Integrating Culture and Management in Global Organizations
In This Issue...
Spring 2012 Vol. 13, No. 1
Cultural Differences in Crisis Communication: One Year After Fukushima .....................................................3 by Motoo Unno Crossing Barriers of Communication and Culture in Traumatized Societies ........................................6 by Patrick Christian and Aleksandra Nesic Who Am I, Really? Redefining Identity in a Culturally Complex World .......................................................9 by Ruth Van Reken The Au Pair Program: Cultural Exchange or Consumer Industry? ...................12 by Valli Murphy The Right Tool for the Job ....................................................17 by Martin Tillman Style Switching for Success in Multicultural Groups ...............................................................21 by Julia Gaspar-Bates
From the Editor Dear readers, Hello, and welcome to the Spring 2012 Conference edition of Intercultural Management Quarterly! To commemorate the Intercultural Management Institute’s 13th Annual Conference on Intercultural Relations, we have invited some of our expert presenters to share their unique perspectives. First, we hear from one of this year’s keynote speakers and a regular IMQ contributor, Motoo Unno. In his article, Unno assesses the influence of culture on crisis communication in Japan after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Next, Patrick Christian and Aleksandra Nesic outline some principles, strategies and tactics for interventionists working with traumatized communities in conflict zones. Ruth Van Reken, another veteran IMQ contributor, discusses the challenges “Third Culture Kids” (TCKs) face in a world of strict identity categories, and Valli Murphy follows up with a critical analysis of the au pair program in the United States. To round out this issue, Martin Tillman advises students and counselors on the value of study abroad experience for career development in “The Right Tool for the Job,” and Julia Gaspar-Bates shares her approach to working with multicultural groups. Finally, I have two exciting announcements. First, IMQ is getting a new look—watch out for a longoverdue facelift in the coming months. Second, we are hard at work to finally make the IMQ archives easily accessible and searchable online! Please enjoy. As always, I welcome your feedback!
Publisher: Dr. Gary R. Weaver Managing Editor: Marc Rambeau Editorial Review Board: Dan Deming, Annmarie McGillicuddy, Adam Mendelson, Darrel Onizuka, Chris Saenger, Karen Santiago, Gary Weaver, Sherry Zarabi
Intercultural Management Quarterly is published by the Intercultural Management Institute at American University. IMQ combines original research conducted in the field of intercultural management with the applied perspectives of industry experts, professors and students.
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Cultural Differences in Crisis Communication: One Year After Fukushima by Motoo Unno
he year 2011 was supposed to be a special one for the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). It was the sixtieth anniversary of the company’s founding and the fortieth of the construction of its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant by a joint venture with General Electric. Yet on March 11, 2011, triple tragedies struck Northern Japan: a magnitude 9.0 earthquake, a huge tsunami, and a meltdown at the Fukushima plant. This article will analyze how cultural values influence crisis communication by examining U.S. and Japanese officials’ communication during and after the accident. It will also assess how cross-cultural elements play a role in crisis leadership. Finally, it will invite discussion on a new issue that has emerged since the accident.
Politeness, Modesty, Harmoniousness Japanese schools are highly concerned with their students’ morality, stressing the principles of right and wrong behavior. In general, Japanese society tends to evaluate a person based on his or her politeness, modesty, and harmoniousness. These national values serve as guiding principles in the typical Japanese person’s life and are highly appreciated by Japanese society. Following last year’s triple crisis, the Japanese people amply demonstrated these core values. For example, people who went to grocery stores after the earthquake picked up goods from the floors, formed a line, and waited politely and patiently to pay for their food. Later that summer, the Japanese people also showed their modesty. TEPCO and other electric companies
asked their customers to conserve electricity as much as possible. Some people, particularly elders who had lived through World War II, were very worried about power shortages; their generation was taught to save everything to win the war. Even though the temperature outside was very high, many felt guilty about using air conditioners and suffered from heatstroke. The value placed on harmoniousness also influenced the nation’s handling of the nuclear crisis. Shortly after it began, a former U.S. task force member in Washington, D.C., who monitored the Fukushima plant for 24 hours, asked an officer at the Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency whether or not Japan needed unmanned helicopters. Because of the urgency of the situation, the U.S. official just wanted a “yes or no” answer. Instead, his Japanese counterpart expressed the need to first create a committee to discuss the issue, which would then come to a decision. He pointed out the importance of building consensus to maintain harmony in the Agency. This story suggests that national values became more pronounced in crisis situations.
Shaky Amae The Japanese psychiatrist Takeo Doi first published his book, Amae no Kozo, “The Structure of Amae,” more than 40 years ago. In it, Doi introduced the concept of amae—which can be translated roughly as “sweet dependency”—to describe the relationship between parents and their infants. Parents take care of and protect their infants, and infants depend on their parents; trust is at the core of the amae relationship. As between parents and their babies, amae exists in the relationship between the Japanese people and its government. Traditionally,
Dr. Motoo Unno is a professor at Meiji University in Tokyo, Japan and a keynote speaker at this year’s Annual Conference on Intercultural Relations. His research focuses on cross-cultural communication and leadership styles. He has recently begun a tour as visiting scholar at the Intercultural Management Institute, where he will research the American presidential election; he also served as a visiting scholar from 2008–2010. He is the author of 13 books, including The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster and The Toyota Congressional Hearings (2011).
Spring Spring 2012 2012
Cultural Differences... this means the Japanese people are more likely to depend on and believe a big government than are Americans. It is interesting, for example, to compare Japanese people and Tea Party activists. Unlike the Japanese, Tea Partiers are extremely individualistic, distrust their government, and would prefer a smaller one. Yet after the Fukushima disaster occurred, the amae relationship between the Japanese people and their government was severely compromised, and people began to doubt the government’s decisions.
then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s advisors suddenly resigned, explaining in tears that he could not accept the government’s decision from a humanistic and moral perspective. Many Japanese watched his press conference in shock, feeling they could no longer rely on their government.
Finally, in May, two months after the disaster, TEPCO admitted to multiple meltdowns at reactors 1, 2 and 3. In June, the Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency announced that meltdown occurred only five First, the Japanese government’s official evacuation hours after the accident at the Fukushima plant. Many zone only covered a 12-mile radius around the Fuku- Japanese people accused both the government and TEPshima plant. On the other hand, the U.S. government’s CO of having withheld information about meltdown. extended 50 miles. The difference confused people and In fact, most Japanese people never even saw the actual made many question whether 12 miles was enough. hydrogen explosions in reactors 1 and 3 on TV, while international channels including CNN, Australia ABC, ZDF The Japanese government’s official evacuation zone and F2 provided continuous only covered a 12-mile radius around the Fukushima coverage of the explosions.
plant... the U.S. government’s extended 50 miles.
