Cultural Communication Differences in the Workplace

17 Nov

The differences between Western and Asian countries’ cultures create a gap between how different people think, communicate, and work. If a company does not sufficiently address the cultural gap, the cultural gap will inevitably affect employer-employee relations, working efficiency and enterprise development.

Here is a real example:


Frank, the project director from the U.S. headquarters, meets his Asian subordinate, Li, to discuss the progress report.

Frank stops Li’s report after five minutes. Frank understands the background of the project, so he just wants to hear the key points. Li continues with the report, but Frank stops him again. Frank also understands that part, so he points out three problems that Li might encounter as the project proceeds. When Li answers the questions, Frank often interrupts him to express his own opinions.

Despite the meeting’s productivity, Frank and Li feel uncomfortable communicating with each other. Frank feels that Li’s report lacks a clear structure: his analysis is not straightforward and his work is inefficient. However, Li cannot adjust to Frank’s direct communication strategy. Compared to Asian workers who usually adopt the indirect method of communication, Frank appears to be aggressive and rude.


The above scenario illustrates how Western and Asian worlds communicate differently. Western workers tend to first examine the topic’s details, while Asian workers usually first examine the big picture. Westerners like to be straightforward and use phrases such as, “Here is my suggestion” or “I do not agree with you.” In contrast, Asians like to start with the background information and gradually approach the topic near the end of their reports. If they disagree with an opinion, they will indirectly express their disagreement. They prefer to say, “I believe your idea is great. Now here is what I am thinking…”

by Ke Ke


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: