories out of many, to explain how theories can save the day for the managers of multicultural organizations. What these theories do is, they form the foundation of understanding among humans, which is the prime condition to rise above any cultural biases and to accept the fact that humans are all equal at their basements.
ERG Theory This is an improvised version of Abraham Maslow’s (1908-1970) famous model of Hierarchy of Needs (Maslow’s, 2008), created by Clayton Alderfer after prolonged research, which adds more flexibility in determining the needs of an individual, which it does by reorienting the elements from Maslow’s model into three segments like Existence (E) – It involves physiological and safety needs. Relatedness (R) – It contains social and external esteem needs. Growth (G) – Self-actualization and internal esteem needs. (ERG, 2007).
Clayton’s model allows to set the order of needs according to the existing need structure of an employee, besides providing the scope to pursue different needs simultaneously. Accordingly, company can motivate any individual on any of the E, R or G needs – while looking after an individual’s E need (say, where an employee needs a safety measure), the company can look after the same individual’s R needs (like awarding her for her achievement) and G needs (inducting the individual in the think tank of the department).
Expectancy Value Theory Founded by Martin Fishbein in the 1970-s, suggesting that people “mould themselves to the world in accordance with their expectations/beliefs and evaluations” (Expectancy, 2004). This serves as a pointer to the fact that behavior or behavioral intentions or attitudes evolve out of expectancy and evaluation, where the expectancy is an idea about a situation or object and evaluation is one’s estimation about the impact of that idea/situation/object on any plane.
Theories Groom Vision If the entire team of a workplace can adopt a vision in the light of the Expectancy Value Theory, where they would ‘expect’ that they are devoted to the collective goal. Once armed with this vision, the following areas of communication would definitely take a new turn as the outcome of reorientation of one’s approach to the world: Intrapersonal communication: The vision would make the employee think like “I’m attached to an important organ of the society and thus I have more responsibility to meet its expectations”.
Communication with clients: The vision will make the employees more patient and taking interest in communicating with clients belonging to another culture. Team Communication: There would be less conflict of ego or other minor areas of personal interests, as the greater cause will influence all members to align their approach towards the perceived goal (achieving high standards of service).