Second, the Japanese people began to suspect their government’s assessment of the accident at the plant. Despite the explosions at reactors 1 and 3 in March, the government’s assessment rated the Fukushima disaster a level 5 out of 7 on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale. This placed it at the same level as the incident at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania in 1979, which did not cause a hydrogen explosion. In April, however, the government raised its assessment from 5 to 7, the worst rating on the scale, putting the disaster on par with the 1986 Chernobyl explosion. Yet the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry claimed that releases of radioactive material from the Fukushima plant were only about 10 percent of those at Chernobyl. The Japanese rightly questioned why their government would raise its rating if that were the case. Third, the government set the allowable radiation exposure level for children in Fukushima prefecture at 20 millisieverts per year. This number is 20 times the standard for the rest of Japan. After the decision, one of
Japanese community members in the Fukushima prefecture were not convinced by their government’s decisions and became frustrated at its slow responses. Some even decided to take action themselves, getting rid of radioactive material in schools, parks and roads by monitoring and disposing of soil to protect their children.
Global Leadership and Openness How should a global leader behave in a crisis? Initially, Prime Minister Kan tried to deal with the disaster by involving only the Japanese. After his resignation, he gave an interview to the newspaper Mainichi in which he said he had thought that if Japan did not solve the Fukushima problem by itself, other countries would come to fix it. Kan finally recognized that Japan itself could not find the solution to the disaster and should collaborate with the international community. After all, the nuclear disaster was not only a domestic problem, but also an international one—massive amounts of radioactive material were released into the sea and air. A leader should accept the best people, ideas, technology, wisdom
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and opinions regardless of race or nationality. That is a global leader. The Fukushima disaster revealed the lack of a global mindset among Japan’s political leaders, and showed their weak leadership under crisis. Furthermore, the Fukushima disaster revealed one Japanese business leader’s inability to properly handle a crisis situation. Then-CEO of TEPCO, Masataka Shimizu, was hospitalized because of his frustration after the nuclear accident. Shimizu returned at the beginning of April and repeatedly told the Japanese people that there were no immediate health effects from the radiation leaks. He avoided taking responsibility for the handling of the nuclear disaster, blaming it solely on the tsunami and calling it totally unprecedented. Instead, Shimizu should have been more aggressive in navigating the crisis, and should have shown leadership to the international community. In addition to a lack of global leadership, a culture of collusion between the bureaucracy and industry in Japan made the government ineffective and dysfunctional. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which supports and promotes nuclear plants, has worked closely with both the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and TEPCO for a long time. The Agency should be a watchdog, but its officers usually come from the Ministry. Thus, the Agency is not a truly independent regulator. To make matters worse, TEPCO also hired many ex-officers from the ministry. This constitutes a Japanese version of the “revolving door.” The culture of collusion among these three is tight; an “iron triangle” has resulted, with a high sense of cohesiveness, an “in-group” mentality, closed-mindedness and overconfidence about the safety of Japan’s nuclear power plants. They have ignored and excluded scholars who have different viewpoints about nuclear safety. Their organizations lack diverse opinions and ideas and are susceptible to groupthink. This issue must be examined, and cozy ties among the three should be reassessed before another major nuclear disaster hits Japan.
Discrimination and Stereotypes The nuclear accident exposed one final issue that must not be overlooked—discrimination. In Iwate Prefecture, a distinct “in-group vs. out-group” mentality, complete with stereotypes and prejudices, has arisen among tsunami victims. Victims who lost their houses take pains to differentiate themselves from those who did not, pointing out that they cannot possibly share the same feelings. They tend to overemphasize their differences, behaving negatively and even displaying open hostility toward those whose houses were saved. A similar mentality has taken hold among the people surrounding Fukushima. Approximately 17,000 children left the prefecture due to a high risk of radioactive contamination; residents of their new home prefectures, who mistakenly believe that radioactive material is transmitted between people, often perceive these children as threats. The children suffer the disrespect that often follows such negative stereotypes. Additionally, victims of the Fukushima disaster face discrimination in the job market. Some business owners argue that hiring them will raise costs, citing higher insurance fees and fears that money spent on training and education might never be paid back. It is the responsibility of Japanese companies to explicitly discourage discrimination against the victims; Japanese society must also openly discuss the discrimination against these people to reduce stereotypes and prejudices before they get even worse.
Conclusion Crisis communication and cultural values are woven together inextricably. The disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has opened people’s eyes to the dangers of the blind trust inherent in amae and cast a new light on the relationship between bureaucracy and industry. It has also laid bare the issue of discrimination in Japan. The country urgently needs strong leadership with a global and open mindset to prepare for future crises. i
Crossing Barriers of Communication and Culture in Traumatized Societies by Patrick Christian and Aleksandra Nesic
very day, governmental, intergovernmental, and private organizations deploy thousands of men and women to conflict zones around the world. This dedicated corps of interventionists faces seemingly intractable issues of violence and development that plague cultures struggling to adapt to a changing world. Often, though, interventionists are insufficiently trained in overcoming barriers of language, culture, time and psychology. Using under-trained personnel in conflict engagement risks not only public and private money but also the success of the mission and the lives of those who serve. In this article, we address some of the gaps in cross-cultural training for intervention in traumatized zones; we also suggest some principles, strategies and tactics that interventionists can employ to successfully cross boundaries of communication and culture.
