Assignment briefs about Managing diversity as a multicultural organisational issue embracing the various kinds of people

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Communication in multicultural teams


Managing diversity is not just an issue in a multicultural organisation. It has a lot to do with embracing the various kinds of people who hail from different cultures, beliefs, generations and may harbour varied ideas, viewpoints and thoughts (Sabharwal, 2014). It has been observed time and again, that havingeffective diversitymanagement policies have considerably helped in the development of creative and innovative thought processes.

The organisation in question is Genius MNC, which is a company based in California, USA. The HR functions are also US-based, and it has subsidiaries in two locations – India and Germany. The following essay discusses the manner in which the cultural differences and the subsequent management theories and policies affect the overall functioning of the organisation. The implications of communication across a team that is multicultural in nature has also been elaborated.

Institutional and cultural factors influencing human resource management

Human resource management takes a different turn in different countries, and this is due to the many factors that are prevalent locally, such as the legal systems, economy and the challenges (Briscoe, Tarique and Schuler, 2012). One of the hurdles that human resource management has to counter is that of having to supervise a workforce that is culturally diverse.

Institutional and cultural factors have been found to be influential to human resource management practices to a large extent (Thomas and Lazarova, 2013). The effect can be seen in selection and recruitment of the workers, along with the reward policies, compensation schemes and so on. A society always tends to exhibit a preference that is based on culture and is biased towards a particular policy or behaviour. However, it must not be assumed that an organisation functioning in such a circumstance shall also perform in a similar manner to ensure effectiveness. The institutional and cultural factors that affect the human resource management are composed of the various societal forces along with the beliefs and actions of the people of a particular nation (Harzing and Pinnington, 2010). It is also important to take into account the various ethnic and religious concerns when discussing the importance that culture has on an organisation that is functional on a global scale. It becomes difficult to mingle and learn new things from different cultures if the people involved belong to conflicting groups, which might also lead to ethical differences.

When it comes to the exercising and imposition of power roles, the scenario is quite different for different countries. For instance, the power distance is quite minute in countries such as the USA, Germany and the Netherlands. This also implies that the inequality among the structure of the workforce is also quite negligible. This is in contrast with the situation in Russia, France and China, where there is a huge disparity between the individuals of great power and the regular employees, and there is a wide gap between the authorities that the subordinates and their superiors can exercise.

Divergence and convergence of practices between California, Berlin and Bangalore

As is evident from the case study, there are numerous similarities as well as differences in the human resource policies of the organisation Genius across the three countries. In California, where the headquarters of the company are situated, the workforce is empowered by a distributed leadership. The practice of leadership is the key focus in such a case instead of the specific responsibilities that are part and parcel of being a leader. It is one of the processes that is instrumental in building the foundation for change as well as development. The following of a distributed leadership has ultimately made it convenient for Genius to spearhead numerous innovations and encourage overall growth. However, these policies might not resonate positively with the expatriates, and the emphasis is on moving forward and bringing about growth for the organisation. The hierarchy is quite short, and the meetings are usually short since communication is open as well as honest. On the contrary, the Berlin wing of Genius has a leadership strategy that is based on experience and expertise, based mostly on the democratic values of Germany. The managers are automatically assumed to have good leadership skills, and the relationship between the employer and the employee is quite productive, consultative and amicable. In Bangalore, however, leaders are always expected to be directly involved with the work processes, and the preference is that of a personalised relationship where the management is seen as the source on which the employees can are dependent for functioning correctly.

Hofstede’s cultural dimensions

The cultural dimensions theory by Hofstede is a framework that had been originally developed in reference to cross-cultural communication. The primary characteristic of this theory is that it describes the effects that the current cultural factors have on the values of the societal members and draws a correlation between these effects and the behaviour exhibited with the help of “factor analysis”. The initial theory involved four parameters for the analysis of the cultural values, which were – uncertainty avoidance, individualism-collectivism, power distance and masculinity-femininity (Hofstede,2011). After much research, Hofstede was compelled to incorporate two more dimensions, which are long-term orientation and indulgence versus self-restraint.

In general, human beings tend to not be aware of the culture that is prevalent or normal in a country that they themselves do not belong to, which can further lead to misunderstandings and conflicts with people who belong to different cultures or backgrounds (Hofstede and McCrae, 2004). The availability of information technology might fool one into believing that the phenomenon of convergence is very much applicable, but cultural differences and barriers are prevalent even to this day and there seems to be no decrease in such a front. Thus, it is imperative for one to be culturally sensitive and be aware and respectful towards other people who might belong from diverse backgrounds or nationalities. Hofstede’s model very effectively explains these differences and gives an idea of what to expect and how to behave when in a situation that involves culturally diverse groups.

