Culture Clash

By Nathan Beavers

 

O’Rourke devotes Chapter 10 to Intercultural Communication. He states that there are many things that can make up a type of culture; ethnicity, size of population, immigration, age, families and gender. However, because cultures are so varied, there is often ample opportunity for people from one culture to come into a conflict with someone of a differing culture.

 

At a previous job I had, we had a healthy mix of all different types of people. Older, younger, male, female and several different ethnicities were present in workforce. This often made for interesting days. Never knowing how someone would react to something you might do, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, and as it would often go, things would be dealt with in a passive-aggressive way that would make the offender never quite sure what they had done or what they could do to rectify the situation. However the main source of tension was a supervisor who believed he had more power with the company than he really did. To give some background, this supervisor was a veteran of the army who had planned on being a career soldier. Everything he did or wanted to be done, had to be exactly right or it would be redone until it was done his right way. However, the main source of conflict between the employees and him was punctuality. He was ten minutes early for everything. Everyone else would arrive around the time that they were supposed to show up, often a few minutes late. Being even a few minutes late would earn a chewing out by him and would often evolve into full-on shouting match in the break room. Finally, management stepped in; if someone was five to ten minutes late, that was fine but anything else would earn an automatic occurrence. This angered the supervisor to no end, as he believed showing up one second after your shift was being late. Eventually, the supervisor left and was replaced with someone far less strict and the break room shouting matches all but disappeared.

 

Culture is extremely important to consider, especially in a working environment where they will often develop their very own. Knowing how to successfully deal with these issues is a great step at being able to effectively communicate in a business environment.

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By mandybowling

Managing Conflict – The End of Contract Bonus Fiasco (Part 1 of 2)

by Mark Leonard

Managing Conflict – The End of Contract Bonus Fiasco (Part 1 of 2)

At the start of the final drawdown of troops in Iraq in January 2011, KBR had about 12,000 direct hire employees and 40,000 subcontract employees in country.  Over the next 11 months, as bases closed across the country, there would be a gradual drawdown of employees, and by December 31, 2011, these 52,000 individuals had to be out of Iraq.

This was a period of uncertainty for employees, who had no idea when their time would come and they would be sent home.  When bases closed, they were either relocated to another base with a vacancy for their position or sent home based on an employee rating system that looked at time on project, performance, and attitude.  As the year progressed and the number of active bases in Iraq decreased, fewer employees were relocated and more employees were sent home.  It was in the best interest of employees to start applying for other jobs and leave on their own terms, before KBR could send them home.

From an HQ perspective, we needed the employees to stay in Iraq until the very end because we had a contractual requirement to complete the mission.  HQ emails encouraged employees to update their resumes and apply for jobs but stay on until the end and finish the mission.  These emails also highlighted KBR’s projects worldwide, implying that there would be more jobs available for employees who stayed on until the end after the contracts in Iraq expired.  One of the most controversial strategies employed by HQ to convince employees to remain in Iraq was the submittal of a proposal to the Department of Defense for additional funding to pay an ‘end of contract bonus’ to the employees who remained in Iraq until the end of the contract.  Part 2 will delve deeper into the end of contract bonus proposal, looking at its consequences and effectiveness in managing employee uncertainty during the drawdown.

By mandybowling

Stress Causing Conflict at Work?

By Jazzmine Davis

In chapter 11 of Managerial Communications: A Case Analysis Approach, O’Rourke explains the details of Managing Conflict in an organization. As stated, conflict can arise from various reasons—personalities, professional/personal relationships, competition and cultural differences. Stress plays a vital role in all of these variables. If people knew how to decrease their stress levels, many of the conflicts in the workplace could be avoided. My manager always has personal problems within her relationships, and it seems that her stress always trickles down to her employees. If she is not having a good day no one else will. I have taken the initiative to find some stress relief tactics that may be options that will solve the root of the problem.

  1. Meditation will allow the employee to find their center and eliminate the stream of thoughts that are creating stress. Meditation helps your overall well-being and health.
  2. Laughter can cure anything! Even it is a fake laugh it could make a person feel better, by cooling down your stress response. Reading some jokes may initiate a stress reliever.
  3. Journalizing your thoughts may cause some stress relief, because it causes a mental distraction and decreases stress hormones.
  4. Attempting to delegate tasks to others may help when trying to relieve stress. Maybe you have too many things for one person to handle, and should take the load off of your shoulders.

Stress can cause tension in the workplace, and may be a hindrance in getting goals completed in a timely fashion. Stress spreads like wildflower, and should be avoided for a successful professional relationship between managers and employees. Is stress causing conflict at your job? Use these stress relievers to decrease levels. If the options described above do not work, counseling about the problem is the next step.

By mandybowling

Intercultural Communication is EVERYWHERE

Culture is all around us and the way we accept it is up to us. O’Rourke defines culture everything that people have, think, and do as members of their society. Basically, it’s a way of expressing how and why people do the things the way they do.

Everyone is different and everyone expresses things differently. Learning intercultural communications goes much further than teaching someone the rules or principles of our culture, but learning about someone else’s and not being judgmental, but taking it as a learning experience… you never know what new culture you will learn about now. 

