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Fixing the Disconnects in Cross-Cultural Communication


With the rise of remote working and globally acting teams, our world is more interconnected than ever before. As a result, corporate treasuries are becoming increasingly diverse, which is good news. But this also presents some challenges, such as when you need to communicate with people who have different perspectives and cultural norms. Let’s face it, it’s far easier to communicate with someone who is exactly like you. Someone who shares the same values, perceptions and approaches. It becomes more complicated when there are disconnects between what’s accepted and familiar.

Effective communication is key to the success of any corporate treasury. And in order to truly understand what it takes to communicate effectively, you must first understand the different cultural factors that influence the way people interact with one another.

What is cross-cultural communication?

Cross-cultural communication refers to the ways in which people from different cultural backgrounds adjust to improve communication with one another, and how they endeavour to do so. In today’s rapidly changing corporate world, it is critical to gain an understanding of how cultural elements influence communication between individuals and groups in the workplace. Developing strong cross-cultural communication skills is the first step towards creating a successful and inclusive work environment.

To be successful in any industry, treasury professionals should understand the communication patterns of everyone they deal with from colleagues to clients and from managers to stakeholders. Willingness to adjust enables the exchange of information regardless of cultural values, norms and behaviours. Given everyone’s different backgrounds, it is critical to understand how culture influences communication and how this can impact organisational processes.

Picking up the signals

Culture has a significant impact on productivity. So it is important to be aware that people from different backgrounds are motivated by different incentives and react in various ways to contrasting management and communication styles.

Verbal communication in low-context and rule-oriented (monochromic) cultures such as we have in Europe, focuses on being straightforward. Some Asians may consider Europeans to be too blunt in their manner of speaking and this often causes some misunderstanding. In high-context and relationship-oriented (polychromic) cultures, for example in Israel and Japan, feelings and emotions are primary. In those cultures it’s more important to be loyal and to show support for your own group over outsiders, even if you disagree with your compatriots. Generally speaking, such cultures feel the need to refer back to an authority when it comes to decision-making.

Start a new conversation

International treasury professionals should be focused on continuous improvement, which requires a certain degree of flexibility and willingness to perform in dynamic ways. One of the best ways to embrace change, and better understand the perspectives of others, is to try new ways of doing things. Being exposed to new viewpoints and making the effort to understand them can have an impact on how you make future decisions.

Often though, people are reluctant to accept new concepts due to an unconscious fear that doing so will change their culture or belief system in some way. By becoming aware of these biases, you can become more open to adapting in between low- and high-context cultures. So when you find yourself working with someone you consider to be a closed-minded individual, you should ask questions and look for opportunities to offer a range of thoughts by providing reliable and valid pieces of data.
This can be a powerful tool when trying to convince someone to consider other ideas. However, presenting this information in an effective way can be challenging. By discussing options and listening you can build trust and facilitate meaningful conversations, which are central in today’s results-driven and remote reality.

Creating meaningful interactions has a significant impact on the overall work environment. Start a conversation with someone from another department, show your face, ask questions and try to gain a better understanding of their point of view by actively listening. Not only will this enable you to gain an understanding and appreciation for another person’s perspective, but it will also help you to build strong relationships throughout the workplace.

These steps need to be taken because, unfortunately, in a world of equality within diversity, there often seems to be no such thing as common sense.

To join a Cloud-Cultural Communication E-Class, please visit www.corporatecompagnon.nl/e-class.


Photo of Sofiah van Maanen
Sofiah van Maanen
Managing Partner, Corporate Compagnon