Globally, organizations work in culturally diverse environments. They interact regardless of age, gender, race, language, and nationality. It is but natural for conflicts to arise out of these diversities. Apart from these differences, an organization may have deeper and more serious differences that may affect certain cross-cultural issues and the way conflict is dealt with.
Cross-Cultural Issues and Dimensions
Let us identify some of the cross-cultural issues that exist between Western and Asian cultures and their perspectives. Language seems to be a very common issue. Asians think that foreigners pay respect and must take efforts to learn the language. According to American or Western perspective, English is the universal language so everyone should observe it as the primary medium of communication.
Some cross-cultural issues arise out of the concepts of individualism against collectivism. Asians have a strong sense of collectivist perspective which make them more inclined to working in groups and depend on each other for decisions.
Asians have a high regard for cooperation and teamwork to minimize risks and lessen individual responsibilities. On the other hand, Westerners have a strong sense of individualistic attitude. They are more likely to be independent from each other in their actions and decisions.
When it comes to responding to risks, both cultures have different ways or approaches. Asians tend to avoid risks more than their Western counterpart like the Americans. They feel it is better to be certain and save face than to take risks. Westerners are more of the risk-takers, not to mention their being independent.
In the manner of addressing conflicts, Asians emphasize a lot on personal relationships so a more indirect manner of resolving conflict is preferred. For them, conflict resolution is best done through negotiation and compromise.
Western people, on the contrary, are more open and direct in confronting each other with issues. They like to settle things through rational arguments, evidence, and direct solutions.
Individualism versus Collectivism
These two concepts were initially explained as an element in cross-cultural issues of two major cultures, the Asians and Westerners. In dealing with cross-cultural conflicts, an important dimension is the level to which the individuals identify themselves in a group or a team instead of taking an individual approach.
A culture that observes individualism has a high regard for autonomy, initiative, and authority in the decision-making process. A collectivist culture places a high value on cooperation or teamwork over the individual. In resolving conflicts, group commitment is sustained at the expense of individual interests.
Individualistic cultures are mostly in the USA, Canada, Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. The other parts of the world are predominantly collectivist. But Asians are dominantly collectivist individuals.
Individualists and collectivists have different ways of viewing conflict. The former acknowledges conflict as a normal part of life and does not hesitate to face conflict. Collectivists, on the other hand, often avoid conflict and do not feel comfortable being in a conflicting situation with each other.
Addressing Cross-Cultural Conflicts and Issues
A better way to respond towards cross-cultural conflicts is to understand oneself and one’s culture. You need to examine your own cultural values, prejudices, and biases.
Being more aware and more educated with your own culture opens your doors to empirical and different ideas. You will feel less threatened facing an issue with another individual of different culture.
Another tip is to modify oneself towards other people’s cultural orientation. Learning to accept the fact that we live in a culturally diverse world makes it easy for us to interact with people across cultures by adjusting to their behavioral and cultural patterns. So start getting rid of those prejudices and be more open to dealing with different cultures.
Setting aside the individualistic and collectivist approaches, it is a lot more helpful to just bring issues to the table and discuss them as if everyone gets affected if it is not resolved sooner.
However, be open to various interpretations especially when dealing with individuals of different ethnicity. Setting proper expectations as to each other’s cultural values and behaviors will make conflict resolution become more effective.