What is Intercultural Competence?

Culture and Organizations

We tend to attribute organizational conflict to the impact of individual personalities and to interpersonal misinterpretations of behavior. The influence of culture on group work is more difficult to identify. Yet cultural norms dictate our styles of self-presentation, methods for expressing opinion, assumptions about our environment, and even our voice inflections and intonations. Understanding these norms can enhance personal growth, interpersonal relations and intercultural interactions.

Using Intercultural Competence

Intercultural competence unveils hidden aspects of culture and helps identify sources of conflict even in apparently homogeneous organizations. Intercultural Competence reveals clashing assumptions about:

  • Decision making
  • Interpersonal Relationships
  • Relationship to authority
  • Work styles
  • Communication styles
  • Orientations toward uncertainty

Assessing the Hidden Aspects of Organizational Culture

Hidden aspects of culture transform individual behaviors and group dynamics. For example, a pervasively individualistic, competitive culture may reinforce adversarial modes of behavior and foster stereotypes about those in the organization who are accustomed to emphasizing harmony in personal and professional relationships.

Assessing Stereotypes and Misperceptions

In order to generalize about cultural variation, we must categorize. This strategy can become counterproductive when it remains fixed and unchallenged by new information; that is the pathway to stereotyping. More constructive approaches to cultural variation require us to constantly evaluate new information and scrutinize the assumptions that underpin our perceptions of the world.

Find out more at the Intercultural Communications Institute

Find out "What's Up with Culture?" with the University of the Pacific's cultural training resource