Adjusting and trying to find a place in a new environment may be challenging, especially in an environment with a completely different culture and work ethic. In order to overcome any barrier(s) in a business, communication is key. Business communication requires people to communicate across geographical regions and across cultures. This document addresses the businesses communication practices in Australia which can be used as referral for the new Chinese employees coming to join the company in Australia in the coming six weeks. The two branches of competent communication and incompetent communication will be discussed in this document to inform new employees on the competent and incompetent business communication practices in Australia.
Before setting out the business communication styles and practices, it is important to first understand the nature of the Australian people and the local culture. Australia is home to various people from various social and cultural and ethnic backgrounds, hence, it is of great importance to not have a preconceived notion or stereotype of any manner when communicating with an Australian either in the formal setting of the business office or even when outside the office in an informal setting. Australia is a multicultural country and you can expect to meet various kinds of people. Australians are known to be informal and quick direct in their communication which may often come across as blunt or rude. Hence, to keep this in mind whenever one experiences such an encounter may be beneficial.
Australians appreciate directness and open communication. Their direct and straightforward approach is the Noble style of communication (Ibrahim & Ismail, n.d.). The noble business communication style is, in other words, essentially the Analytical Communication Style wherein directness and straightforwardness is used in business communications. This type of business communication requires the backing of statements by facts and figures and uses data rather than emotions while communicating. The use of logic rather than emotions or intuition is a widespread communication practice in Australian workplaces. Being analytical communicators, Australians may often come across as cold and it is important to remember that is in the nature if Australians and it is nothing personal as they do not enjoy or indulge in small-talk and prefer getting straight to the point. It is important to keep in mind that one need not beat around the bush to get a message across. Intercultural communication may seem tricky but effective business communication within a diversified cultural environment is important for proper communication and effective business practices. While speaking of frank and direct communication, it should be kept in mind that Australian managers may often come across as rude and blunt but remember that what is being communicated to you is not marred by hidden meanings. Due to the fast changing business transactions, this method of directness is especially important to understand and practice while working in Australia. However, this may not be much of a bother for our Chinese employees as studies show that the Chinese, too, preferred direct communication style and this method actually create a positive influence on their organizational commitment (Park et al, 2012). Also, although the Chinese and Australian lifestyle and environment are similar in some ways, there are vast differences too. New Chinese employees may experience a culture shock in the eating and lifestyle habits of Australians that also reflect through the business environment.
Language becomes the main barrier for multinational companies like ours, especially for employees from China coming into an Australian firm since the majority of the Chinese population do not/cannot communicate in English or most international languages. In such cases, then, resorting to nonverbal communication methods may seem to be a lucrative option. Verbal communication need not be too formal as Australians are rather easy going in that regard (Michael, James & Michael, 2017). It however, ought to be direct and to-the-point as being this is considered profession and less time consuming thus the best way to achieve the end goal. Additionally, classism and hierarchy is not a prevalent nature in Australians. Australians do not look at people from a class spectrum and so this is also reflective in the workplace where managerial hierarchy may exit but is not openly. Employees are embraced in a collaborative and inclusive approach even though the final decisions lay with management (Tran, Admiraal & Saab, 2017). Employees are always welcome to express their ideas and opinions and contribute to offering solutions as management in Australian businesses are usually open to constructive criticism and management encourages an open line of communication. Additionally, English is the spoken language at meetings but it is important to stick with standard words and phrases and not use slang.
Due to the direct approach in communications, Australians do not normally foster personal relationships with colleagues. Time and efficiency are the two most important aspects that need to be kept in mind when communicating in an Australian business. Competence is key in business meetings and if/when you find yourself in a controversial discussion during a meeting, remember that it is nothing personal because Australians find debates entertain and tend to be the ones to initiate them. Moreover, Australians appreciate modesty as much as they appreciate it, although they will not openly express that they are impressed.
When greeting your colleagues and others, a simple handshake and a smile is enough due to the informal and relaxed nature of Australians prevalent even in the Australian workplace. It is also essential to display punctuality. In fact, being early is often preferred. Keeping in mind the direct nature of Australians, it is also preferred to keep and maintain eye contact while communicating to others in the workplace. Not doing so is considered rude and is unappreciated. Maintaining eye contact during a conversation is considered to display self-confidence and respect for the person you are communicating with and also represents trustworthiness.
In order to establish communication competency across cultures, it is first important to understand the concept of high-context and low-context culture (Yama, n.d.). A high-context culture is culture that depends a great deal on written and non-verbal forms of communication such as strict social norms and hierarchy and deep cultural knowledge, etc. Low-culture-context, on the other hand, are cultures wherein verbal communication play an important message and the culture depends mostly on verbal communication. A society that has a low-context culture is more straightforward and hierarchies are more relaxed and less prevalent. The communication in low-context cultures happens to be more precise and open and personal space and privacy are highly valued. Additionally, speed and efficiency in the workplace is highly valued. The level of efficiency to complete a task is very important in low-context culture. The Australian society comprises of a low-context culture and the Australian workplace is also has a low-context cultural environment.
