As part of Asian American Heritage Celebration & relevant Conversation at PSEG Long Island, I had a great honor to participate the panel discussion: Combating Cultural Clashes. Together with other two speakers, Ms. Liz Bell-Carroll and Ms. Carrier Dunican from PSEG, we discussed how to use emotional intelligence (EQ) and intercultural Competence (CQ) as tools to address the intercultural clashes within the organization.
As my research focusing on intercultural management, I introduced the concept of culture and CQ, and explained how CQ can help to minimize culture clashes.
Culture is a very broad concept and is defined as characteristic way of behaving and believing that a group of people have developed over time and share in common (Tarique et al., 2016). There are also different types of cultures, broadly, as visible and invisible. The visible cultures are those you can see, such as food, arts, dresses, musics, communication styles, or even behavior patterns. Another type of culture is invisible, including values, philosophies, believes, and universal truth. It is the invisible culture often causing misunderstanding, miscommunication, and intercultural clashes.
I also emphasize that, very often, people tends to think that culture differences come from ethnicity or different countries. However, the different gender, age, language, occupation, and organization are all sources of culture differences in an organization. Organizations today are formed with peoples with diversified background and different ideas, which make our working environment more culturally diversified than ever.
Related to EQ, CQ emphasizes on the critical professional skill for dealing with ambiguity, stress, frustration, and problem solving in an unfamiliar environment. When employees interact with colleagues from different functions, ages, and organizations, they may observe unfamiliar behaviors, values, and believes causing frustration and clash. CQ can help employees managing the thoughts and emotions in intercultural situations, keep them open-minded and nonjudgmental about new ideas and behaviors. Most importantly, employees with high CQ are more accepting of different behaviors and not resorting to negative stereotypes about other cultures or people. As a result, employees with CQ can establish better interpersonal relationship with their colleagues and achieve higher level of collaboration.
Research has shown CQ an essential ability for effective leadership, collaborative teamworks, and high level of performance in any organization. However, developing CQ is not an easy task and can take a long time and effort for development. In the panel, we discussed the importance of motivation for any employees to develop CQ. Fortunately, PSEG offers a lot of learning resources for motivated employees to explore new knowledge. A dozen of cultural groups in the company provided tremendous opportunities for employees to interact with their familiar or unfamiliar colleagues from all backgrounds. For example, ASPIRE (Asian American group), the sponsor of the event, organized such great social event, to enable interaction and conversation among employees.
During the interactive discussion, the challenge of intercultural communication was raised. Very true, verbal and non-verbal communication styles can be very different among cultures. Intercultural miscommunication is one of main sources to result in ambiguity and misunderstanding. A higher level of CQ can help individual to feel less stressful during intercultural communication, however, it also requires additional learning for anyone to enhance their intercultural communication skills.
One hour of discussion was over quickly. I feel grateful to be offered such opportunity to share my passion of intercultural interaction research with partitioners. It is always my goal being an engaged scholar to bridge the knowledge gap between the research and practice. I wish I brought some insights for my audience to cope with cultural clashes and motivated them to explore further.
P.S. Thanks for the invitation from PSEGLI ASPIRE President Linda Zhang to engage me in such great conversation!