One of the most important concerns for any business or organisation is perhaps that of communication, especially for those who work on a global or international scale. In such a situation, Hofstede’s model becomes integral as there is an increased tendency for multicultural communication and interaction. For successful and conflict-free cross-cultural communication, it is important to have an understanding and awareness about the cultural differences, since what is perfectly acceptable in one country could be deemed as offensive in another. This understanding also comes in handy when having to negotiate or transact businesses internationally, and also when formulation human resource policies (Martin and Nakayama,2013). Cross-cultural communication is dependent on leadership and international management to a great extent, which implies that decisions in an organisation must be taken while keeping in mind the host country’s values, customs and other cultural dimensions.

Additionally, Hofstede’s model could help one to understand the cultural differences of the different countries with respect to the six dimensions that it explains. The power distance index will indicate the nature of power distribution, where a high index implies an unequal hierarchical system and a low score is indicative of a diminished boundary between the leader and the employees (Hofstede, 2011). Individualism versus collectivism will enable the human resource management to understand the level of interpersonal connection that the communities of a particular country have among themselves and therefore direct it to frame policies accordingly.

Elements of intercultural communication process and the potential barriers

The cultural differences between people from different communities or nationalities can be in any form. It could be in the manner in which they address each other, the level of informality or formality that is treated as normal, or the body language (or non-verbal behavioural interactions) of the individuals (R. Scollon, S.W. Scollonand Jones,2011). It could also be something as minor as the issues related to personal hygiene and dress codes. In other words, culture is indicative of a wholly different pattern or way of life. The different aspects of culture enable human resource management to guide and determine the behaviour that could be treated as appropriate across multicultural workforces. The three primary elements of intercultural communication process that have the capacity to dictate the situation at the workplace are perception, verbal processes and non-verbal processes.

Communication within the people of any given community is in itself a difficult task, which explains why cross-cultural communication is an even more difficult dimension is. As discussed by Peltokorpi and Clausen (2011), there are various barriers to intercultural communication that the workers or even the human resource management could be faced with, some of which have been outlined as follows –

Language differences: This is a potential barrier to verbal communication. Simply knowing how to speak a particular language is not enough since there could be differences in accents and therefore a misinterpretation of what is being tried to be communicated.

Body language: This is a potential barrier to the element of perception as well as non-verbal communication. What is considered culturally appropriate in the USA might be unacceptable in Germany and India. For instance, the Germans could have a tendency to smile less and be a lot more serious in their composure, which can make the fellow American workers feel that they are rude. 

Stereotypes and prejudices: When people have a prejudice or are biased towards the members of a particular community or culture, there is always the tendency to give rise to conflicts and/or offensive behaviour. In other words, ethnocentrism is a major barrier to intercultural communication, and can lead to the unfair treatment of the co-workers and subordinates.

Hall’s typology for the explanation of intercultural communication

In his book “The Silent Language”, anthropologist Edward Hall had explained the concept of cross-cultural communication as something that acts as a medium for the sharing or exchange of information across the different cultural groups. He also outlined the two frameworks for the approach – the high-context and the low-context, which are essentially concerned with the values that are attributed to indirect and direct communication.

High-context culture: In this case, the reliance on nonverbal cues as well as implicit communication is quite high. For this purpose, it becomes imperative to have a sufficient level of understanding about the background or context of what is being communicated (Kittler, Rygl and Mackinnon, 2011). Indian as well as German culture are typically high-context in nature, and the associations or relationships in the workplace of the country are built slowly, and the level of productivity is also dependent on the degree to which the workers and the management trust one another. The identity of the people is rooted deeply in their family and culture, and change when implemented is usually done so at a slow pace.

Low-context culture: The reliance on explicit communication is high in this case, and the message that is to be conveyed is usually communicated in verbal form. There is the tendency to form associations and establish relationships quickly, and the productivity at the workplace depends on the dedication towards the intended target and the procedure that is to be followed. The level of rationality is high, which implies that disagreements on business matters are treated as impersonal and therefore the verbal messages are typically expressive (Kittler, Rygl and Mackinnon, 2011). USA tends to belong to the low-context group.


It is therefore no secret that communication in multicultural teams is dependent on a host of factors and face the brunt of various threats as well. It is very important to be culturally sensitive for not only the workers of Genius MNC but also for the human resource management of the organisation. The case study itself is proof that communication in the US unit of Genius is vastly different from that of the subsidiaries, which further corroborates the fact that cross-cultural communication is based on understanding and sensitivity, and it is thus undesirable to implement the policies of one country in another since the outcome and the repercussions would usually be largely different.

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