Facing Rage in Tribal Engagement The cycles of violence and rage that grip conflict zones can be overwhelming—even incommunicable. Feelings of loss, mourning and revenge touch every village and every home; they linger long after the physical violence has ended or moved on, sustained by the trauma of war. Violence wounds its victims, witnesses and perpetrators alike; the trauma cannot be ignored or overlooked. In order to effectively communicate with the traumatized, interventionist missions must strive to understand the emotional states of those they wish to help. The phases of trauma have stable effects across cultures, and such emotions—and the responses they trigger in communities—can be understood and tracked. The onset of victimization produces specific psychologi-
cal effects, such as shame of rejection, displacement and loss. Shame and humiliation in turn ignite the rage and hatred that fuel the ongoing cycle of violence. Yet members of sociocentric, shame-based societies, whose individual identities are tightly interwoven with that of the group, react to victimization differently than do egocentric, individualistic societies. They live their lives in closer physical, emotional and psychological proximity to one another than that to which most Western interventionists are accustomed; this creates a denser, more sensitive sociological structure that exacerbates the effects of shame and rage. Interventionists’ strategies for communicating across emotion-laden barriers should involve a deep listening approach that allows sociocentric individuals to vent these deep-seated feelings. During one investigation into tribal violence in Darfur, a mediation team I served on worked to understand events before, during and after an attack on Mooney Village in Jebel Marra. When we arrived to interview the survivors, we found the remaining matriarch of the village so overwhelmed by victimhood that she was unable to speak for some time. Our team waited patiently in silence until the elderly woman was able to collect herself and begin to relate her story. Not long into her narrative, though, rage took hold at the memory, recalled anew, of seeing her granddaughters raped and killed. She began screaming at our team and at everyone nearby. A Ghanaian member of our team later explained that she was not yelling at us, but rather at God for breaking His promise of justice. Our team—used to such difficult communication—maintained its sympathetic attitude, allowing the torrent of rage and grief to pass. Eventually the woman finished relating the events and walked away.
Patrick Christian is a policy advisor with the office of the Secretary of Defense, a doctoral student researching the psychological foundations of sociological structures in conflict and an adjunct faculty member at the National Intelligence University. He has led field teams conducting combat advisory missions, tribal engagement, and counterinsurgency operations in Colombia, Ecuador, Sudan, Ethiopia and Iraq. Aleksandra Nesic is an intercultural training specialist at Florida State University and a doctoral student in the Department of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at Nova Southeastern University.
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Clearly grief, shame, rage and atrocities against human flesh and spirit are deeply embedded in the landscapes in which many interventionists are obliged to work. Communication can be complex and difficult. Below are several guiding principles that can help the interventionist remain psychologically and emotionally centered in the midst of traumatized communities: •
Grief and caring: You are not responsible for the condition of those you are engaging, but you can and should care about them. Interventionists and their interpreters must work to understand their hosts. This requires respecting their way of life, trusting in their ability to resolve problems, and believing in their ability to meet physical and underlying human needs.
Meta-communication: All cultures communicate differently in verbal and non-verbal contexts. Learn how to meta-communicate—to “talk about talking” with your hosts. Exchange communication context; ask them to help you overcome cultural communication barriers; seek their understanding and forgiveness in advance for mistakes of context or culture; make them partners in the communication process.
Communicate feelings and emotions before content: There is a time and place for content, and it is not at the outset of communication. Initial interactions should be reserved for establishing context. Find out who the Westerners were who came before you and continue from that point. Doing so legitimizes your host’s past experience. If the past experience was good, seek to continue where that experience left off—with your host’s help. If the past experience was bad, apologize and seek to improve—with your host’s help. Remember, your host comes from a sociocentric society and likely doesn’t know anything about egocentric societies. Imagine trying to explain the desert to a jungle native—he or she has no frame of reference.
These principles are not intended to be authoritative. Every interventionist must develop a set of guiding prin-
ciples based on his or her mission and personal catalogue of abilities and liabilities. True relief for embattled societies depends on difficult, long-term accomplishments such as the restoration of justice, identity management, and assessment and negotiation of relative and aspirational deprivation between the involved groups. There are a number of strategies interventionists can use to improve communication between conflicting parties. For instance, an intervention team might invite tribal leaders and family heads to a mediation session where each tribe is offered the chance to read to the other a list of those killed in the conflict. What often begins as a perceived opportunity to humble the opponent by publicizing how many he has killed quickly turns into a sober realization of mutual loss, grief and suffering. Such small strategies can give combatants the psychological space necessary to begin dialogue on even more important issues, such as the possibility for survival of the remaining members of each other’s family. An intervention team might also focus on adapting its Western, egocentric communication styles to those of the sociocentric societies it engages. It must take pains to avoid transferring egocentric behavior onto tribal “early adopters” in defiance of tribal sociocentric mores. Interventionists should also consider careful use of the power that accompanies their status as potential resource providers. The resources they deploy often overwhelm sociocentric societies; they must remember not to let the aura of resource power distort the traditional power structure that organizes and sustains the community. For instance, a village leader or tribal chief who treats a junior member of an interventionist team humbly or hospitably has not necessarily invited that member to begin a public friendship. Behaving too familiarly with the patriarch might lessen his prestige in the eyes of his family or villagers. The interventionist must maintain appropriate public respect for the dignity of the family, village and tribal leaders; he or she must resist inappropriate displays of solidarity with the power structure he or she is striving to support.
Crossing Barriers... Three Tactics for the Interventionist The strategies and principles we have outlined thus far provide an overview of the challenges the interventionist faces as well some guidelines for how to handle them. In 20 years of work with sociocentric societies in South America, Africa, and the Middle East, a number of particularly effective tactics to help break down communication barriers have arisen. The three most useful have been the use of meta-messages, the conscious replacement of context with language, and the creation of a communication partnership among interventionist, interpreter and the community. The first tactic—using meta-messages—is both verbal and non-verbal. Meta-messages are “messages about messages;” for the interventionist, these consist of verbal explanations of the intentions of the message as well as the non-verbal context in which it is delivered. An interventionist might provide his host audience a sort of preface, explaining what he plans to say before he says it. For example, if he intends to discuss building a school with the leader of his host village or tribe, he might start by discussing the state of education of the villagers and the cultural and sociological role that increased education among them would play. They might discuss how to deal with the “knowledge gap” between generations that establishing a formal school in the village children might create; the interventionist might suggest educating select adults first, or including them in the education process to ensure the maintenance of generational memory and respect for the past. The two might discuss the villagers’ fears of modernity and of the annihilation of their way of life that arose upon the interventionists’ arrival, with cars, radios, cameras, laptops and satellite phones in tow. Before even broaching the idea of building a school, they would exchange meta-messages. This approach requires careful planning. Long before a team arrives at a village, its non-verbal messages precede it like bow waves ahead of a boat—always reaching shore before the craft or its passengers. As the team first enters the sovereign space of the tribe or village, youth-
ful eyes watch every move, taking stock of every piece of equipment and counting the number of males and females—even estimating intimate relationships within the team. In Iraq and Afghanistan, it is often a struggle to convince military personnel involved in key leader engagements to remove their helmets, body armor and weapons before entering the home of the village malik (“chief” or “mayor”). Imagine the contradictory messages—stated versus meta—an interventionist sends when he enters a home fully armed, clad in body armor, and announces that he is there to help. Try to imagine someone shaking her head “no” even while she says “yes”— wouldn’t you be confused? The second tactic is the verbal replacement of missing context. As previously noted, members of sociocentric societies rely heavily on context for communication. Words are laden with meaning from past intimate conversations and interactions between family members or villagers. Where this context is lacking between interventionist and host, an honest appraisal of the difficulties both face in communicating can serve as an invitation to extra-dialogical processes that can make up for the absent context. For instance, an interventionist might explain that when she offers to share food with the villagers, her intent is not to imply that they are poor—even if it is true—but to use the shared meal to learn about her hosts and to show her appreciation. The addition of context to communication can, over time, spark a reciprocal response in the villagers; they will not only speak or respond, but also clarify the intentions of their words. This extra-dialogical process is particularly essential if the interventionist team is trying to achieve a phenomenological understanding of the structure and texture of its host society’s experiences of trauma, violence, loss, and privation. Finally, the third tactic involves developing communication partnerships among linguists, interventionists and the sociocentric communities they work with. The partnership the interventionist and his or her linguist create begins well in advance of any meetings with their hosts. Continued on page 16... Intercultural Management Quarterly
Who Am I, Really? Redefining Identity in a Culturally Complex World by Ruth Van Reken
ll over the world, I meet them—young people whose life stories defy categorization along traditional lines of race, nationality, place, or culture.
