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Effect Of Culture On Communication Essay

3260 words - 14 pages

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Experiential Analysis

A Reflective Structured Essay


A successful organisation is built on the communication that develops between its constituents (Dietz & Den Hartog 2006). Encouraging efficient communication within any organisation can prove a difficult task, especially when faced with the complexity of a diverse workforce.

The organisation being considered is a small accounting company (‘The Company’) located in Zimbabwe, South Africa. Due to its ‘multiplicity of traditions and skin ...view middle of the document...

The essay will conclude with recommendations supported by literature as to how communication could be better managed to achieve higher levels of efficiency for The Company.


Culture can be defined as a system of values and norms that are shared among a group of people (Wilson 2009). In a globalised world, organisations no longer consist of individuals from one culture. A myriad of different and often somewhat incompatible cultures form the average 21st Century organisation. The Company being analysed is no exception to this generalisation.

The Company contains a diversity of individuals from countries such as Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Australia, The Netherlands and South Africa. The different cultures that originate from these countries result in various issues in communication between employees. Luckily, culture is no longer considered a single complex variable which cannot be thoroughly disaggregated and investigated (Minkov & Hofstede 2011). Hofstede has provided us with separate dimensions of culture which can be used to analyse cultural differences within an organisation. Five of Hofstede’s dimensions will be discussed and then related to communication issues prevalent within The Company.

The first dimension of culture is power distance: the extent to which a society accepts inequalities of power between individuals (Hofstede 1991). High power distance cultures are generally found in countries that have let inequalities of intellectual capabilities grow into inequalities of power and wealth (Wilson 2009).

One of the more assertive middle level managers in The Company came from Nigeria in Western Africa. He was a very articulate and intelligent employee of The Company, yet often had difficulty effectively communicating with some of the South African employees below him. He frequently gave direct orders to his subordinate co-workers and almost inappropriately treated them as if they were his personal assistants. Many of the South African employees deemed his behaviour highly disrespectful and considered his actions as an abuse of his position within the organisation. However, the underlying issue was the high power distance culture that the Nigerian manager originates from (see blue PDI column in Graph-1 below). In his culture it is acceptable to communicate with subordinates in a patronising manner to establish your position within the group. This assertion of dominance is less acceptable in South Africa, where the power distance is more neutral (see yellow PDI column in Graph-1 below). Managers who come from high power distance cultures must recognise this issue and attempt to empower their employees, securing comfortable and effective communication within the organisation (Humborstad et al. 2008).

Graph- 1

  Power Distance Index  
  Uncertainty Avoidance Index  
  Long-Term Orientation


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