Advancements in technology have created incredible opportunities to connect – us to each other – without regard for the borders, or miles that may separate us. Globalization means seeing the world through local eyes. Our individual perspectives, forged by the unique confluence of history, culture, and location that surrounds us, create a diversity of thought and experience in the modern workplace. Organizations that recognize this evolution of sorts as a key to unlocking opportunities will lead the way for decades to come. With opportunity comes challenge, and a more diverse workforce brings with it the challenge of maintaining clear communication. We’ll address some of the specific communication problems to watch out for and ways to navigate those as smoothly as possible.
Common Communication Problems
Communication is a bit like a dance. You can do it all by yourself, but that often leads to awkward stares. You can take the lead, communicating a message. You can be the listener, on the receiving end. How successfully we perform this dance is predicated on our awareness of, and respect for, the many barriers that could present themselves. Gene Kelly gracefully sidestepping raindrops. We keep ourselves from getting soaked in embarrassment when we anticipate communication issues that may arise:
- Different ways of approaching disagreement
- Varying definitions of politeness
- Language barriers
- Conflicting values
- Preferences for either direct or indirect communication
How Can We Avoid Miscommunications?
With so many ways that our meaning can get lost in translation, what can we do to effectively communicate with a global workforce? While no one approach will work for every company, here are some of our suggestions for improving the flow of communication:
Choose Clear, Literal Language
The cat is out of the bag. Huh. Confusion sets in all around. Native English speakers will be asking what secret was just revealed. Others will be asking why a cat was in a bag at all. Was it a grocery bag? A rucksack? Confusion. Clear communication often means using literal language, subject to minimal interpretation.
Make an Effort to Understand Culture
As the owner of a global business, it’s your responsibility to understand the cultures of your team members. Understanding different cultural values and norms goes a long way toward building the type of positive work environment where people feel seen, heard, and valued.
Don’t Overuse Abbreviations
T.M.A.C.B.C.E.I.Y.C.W.A.N.S.I.P.I.B.T.K.A.T.A.M.I.M.I.T.M.S.F.S.E.I.A.L. Did you get that? Too many abbreviations can be confusing, even if you’re communicating with another native speaker. If possible, it’s best to keep abbreviations to a minimum. In many instances, they may stand for something else in another language.
Be Careful with Humor
Much about humor – and what makes things funny – lies in double meanings, tone, understanding context and other cultural cues. What you find obviously funny someone else may find offensive. And while we may find the cringe-worthy moments of Michael Scott in The Office entertaining to watch, we probably don’t want to recreate those for our own teams.
Get to Know Each Other
Don’t shy away from team building! Cross-cultural teams benefit from getting to know each other. When employees know each other better – as people – they trust each other more. Trust that motivates them to clear up miscommunications right away — less likely to miscommunicate in the first place.
Create Localized Content
Localization is a major step toward facilitating effective communication. Offering learning materials and documents optimized for a target language and culture shows that a business respects its employees, no matter where they come from. Global eLearning is a top provider of content localization, and our team would be glad to help your business succeed.
Helping Global Companies Communicate Better
At Global eLearning, we’re dedicated to helping companies communicate better with a global audience, both internally and externally. We employ a team of linguists specializing your language. No matter where your next office opens, we’ll ensure you have everything you need to build a strong team. A vital piece to any organization’s success is a respected, happy workforce. Contact us today to learn more about how you can improve communication at your global business.