I have always been a working girl and I come across many different types of people and types of cultures. I used to work for a baseball team and we have people come in for the game from all over! A lot for the time, they can for the environment and a fun atmosphere. There were times people would come in, dressed differently and people would look and wonder, “why are they wearing that to a baseball game?!?” or people would come up not speaking English very well and trying to ask information about the park or the game. 

This all comes with working in a job setting where people come in from all over. But there is a way to handle it, you can learn from it and appreciate it. At the end of the nights, not only did I help people with other cultures, but I always learned that cultures come in from all over and it is not right to judge, but to understand their points of view on things and learn from them, just like they are learning from us.

By mandybowling

The Power of Listening

by Mark Leonard

 

As a manager, you have to be a good listener.  When I’m asked in job interviews how I resolve conflict, part of my answer always involves listening.  Most of the time, people just want someone to listen to and understand their concerns.  I would say 50% of the time that’s all it takes to resolve conflict, if you just show the employee that you understand their point of view and hear them out, the problem will resolve itself with no action required.  In these cases, the problem is psychological; someone is reacting negatively to a situation and creating tension.  Listening to the employee eases this tension.

An example that comes to mind from my time with defense contractor KBR in Iraq is an instance when two employees were unhappy with the layout of desks in an office on Camp Victory, Iraq.  The two employees were isolated in a small room and didn’t get along.  There was a lot of implicit tension that built up until one of them came and spoke with me about it.  Shortly after, the other employee came and spoke with me about it.  Both of them had trouble working in the office while the other was present.  Problems included talking on the phone frequently and too loudly, frequent social visitors, and eating food at the office.  I let each of them explain their point of view and they talked for about 95% of the conversation.  I restated their position to show them that I had acknowledged their perspective and told them that I would start working on a solution and asked them to ensure that the mission was not interrupted by their disagreement until I could figure something out.

After they were able to vent about their concerns, the two employees were much less passive aggressive and their quality of work improved.  I was able to split them up within a few days and their working relationship improved.  The important thing to focus on in this story is the power of listening, most of the time all you need to do is listen to help a frustrated employee get back on track.

By mandybowling

Nonverbal Communication as Effective as… Hypnosis?!?!

By Nathan Beavers

 

In his book, O’Rourke goes into great detail about nonverbal communication. He details the various types, from body movement, eye contact, physical appearance and even the five senses; sight, taste, touch, smell, and hearing (even hearing can be important in nonverbal communication, as often, silence can speak volumes). Someone, who wishes to convey a message with more effectiveness than simply speaking their message, can use all of these various types of nonverbal communication together, or separately.

 

In high school, we had a psychology class for the very first time. We did not have a legitimate psychology teacher, but the school offered it as an elective for those students who already had enough credits to graduate but still needed a class or two to fill their schedule. One of the more interesting cases we studied was that of hypnosis. When someone thinks of hypnosis, they often think of the classic swinging watch while being lulled to sleep technique. However, this is far from the actuality. Hypnosis is something that deals very much with a few of the types of nonverbal communication that O’Rourke details. Smell; there should be some type of scented candle that isn’t too “loud,” something like vanilla or peppermint, that would help the subject feel more at ease. Sight/color; the room should be dim to dark to keep the subject relaxed and offer few distractions. Ideally, the room should have little to no windows and as little light sources as possible. Essentially, hypnosis is about using the environment and subtle suggestions through the atmosphere and the experimenter to achieve suggestion on the part of the experimented.

 

O’Rourke argues that nonverbal communication is important and vital, and rightfully so. As I’ve shown, different types of nonverbal communication are very powerful in influencing people, whether they are aware of it or not. Even though it is an often overlooked skill, nonverbal communication is a vital part of communication.

By mandybowling

Nonverbal Communication…. hmmm….

In chapter nine, O’Rourke explains what nonverbal communication is by breaking it down into categories and explaining how to use this type of communication in the business world. Nonverbal communication is seen in everyday life and in the business/management world. 

Nonverbal communication is one of those types where it is important to know how to use it. There are so many times that when this type of communication is used, it’s importan that the people involved in the communication know how it is used… as it “what is being said.”

Just recently I submitted an assignment for this class that dealt with a real life example of how nonverbal communication failed us. This was a good example that happened with me in an athletic football game setting, that caused some issues…. because there was a miscommunication between the two people doing nonverbal communication. 

Working in the sport industry, things tend to run at a very fast pace with changes happening very quickly and quite often. An event happened just this past week, that was a perfect example of how nonverbal communication can be a failure if not used correctly or in an understood way. During football games, I am the event coordinator’s assistant, which means I am on the field making sure things run correctly. That can go anywhere from the sounds and noise being correct to making sure people are where they are supposed to be. Our videographer is up in the press box and my boss and I make cues to him over the radio if things are correct and the audio works from the audio board. Due to technical difficulties are radio were not working properly and we gave him the cue with sign language; a thumbs up, to give him the go ahead with the sponsors commercials on the video board. Unfortunately, he couldn’t tell what gesture we were giving him, and the commercials were not run. It was not the end of the world, but our sponsors at football games are very important and it is important that we recognize them. So when the commercials for them didn’t run, we did get phone calls asking what had happened during the game.