The types of competent communication practices that the incoming Chinese employees need to practice are Verbal and Non-verbal communication. Verbal communication is of utmost importance in Australia and Australian workplaces. This verbal communication, however, ought to be precise and not layered with multiple irrelevant information and sentences. As mentioned previously, Australians like to entertain themselves through debates and discussions, hence, verbal communication in the workplace is necessary and seen as a competent communication method and should be used for meetings and to get a message across to colleagues.
Non-verbal communication on the other hand, can be a very helpful means of cross-cultural communication. Such a communication method comprises of body langue such as facial expressions, chronemics and proxemics, gestures, body movements, etc. (Padhi, 2016). An Australian workplace involves physical communication methods such as eye contact, hand-shake and a general positive body language (competent communication method). Women do not generally handshake among each other. Also, of all things, eye contact is of the most importance as it displays respect and competence. Additionally, Australians like to maintain eye contact during verbal communication as it is also a sign of equality among individuals and in the workplace. Even though there is hierarchy in a structure of the business, Australians do not live by the concept of hierarchy as eye contact is symbolic to that fact. Studies have shown that 60-80% of what is communicated in negotiations and in a boardroom meeting is through body language (Bailey, 2018). However, it should be noted that Aboriginals are not very comfortable with eye contact and it is important to remember that when addressing a person of Aboriginal decent. Since Australians value time above all else, slang is common to use in the workplace to shortened words and deliver the message in a short time span. However, since the incoming employees will still be new to the culture and slang used in the country, it is advisable to avoid it as it may not be very well received.
The V sign and the thumbs up sign is considered vulgar and offensive (incompetent communication), hence, remember to not use them in the workplace as well as outside the workplace to avoid conflict. Additionally, Australians love their personal space, hence, never stand too close during face-to-face conversations, and remember to keep at least an arms-length between yourself and the person you are communicating with. Non-verbal communication is used with verbal communication simultaneously and sometimes even replaces verbal communication in the workplace (Parker, 2017).
Things to keep in mind when communicating within an Australian workplace is to never sound like you are giving orders. Even those at the top of the workplace hierarchy do not give orders and there is much equality among individuals across work profiles. Australians do not like being dictated to and doing so may lead to workplace conflict (incompetent communication). In your day-to-day business communications, it is of utmost importance to display egalitarianism as Australians live by it (Duarte, n.d.).
Since effective communication is needed for businesses management to maintain a competitive advantage (Femi, 2014) businesses will inevitably be accustomed to the working style and culture if employees coming from different countries and cultural backgrounds. One of the positive things about having a culturally diverse workforce is that each will bring a different perspective that will lead to a greater number of solutions to a problem as well as new ways of thinking will introduce positive changes in business operations and practices for the greater good of the business/organization (Martin, 2014).
When moving to a new country with a completely new work culture and lifestyle, it may often get confusing and frustrating. It is important, then, in such cases to keep calm and look into the communication barriers that may be coming in the way and work on them for effective business communications with your new colleagues. Keeping an open mind and learning about the Australian mannerisms and behaviours, will help ease the adjustment process into the new work environment. Understanding small variations in the core nature of Australians will go a long way in terms of business relations.
Bailey, B. (2018). The importance of nonverbal communication in business and how professors at the University of North Georgia train students on the subject. Retrieved from https://digitalcommons.northgeorgia.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1031&context=honors_theses
Duarte, F. (n.d.). Culture and management in Australia: “g’day, mate”. Retrieved from http://asl.univ-montp3.fr/e41slym/culture_gestion/AUSTRALIA_version_anglaise_culture_et_gestion.pdf
Femi, A. (2014). The impact of communication on workers’ performance in selected organizations in Lags state, Nigeria. ISOR Journal Of Humanities And Social Science, 19(8), 75-82.
Ibrahinm, F. & Ismail, N. (n.d.). Communication styles among organizational peers. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/77c4/ece2b8d9d92fcf49e92b70b7730d1bd63779.pdf
Martin, G. (2014). The effects of cultural diversity in the workplace. Journal of Diversity Management, 9(2), 89-92.
Michael, N., James, R. & Michael, I. (2017). Australia;s cognitive, affective and conative destination image: an Emirati tourist perspective. Journal of Islamic Marketing, 9(1). doi: 10.1108/JIMA-06-2016-0056
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Tran, T., Admiraal, W. & Saab, N. (2017). Cultural distance in the workplace: difference in work-related attitudes between Vietnamese employees and western employers. International Journal of Business and Management, 12(10), 91-110. doi: 10.5539/ijbm.v12n10p91
Yama, H. & Zakaria, N. (n.d.). Inference and culture : the distinction between low context culture and high context culture as a possible explanation for cultural difference in cognition. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/1ed2/99de14e4056276ddcce9d66fc6cdf93a4607.pdf
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