Take Brice Royer, founder of My.Tckid.com. Born to a half-French, half-Vietnamese father and an Ethiopian mother, Brice lived in ten countries before his 18th birthday; his father’s job as a UN peacekeeper kept the family on the move. Brice has now become a Canadian citizen. Yes, he can check off several races on a college application in the U.S. But where can Brice list the multiplicity of cultures that has shaped him from birth? When people ask him where he’s from, what can he say? Lishawna’s mother is African American, her father from Barbados. She grew up in Brazil. If she were to fill out the latest Zogby survey, she’d face a similar checklist. How would she define herself? She isn’t mixed race, but there’s no place to check “mixed culture.” Should she check “African American” when her father is not? Her heart feels at home in Brazil, Barbados, and Evansville, Indiana. How can a simple checklist begin to describe Lishawna according to how she sees herself? What about Beth? Her parents are white folks from the American Midwest, but she grew up in Turkey and that’s where her heart lies. When asked how she fills out forms that ask her racial and ethnic identity, she says she often checks “other”—because the mental picture that comes along with checking “white” or “Caucasian” doesn’t match who she sees herself to be.
Ruth Van Reken is an adult Third Culture Kid, co-founder of Families in Global Transition, author of Letters Never Sent and co-author of Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds. Ruth has spent her career serving expatriate communities through trainings, on-site workshops, and writing.
What in the World Is Going On? These young adults have grown up as what sociologist Ruth Hill Useem identified in the late 1950s as “third culture kids” (TCKs)—those who accompany their parents into another culture. All the TCKs she studied were overseas due to a parent’s career choice rather than as immigrants. Most, in those days, were like me—people who came from one passport culture (in my case, the U.S.) and lived primarily in one host culture (for me, Nigeria). Many TCKs today, however, are part of many cultural worlds. And it is not only TCKs who experience firsthand the increasing cultural complexity of our day. Many other children are growing up as cross-cultural kids (CCKs), for a number of different reasons. Elizabeth’s parents immigrated to the U.S. when she was nine years old. Her parents were of Jamaican descent but had grown up between Jamaica and Britain. When Elizabeth spoke on a panel to help educators understand some of the hidden diversity in their classrooms, she noted that people often mistake her as African American, though she is not. One attendee took offense at this statement and asked Elizabeth why she didn’t want to be black. Elizabeth simply replied, “I’m glad to be black. But I am not African and I’m not American, so how can I be African American?” This begs the question: What does “African American” mean? Does it describe skin color? An ethnicity? A culture? A particular history? Something else? International and interracial adoptions also present a growing shift in our cultural landscape. Jenna’s birth parents are Mexican, but she grew up in a white family in small-town Michigan. She speaks no Spanish and is married to a white U.S. citizen, but when they lived in Texas, most people addressed her first in Spanish and seemed resentful when she couldn’t reply. Jenna relates that when she asked her father how she was supposed to fill out the “identity” section of her college applications some years ago, he replied, “Just check whichever box will give you the most money!”
Who Am I, Really?... The fact is, children all over the world raised in immigrant, refugee, minority, internationally mobile, bicultural or mixed race families face a similar identity crisis: “Which of the many cultural worlds with which I have interacted ‘am’ I?” The same question faces the growing number of children from local cultures who attend international schools, often to obtain an English-based education that will make them more competitive in the international job market. In a world that seems to demand they choose one “box” or another, the question “Who am I, really?” haunts some CCKs to the point that they don’t recognize the gifts this experience has also given them. The stories go on and on. But what is the key takeaway for interculturalists?
Where Have We Been? After World War II, businesses, governments, and other organizations began to interact with those of other cultures. Unseen cultural collisions, predicted by Dr. Gary Weaver in his cultural iceberg model, were becoming a frustrating reality for many making their first forays onto the international (and cross-cultural) scene. It became critical for businesspeople and diplomats to understand different value systems and worldviews, and an explosion of groundbreaking research followed. At the same time, the civil rights movement and the other identity movements that followed brought the issue of diversity to the fore. However, diversity dealt almost exclusively with easily distinguishable markers. Likewise, many of the models developed in the early days of cross-cultural training assumed distinct, clear-cut cultures that would meet and potentially collide. How, then, do we handle the growing “cultural complexity” or “hidden diversity” of today’s younger generations? Which culture shall we presume is before us when interacting with a Korean, born and raised in Korea for seven years, who then spent five years as an immigrant’s child in the U.S. before his family moved to Kenya, where he finished his pre-university education at an in-
ternational school? Do we relate to him as a Korean? An American? A Kenyan? As a “third culture kid?” As none or all of the above? Diversity programs also face new challenges. I recently spoke with the diversity director for a well-known university. As she bemoaned the lack of diversity in the program—the field she worked with was traditionally the realm of white males—I suggested they might intentionally recruit someone from Asia or Africa. “Oh, we have hundreds of them,” she said. “Isn’t that diversity?” I asked. “No, they’re in our International Department,” she replied. “But doesn’t that bring diversity to your school?” I wondered. “Obviously, they bring other cultures and races to your campus.” “Of course they do. But we’re about American diversity—working with issues of equity for African Americans, Hispanics, Native American Indians, women and gay people—while they work with the international students,” she informed me. “There is totally different funding for each program and we virtually never mix.” I then asked her where Lishawna would fit. Would her African American mom qualify her for American diversity or would her Barbadian dad mean she was international? What about Beth, who grew up internationally but whose citizenship is from the U.S.? What about another friend whose mother is a white American but whose dad is Nigerian? Would she fall on the international or diversity side of things—or neither? “I have no idea,” was her honest answer.
