Global in Outlook, Local in Attitude

In December 2018, I began my 21-hour journey from Boston to Singapore to embark on a two-year international assignment. Until this point, my career had been built on corporate communications roles, working at my company’s U.S. headquarters.

In my new role, I would be responsible for building the company’s reputation through digital media in Asia Pacific (APAC), including Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, The Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

In APAC, I spent a lot of time listening and learning to get a full understanding of the current online activities that were either diluting, damaging or improving the company’s reputation in each country. From there, it was my job to identify how to harmonize digital content creation and optimize social media channels to drive consistency in alignment with global brand principles.  

This experience has changed the way I view communications in three ways:

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How to improve cross-cultural communication in the workplace

It’s no secret that effective communication is central to the success of any organization, regardless of industry. But 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.

Our world is more interconnected than ever before, a fact that has given rise to many changes in the ways that businesses and organizations operate. Workplaces are more diverse, remote teams are scattered across the country or around the world, and businesses that once sold products to a single demographic might now sell to a global market. All of these factors have converged to make cross-cultural communication a vital part of organizational success.

Here’s a look at why cross-cultural communication is important in the workplace, and the steps you can take to overcome cultural barriers and improve communication within your organization.

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The importance of cultivating cultural awareness at work

Group of Diverse Business People Discussing About World Issues

Becoming culturally aware, however, requires understanding what “culture” means.

“’Culture’ is very dynamic and complex,” says Dr. Patty Goodman, cross-cultural communication faculty lead for Northeastern’s Master of Science in Corporate and Organizational Communication program. “It has to come from the individual perspective and go all the way through to the macro perspective.”

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