As mentioned above, this is a great example of nonverbal communication, in the sign language category, that shows how important it is to be able to understand the type of nonverbal communication language is being used. When things are not understood, it causes problems outside of the problem that have to be dealt with. 

By mandybowling

Misinterpreting Non-Verbal Communication

By Justin Bigger:

 

In Chapter Nine of Management Communication, O’Rourke writes about the importance of non-verbal communication and lays out a framework for interpreting it within a cross-cultural dimension.

I’m sure everyone has misinterpreted nonverbal communication sometime in their past, even if they aren’t aware of it. The difficult thing about non-verbal communication is that it is sometimes difficult for us to even be aware of what particular non-verbal gesture gave us a certain impression of someone else’s feelings. This is especially true if you have known the person for a significant amount of time.

When I first started college, I moved in with a friend that I had known since elementary school. In hindsight, this was a colossal mistake on both of our parts, and the friendship quickly dissolved within a year of becoming roommates. If I think back to what happened, the entire thing fell apart over non-verbal communication. After knowing each other for so long, we kind of developed short-cuts in our everyday communication process that prevented us from discussing things maybe as much as we should have. Instead, we relied heavily on non-verbal communication and the amount of non-verbal communication that we were absorbing day in and day out lead to many problems that eventually ended the friendship.

Non-verbal communication can be very helpful and is a very important part of the communication process, but it is often necessary that more meaningful communication take place for the sake of clarification. Never take for granted your ability to ask another person what’s on his or her mind, because if you solely go on some pre-programmed reaction to a non-verbal stimuli it can lead to disastrous results.

By mandybowling

Nix it–Stopping Political Discussions in the Workplace

By Jazzmine Davis

As the 2012 Presidential Election embarks upon the final stages, the polls will be closing around the United States tomorrow, and the discussions will be heavy between colleagues about the final decision of voters on our President for the next four years. I feel that once the decision is made, opinions of the employees will last a week or so. Managers have the responsibility to ensure that no one will be offended by any political views that are not agreed upon. To stop this talk before it escalates into a problem, managers should make sure that these coffee-break discussions are nixed early.

The discussions of political views are strictly prohibited in the workplace, and most companies have a written policy about the specific topic of personal opinions. In Management Communications: A Case Analysis Approach, O’Rourke states in chapter 11 that conflict between and among people within an organization can quickly become counterproductive, divisive, and destructive if not properly managed. In a workplace that honors diversity, every person’s politics, religious beliefs, sexual activities, and opinions about non-work issues, should, for the most part, stay at home.

Here are some things that managers can do to stop Political Discussions:

  • Remind employees about morale and keeping positive vibes between coworkers.
  • Suggest that the Presidential election is something to discuss “off the clock!”
  • If manager hears discussions like this started by a certain employee, the manager should have a private conversation and explain the inappropriate actions.
  • Remind employees about respecting their colleagues’ opinions and views on issues.

To make sure that Political views do not turn into conflict, managers should cut out any side conversations they witness and also give a fair reminder to employees not to discuss any political issues during business hours. Managers have the responsibility to lead, mentor, and enforce policies that have been set forth by the company.

By mandybowling

Preparing for Public Speaking Challenges

by Mark Leonard

One of the most important skills a manager possesses is the ability to speak in public.  Some managers don’t have to work at it, they just naturally have a knack for communicating.  Other managers are not so lucky, but the good news is that, like many things in life, it is possible to overcome lack of natural ability with a little bit of hard work.  I fall into the latter category, and am constantly seeking to improve my public speaking.  I’ve developed a strategy, based on over preparation, that has allowed me to give well received speeches despite my high level of speech anxiety.

  1. I create a power point presentation with 3-4 bullets per slide and 1-3 sub-bullets per bullet.  The PowerPoint lists main concepts and I try to rattle off 2-3 sentences per bullet.  When I limit the text on the slide, the audience focuses more attention on me, the speaker.  This also shows the audience that I am a subject matter expert, capable of speaking on the subject rather than reading off a slide.
  2. I run through the presentation 10-15 times with a timer on.  This allows me to deliver the speech from muscle memory.  Every word, articulation, and gesture becomes automatic.  Even when my body fails me due to the anxiety, the words just keep coming because I’ve practiced so much.  No ums, no uhs, no unknowns, I just get up there and let it loose!
  3. I keep a bottle of water on hand.  If I lose my voice, get too nervous, or need to reset, I reach for the bottle.

If you, like me, experience high levels of speech anxiety, you know what I’m talking about when I say there is a tangible, physiological change in your body when you are about to give a speech.  Your heartbeat increases (up to 120 bpm for me every time), your throat tightens, you may begin to sweat, and you may experience a number of other physiological changes.  Next time, embrace these physiological changes; you know they’re coming so you can anticipate them.  Overcome your anxiety by over preparing and you will own your next public speaking challenge!

By mandybowling