Where Must We Go? For today’s world, we need to add to the models of the past and look more closely at what happens when those
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with culturally complex backgrounds move out into the international or cross-cultural scene. Some questions to consider include studying whether they, as might be assumed, are more effective at cultural bridging than those raised in only one culture. If so, can cross-cultural trainers build on the latent strengths such a background provides? If not, what unexpected obstacles to cultural competency might such individuals face? Do those raised in a “third culture” develop values or worldviews in common with fellow adult TCKs? If so, is there room in training programs for that “cultural” perspective? When Japanese sociologists and government began studying the phenomenon of TCKs, they examined how the experience of these individuals affected Japanese culture upon their return to Japan. One researcher asked me how the TCK phenomenon had influenced culture in the U.S. I told her, frankly, that I didn’t think any of us had bothered to look at it. Perhaps the time has come to do so. We must offer new models of cultural identity that include a “both/and” approach instead of assuming everyone will fall into a traditional “either/or” slot. Growing up in many cultures is not the problem—it is trying to fit into pre-assigned slots in adolescence and adulthood that causes difficulties. Simply using wider cultural language and expanding the ways in which we define cultural identity today can go a long way in helping many find the sense of belonging for which they long. Another important reason to take this growing cultural complexity seriously is that missing it often hurts individuals unnecessarily. One adult TCK I spoke with wanted to return to the country where she grew up— speaking the language, going to local schools and playing with local children every day—but her organization insisted she go through the same year of cultural and language training as everyone else. She left the organization in total frustration. She felt her past experience, knowledge and even expertise had
been invisible to those who had hired her. Because she carried the same passport as the other new hires, no one seemed to consider how the experiences of her childhood had shaped her in such different ways. I know of no group or company whose cross-cultural training program takes into account the challenge of preparing those who have grown up with cultural complexity compared to those venturing abroad for the first time. Educators, also, may easily miss the hidden diversity in a group of students who physically resemble those of the dominant culture. They run the risk of misjudging the student—seeing him as “slow” or unmotivated—rather than recognizing the gaps in learning that may have come with moving from one very different curriculum or teaching style to another. Those who work with traditional diversity models must acknowledge the ways this cultural mixing within individuals plays out in their programs. In a well-intentioned attempt to affirm the dignity and equality of all races, a school in Indiana began to place its students into “affinity groups” starting at the age of five. One year, an African American child who had grown up as a TCK had a Turkish friend in class who also happened to be a TCK. When the teacher put the African American child in a group with local black children, he asked if his Turkish friend could join them. The teacher said, “No— he can’t be in your group because he isn’t black.” The truth is, this child had more affinity with fellow globally mobile youth of any background than he did with those who shared only his skin color. Where do we go from here? I would like to propose a “next step” in the study of intercultural relations. When cultures first began to engage one another, interculturalists pointed out that people of various cultures did not look at the world the same way. Unfortunately, this idea of difference based on visible markers and hard-and-fast concepts like race and national origin has too often become an endpoint. When we begin by emphasizing our differences, they too often come to define us. Continued on page 23...
The Au Pair Program: Cultural Exchange or Consumer Industry? by Valli Murphy
very year, au pairs from around the world come to the United States through State Department– approved agencies for travel, cultural exchange, and to provide live-in childcare while pursuing educational credits. In return for working up to 45 hours per week caring for their host families’ children, au pairs receive room and board, a weekly stipend, and $500 to put toward tuition at an institution of higher education. American host families consider the au pair program an extremely attractive childcare choice. Not only does the program provide stability and individualized care; it is also affordable. The average annual cost of an au pair is comparable to that of other forms of fulltime childcare, such as professional nannies, babysitters, and daycare centers. It is even more cost efficient if the family has more than one child, as total fees are the same regardless of the number of children under the au pair’s care.
Reality Viewed through Different Lenses When asked why they consider hosting an au pair, most families cite affordability, dependable childcare and flexibility. Other perceived benefits include the fact that sponsoring organizations handle the screening, interviewing, training and orientation of the au pair, and provide medical insurance and regular monitoring of the relationship by a local representative. Au pair agencies offer a comprehensive one-stop shop to host families. It is no surprise, then, that economic and practical considerations are primary motivating factors for a host family’s choice of an au pair over other forms of childcare. In recent surveys, only 20 percent of host family respondents indicated that they were looking to gain an educational experience by hosting someone from another culture. Valli Murphy is Founder and Principal Trainer at Cultural Intersections, an intercultural training and consulting company that provides comprehensive programs to corporate expatriate executives, foreign exchange organizations and educational institutions. Valli is a Third Culture Kid.
In contrast, au pairs apply to the program for different reasons—notwithstanding their love for children. Most important are the desire to travel in the U.S. and explore the culture while improving their English and taking college courses. In applicants’ minds, the au pair program is an opportunity for exploration and growth, promising—among other things—an exciting cultural experience and a chance to expand their perspective. Brochures meant to attract au pair candidates primarily depict U.S. travel destinations, with groups of spirited young people involved in adventurous activities and visiting famous landmarks. Marketing materials targeted toward potential host families, on the other hand, prominently feature pictures of au pairs engaging in various childcare activities with smiling, happy children. And yet, despite this disparity in agendas, the au pair program is a successful one, in part because the parties—usually the au pair—eventually make significant adjustments in expectations. Evidently, prior to establishing their live-in relationship, the au pair and the host family approach the experience with different motivations and expectations. Sponsoring agencies make efforts to minimize these differences. From the agency’s perspective, it does not make good business sense to advertise the fact that the au pair’s agenda does not prioritize work and childcare; nor would it be wise to underscore that the year as an au pair requires a lot of hard work. By promoting the cultural exchange component to both parties, the sponsoring agency offers an acknowledgement of the cultural interaction between the au pair and host family, but fails to provide sufficient guided intervention for an intercultural learning opportunity over the course of the year. Each party receives different preparation for the interaction. The State Department requires each au pair to undergo lengthy training, including child safety and cultural orientation, upon arrival in the U.S. Less systematically, the program requires host families to attend one annual host family day, which agencies often organize around a social outing such as a park picnic or potluck event. It is up to each local community coordinator to
Intercultural Management Quarterly
decide whether the event will include an intercultural learning component or be structured as a fun, familyoriented day. While the au pair receives extensive training and rigorous instruction, the family often receives little to no guidance or structured training to prepare it for an intercultural learning experience. Thus, not only are expectations vastly different; participant preparation is, also. It is important to note that host families typically perceive the concept of a cultural exchange as an opportunity to share their lifestyle with the au pair—in other words, from an ethnocentric perspective. They often lack the curiosity that would lead to awareness of difference, development of empathy, and intercultural learning.
