Dealing with Conflict
Recognising the importance of including cultural communication as a subject within conflict, communication and interpersonal skills training courses.
Dealing with conflict at work is something that every manager will have to address at some time in their career; and probably regularly. The conflict may be between you and somebody you manage, you and a peer, you and your boss and even between you and a customer or a supplier.
Conflict is effectively caused when one person’s behaviour is not in line with the expectations of somebody else. If that person then apologises, usually conflict is avoided. However, if they don’t apologise, this will likely lead to conflict.
So why would people behave in a way that creates conflict?
Acceptable behaviour as we view it individually, is derived from our upbringing, which tends to be in line with the culture of where we live.
We now work in a world though that is very culturally diverse. Your work colleagues and your customers may come from different parts of the world.
You could very easily be on a Teams call one minute with an American colleague and on another call one hour later with a Japanese colleague. Yet the behaviour expected of us in both examples, is that it should be in line with their culture. If it is not, we have a clash which may well in turn lead to conflict.
So how do we deal with conflict created through different cultural expectations?
Hofstede, Trompenaar and Meyer claim there are effectively nine different opposing types of culture in the world, which ‘clash’ with each other. When dealing with people from an opposing culture, it is helpful to understand their culture and how best to behave with them. Then we build relationships as opposed to destroy them.
The nine different opposing cultures are:
Neutral or ‘reserved’ such as (Japan, Britain). Emotional (Spain, Italy)
- Universalist vs Particularist Cultures
People either expect to be treated equally (USA, Germany) or expect preferential treatment because of their personal relationship. (China, South Korea)
- High v Low context Communication
Messages are implied or hidden (Japan, France) or they ‘say it as it is!’ (USA, Netherlands).
Focus is either on the individual (USA, Netherlands) or on how the team will benefit (Germany, France).
- Power Distance
Job position within the hierarchy is important and so should be mentioned (Poland, Japan) or it is not and does not need to be mentioned.(Denmark, Australia).
Your self-value comes from either what you have achieved (UK, Austria) or it comes from your status (China, Venezuela)
- Negative Feedback
Some cultures are very direct with their feedback (Russia, Germany), some or very indirect (China, Saudi Arabia)
Cultures may be persuaded through theory (Italy, France), whilst others are persuaded through practical application (UK, Netherlands).
- Time Scheduling
Some cultures are very precise with timings (Switzerland, Germany), whilst others are more ‘laid back’ about timings (Portugal, Greece).
Actions to take
In the diverse world we communicate in today, your staff will be at an advantage if they understand and know how to communicate to other staff and customers from different cultures.