ing majority of host parents responded by saying that she or he would be welcomed as part of the family, and that whatever the family does, the au pair is free to join. This minimization perspective views the “other” as one who needs to assimilate and can do so easily. It also assumes that the “other” accepts the fact that his or her own cultural identity may be subsumed by a new version. Bennett describes minimization as “the last attempt to preserve centrality of one’s own worldview,” through “an effort to bury the difference under the weight of cultural similarities.” Indeed, consistent with Bennett’s model, host families who view the au pair experience from a minimization perspective naïvely assume that the cultural differences
Central to intercultural learning is the Host families... naïvely assume that the cultural acquisition of intercultural competence differences between them are superficial. or sensitivity. Milton Bennett created his Development Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS) as “a framework to explain between them are superficial, and that the au pair’s goal the observed and reported experiences of people in in- is to become like his or her American hosts. Thus, when tercultural situations.”1 The DMIS defines intercultural differences or problems arise, such issues are usually sensitivity as “the ability to discriminate and experience contextualized within the framework of personality verrelevant cultural differences,” whereas intercultural com- sus culture—evidence that host families do not clearly petence means “the ability to think and act in intercul- understand the effects of culture on behavior. Without turally appropriate ways.”2 proper guidance, host families lack the constructs with which to anticipate and frame their learning experiences. Intercultural competence involves culturally sensitive This is where agency oversight falls short. knowledge, attitudes and behavior. Within the DMIS, intercultural sensitivity is viewed as a developmental Host Families: Participants or Recipients? phenomenon that includes six distinctly different inAlthough au pair sponsoring agencies promote an tercultural worldviews, where the first three—denial, defense and minimization—are ethnocentric, while the ideology of cultural exchange in their program materilast three—acceptance, adaptation and integration—are als, they are, nonetheless, in business to make money. considered ethnorelative. In the ethnorelative stage, the To compete, they strive to make the application process individual has developed a worldview of increased com- as expedient and efficient as possible. To appeal to busy plexity, having moved from a monocultural mindset to a U.S. host families, the agencies now offer an online application option that allows them to instantly view and more intercultural mindset. select applicant profiles. Over the last several years, agenAdaptation or Assimilation? cies have amplified their marketing strategies, developing fully automated and virtually interactive processes. This In response to the question, “How will you promote new consumer-driven trend represents a significant dea cultural exchange with your au pair?” the overwhelm- parture from the traditional method of screening.
The Au Pair Program... In years past, host parents interested in welcoming an au pair were required to undergo a screening process that involved a detailed application and a formal offer of acceptance. During the first three decades of the program, local coordinators were personally responsible for prescreening and conducting in-home interviews prior to the family’s acceptance. The interview was an important venue for evaluating expectations, discussing roles and cultural differences, and exploring values. Now, for the most part, interviews are perfunctory—they are often conducted after the application process is complete and after the family has identified a desired au pair candidate. This has eliminated the local counselor’s ability to prescreen and, most importantly, to play a key role in structuring host family expectations as equal parts cultural exchange and childcare. Thus, at the outset, a host family views the imminent relationship in financial and contractual contexts, and the evolving application process increasingly supports this. A service has been paid for and secured. The au pair program has become a fully automated, consumerand cost-driven service industry. Simply by submitting a credit card number, a prospective host family can begin the selection process within a matter of minutes. The advent of the online application process has created an atmosphere of consumerism and product expediency in the minds of the host family; simply paying for a service creates a power dynamic between the consumer and the service provider rather than a shared partnership within the context of cultural exchange. The relationship becomes that of an employer and an employee. Another expression of the power relationship between hosts and au pairs is in the concomitant requirement of the au pair’s adaptation to the American way of life. In the opinion of most host parents, the measure of a “good” au pair is one who quickly and easily adjusts to the American lifestyle, including styles of discipline, modes of communication, acceptable hours of socialization, forms of dress and food preferences, to name a few. However, requiring the au pair to adapt and conform to all aspects of a foreign lifestyle within a relatively
short period of time is ambitious at best. It also compromises the integrity of a cultural exchange when one party must repeatedly make adjustments in order to assimilate into the other’s frame of reference. Of course, host families have the right to instruct their au pairs and set parenting guidelines for their children according to their values and expectations. However, an authentic cultural exchange would allow for an open discussion of different childcare perspectives that would not be viewed as inherently “wrong” by either party, but rather as an exploration—and as the starting point to a meaningful and mutually respectful dialogue. Unfortunately, au pairs wishing to better understand the unique, individualist parenting styles of their American hosts are typically rebuffed or reproached when inquiring about a child’s behavior; questions are seen as rude or probing, and host parents are often unsettled by the notion of alternative cultural norms and practices. The imbalance of status that results from the imposition of the host family’s norms and values onto the au pair is an accepted reality within their relationship. The onus of change falls almost entirely on the au pair, thereby diminishing opportunities for reciprocal intercultural learning, and host families are often missing both the curiosity to explore cultural differences in any depth and the intention to mutually adapt with their au pairs.
Contact vs. Exchange vs. Learning Au pair agencies would greatly improve the experiences of both parties by facilitating intercultural learning. However, experience shows that putting people from different cultures together does not necessarily create an environment conducive to the development of intercultural relationships. Allport called the belief that contact with people of other cultures will help reduce prejudice and increase tolerance the “contact hypothesis.”3 Indeed, extensive research has found that contact between groups typically reduces prejudice. However, this does not necessarily translate into intercultural learning or development. As Bennett explained, “the goal of intercultural learning is empathy, not just tolerance.”4 The popular
Intercultural Management Quarterly
literature on hosting implies interpersonal issues such as “surviving” the experience or “overcoming hurdles,” and rarely discusses authentic intercultural learning. One significant study by AFS in 1993 reported that mutual respect combined with a relationship that did not involve power struggles or control over the student by the host family resulted in better overall hosting experiences. Ida Catiglioni’s research on Italian host families found the descriptions of their experiences “in terms of positive and negative emotions and not in terms of acquisition of knowledge or the development of skills.”5 Au pair host families in the U.S. show similar trends. To date, the idea that a homestay experience may facilitate an intercultural learning opportunity for all participants has not been effectively promoted or explored by the industry. Less than one third of polled host families from various au pair programs begin the program with a desire for a personal learning experience. Only 40 percent of host families agreed that their au pair agency fully prepared them; 30 percent said they had received sufficient cultural information before the au pair’s arrival, and only 13 percent indicated that their agency did everything it could have to facilitate a cultural exchange among the participants. Data on pre-program expectations indicate that host families were minimally interested in sharing their lifestyles or in practicing the traditions, habits and customs of their au pairs. Despite a lack of pre-program interest, 58 percent felt they garnered personal intercultural experiences, and 68 percent said they were successful in sharing their lifestyle throughout the au pair’s stay. When asked about what they learned, many host parents noted new knowledge gained in terms of improved management and more direct communication skills. There was no change in the respondents’ desire to practice their au pair’s traditions and customs—minimal interest translated into minimal success. These evaluations indicate that the desire for an intercultural learning experience was minimally important to host families, and that agencies did not do enough to prepare them for the hosting experience. It is little sur-
prise that, when agencies do not intentionally frame the experience as one of intercultural learning, families fail to anticipate the experience. Study abroad professionals recognize that homestays and immersion programs without guided assistance are not enough for participants to develop intercultural competence. Yet au pair programs, which promote the benefits of cultural exchange, lag far behind in this realization. By advertising cultural exchange to participants without supporting opportunities for structured learning, they make an overt assumption that cultural exchange will 1) actually occur; 2) lead to intercultural learning experiences; and 3) be successful without help in processing and making meaning out of the experiences. Clearly, there is a gulf between what agencies promote and what they actually provide. Current research in the field of study abroad shows that intentional educational interventions—before, during, and after the experience—significantly contribute to the intercultural learning process. The au pair exchange, thus, should be a two-way street between the host family and the au pair. The current paradigm of one-way adaptation of the au pair to the host family’s lifestyle is outdated and ineffective.
Cultivating Intercultural Learning Host families may not think cultural differences matter; the mindset of minimization prevents people from grasping the importance of looking at things from other perspectives. To alleviate this, au pair programs should create conditions that spark inquiry and curiosity on the part of host families by first enabling them to recognize their own cultural realities via self-discovery and “culture-general” training programs. Jannet Bennett writes, “At this stage, the first task is to call into question… comfortable assumptions about similarity through examining [the learners’] own culture.”6 Training for more sophisticated intercultural competency would also emphasize listening skills, withholding judgment, seeing
The Au Pair Program... of Intercultural Relations 27, no. 4: 421–443.
beyond superficial cultural sameness, and above all, developing curiosity.
3. G.W. Allport, The nature of prejudice (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1958). 4. M.J. Bennett, Forum for Intercultural Learning and Educators (FILE II),
At the very least, by gaining a set of cognitive, affective, and behavioral skills, host families may begin to abandon their tendency to minimize differences in favor of accepting them and managing them more effectively. Hopefully, positive experiences will engender more complex frameworks of reference; with support, acceptance will lead to both adaptation to and celebration of cultural differences.
Conclusion The “consumerization” of the au pair program is a byproduct of global trends. Agencies compete with each other on how to improve the expedience and logistics of a prospective host family’s application process; intercultural learning for the family remains an unexamined area. To mitigate consumerization, agencies must better prepare families for the hosting experience by providing greater support through pre-arrival training and meaningful, targeted intervention along the way. For intercultural learning to occur, there must be an intentional and mutual effort toward adaptation by both parties; the host family must join its au pair in creating shared understanding. The process of learning can lead to the co-creation of shared experiences—a dialectic approach that embraces similarities, differences, expectations, and power dynamics within the relationship. Both parties must find a “dynamic in-betweenness” that encourages development of deep interpersonal relationships and results in the rich experience of mutual discovery. Neither party has to abandon its worldview in order to adapt to the other. i Notes 1. M.J. Bennett, “Toward Ethnorelativism: A Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity,” in Education for the Intercultural Experience, ed. R.M. Paige (Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press, 1993): 21–71. 2. M.R. Hammer, M.J. Bennett and R. Wiseman, “Measuring Intercultural Sensitivity: The Intercultural Development Inventory,” International Journal
Fondazione Intercultura, Colle Val d’Elsa, Italy, October 27, 2011. 5. I. Castiglioni, Intercultural Learning of Hosting Families, Intercultura 2012. 6. J.M. Bennett, “Turning Frogs Into Interculturalists: A Student-Centered Developmental Approach to Teaching Intercultural Competence,” in Develop-
Crossing Barriers... continued from page 8 They must compare vocabulary and meaning as translated; the interventionist must teach the linguist about the mission in depth. When an interventionist and his interpreter build a successful partnership, practicing messages, their meanings and how best to relate them both verbally and nonverbally, the interventionist often finds his interpreter knows what he is going to say before he says it. Once the interventionist has built such a partnership with his linguist, the linguist is free to explain background context to the host population well in advance of any formal dialog between village leaders and interventionists. Such advance partnering can counter unrealistic expectations, allay suspicions of motive or intent, and create a powerful and positive working atmosphere for both the team and its hosts.
Conclusion Interventionists will continue to struggle to break down barriers of communication and culture in traumatized societies; the significance of real-life experience cannot be overstated. What makes communicating and caring in traumatized societies possible is the dedication that love and grief create. Tenzin Gyatso, the Dalai Lama, suggests that our openness to the suffering of others constitutes compassion and a sense of responsibility to those with whom we would intervene. This compassion and sense of responsibility are what ultimately drive the success of interventionists striving to break the barriers of culture and language. i Intercultural Management Quarterly
The Right Tool for the Job by Martin Tillman
o employers value education abroad experience? At first glance, the answer seems quite self-evident. How could they not? In a domestic economy that becomes more linked to overseas markets and investors each year, companies must be on the cutting edge of new technological developments; always looking for opportunities in emerging markets in the developing world; constantly assessing their workforce requirements to ensure that managers and workers understand the interrelated economic forces that impact their performance and the firms’ bottom line. Globalization is the most powerful economic factor influencing the job market in all regions of the world. Can we imagine the look of our global economy in 2025 and the skills and experience students will need, and employers will expect? What will the geopolitical landscape look like? Will students be interning and working in North Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, or Cuba? Can we predict the industries and workforce needs that will emerge from the current political chaos in these regions?
Employers Do Value Education Abroad In a report prepared by J. Walter Thompson Education for the Institute of International Education (IIE), the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), and the Australian Education Office, the company sought to determine employer acceptability and market value of an international degree among U.S. audiences—specifically students and employers. Its findings showed that “…employers’ most important selection criteria in recruiting a candidate are interpersonal skills, and when questioned
Martin Tillman is President of Global Career Compass, an international consultancy that works with international education professionals, students, government agencies, academic programs and private providers to strengthen programs and expand linkages between education abroad and career development. He is also a Senior Career Development Consultant at World Learning SIT Graduate Institute.
employers believe that these skills are likely to be strong in a candidate who has had an overseas education experience. The challenge really is to more effectively link and promote this connection… [emphasis added].”1 In addition, the study reported that employers also found that candidates with international study experience possessed a wide range of skills desirable in their employees: these included, among others, cross-cultural communication skills, leadership, maturity, independence, and cultural awareness. While this finding would likely warm the heart of any international educator, one of the ironies of the research is that only 3 percent of students surveyed stated that they expressly chose to study overseas because they believed that employers see those with some sort of overseas experience as more employable! This points to a key issue, if not a vexing conflict, for the field: Should students be encouraged to go abroad for altruistic reasons—i.e. to widen their world view and experience another culture (a goal cited by 60 percent of students in the Thompson study)? Or should their decision to participate in education abroad experiences be linked more directly to future career goals and professional aspirations? Are these two points of view fundamentally incompatible, or are there opportunities before students depart, and after they return to campus, to integrate their international experiences with both their career goals and the hiring criteria of employers? In my experience with graduate students studying international relations at The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), surveys of both students and employers (nonprofit, profit, public, and in international organizations) have left little doubt that students who enter SAIS with at least two to four years of prior professional experience are likely to have greater success in their job searches. The practical benefits of education and work abroad, internships, multilingual language competency, and the understanding of world issues gained from first-hand cross-cultural experience— especially in nonwestern states—is unquestionable. The need to link education and work abroad experience to career decision-making is also made more obvious given the finding that at least 90 percent of admitted students
The Right Tool... are making career transitions—for example, from the public to the nonprofit sector.
their need to rely on UN or national security forces to do their work. The U.S. Agency for International Development has a new Global Development Alliance The career services staff develops proactive action plans that seeks to leverage the resources of the private sector to assist students with the necessary self-assessment, re- to support development in the developing world. The search, and networking tasks they will need to realize Millennium Challenge Corporation (a new U.S. govtheir career goals after graduation. This includes reedit- ernment body set up in 2004) is looking for staff with ing resumes to fit new “career stories,” identifying in- prior private sector business background to join its efternships that will add value to their skill sets, assisting forts to devise “compacts” with governments in selected in self assessment to clarify values and skills, and review- emerging developing economies to meet their national ing how students will “pitch” their past professional ac- development priorities. MBA schools have developed complishments to make a strong case to a new employer. new curricula offerings to train students in international Whether or not an undergraduate, at age 19, chooses to development as well as the hot field of corporate social view his or her decision to intern, study, or work abroad responsibility. Teachers must manage classrooms where a in the context of his or her future prospects for landing majority of students are nonnative-born and more than 100 languages may be spoStudents must build a sophisticated “toolkit” to market ken throughout the school. the value of their varied portfolio of international expe- The list goes on and on. And for every story about the riences to employers. changing U.S. workplace, there are others in emerging a job (and there is ample evidence that students at com- regional market powers like China, India, Indonesia, munity colleges must do exactly this), the time will in- Taiwan, or Singapore. Globalization’s impact on workevitably come when this is the challenge a student will ers and the workplace has leaped across national borders face. The global marketplace will see to it. and transcends cultures.
New Skills and New Challenges in the Global Workforce
Partnerships between Businesses and Educational Institutions
We are not only talking about large businesses or multinational corporations being impacted by what’s been referred to as the “new economy” and a changing global political and economic landscape. Students leaving colleges and universities with either AA, BA, MA, MS, MBA, or doctoral degrees all face a job market—whether in the nonprofit, public, or private sectors—that is decidedly different than a generation ago. And the marketplace demands increased adaptability, cross-cultural sensitivity, political awareness, and intellectual flexibility.
In a provocative essay, Michael Woolf discusses the close and symbiotic relationship between universities and the business community.2 Citing the increased acceptance of the value of education abroad by both educators and business leaders, Woolf highlights the blurring of lines between the two sectors and a narrowing of the gap (for better and for worse, I would argue) between corporate interests and academic priorities. He describes how in the United Kingdom, business studies, especially MBA degree programs, have wildly expanded—from just two MBA programs in 1967 to 120 in 1997. And he describes how large companies are increasingly taking on the educative role of a university by expanding employee training programs (from 400 to 1600 since 1988). Evidence to support this is found in recent re-
For example, workers for nongovernmental organizations engaged in humanitarian relief work in Sudan or Iraq must learn how to manage volatile security threats on the ground. Their work may be compromised by
Intercultural Management Quarterly
marks by the chairman and CEO of GE, Jeff Immelt, at a dinner marketing the 85th anniversary of the founding of IIE: “…this is a company [with 300,000 employees, half of whom live outside the United States] that spends $1 billion each year to train our employees.”3 NAFSA itself added global workforce development to its mission statement several years ago, in recognition of the importance both educators and business leaders attach to the education and training of U.S. and international students. Global political and economic forces are reshaping, if not adding a new dimension to, the fundamental rationale for education abroad. Businesses—along with the federal government (particularly in light of post–September 11 focus on global security threats)—are taking a more active interest than ever before in the outcomes of education abroad experiences as they struggle to build a sophisticated and informed workforce. Whether it is the defense/intelligence community looking for analysts who speak Arabic and have experience in the Middle East, companies who are monitoring and assessing political risk for their clients, or Bill Gates who cannot hire enough Americans with computer technology skills (and therefore seeks to raise the quota so he can hire more foreigners with H-1B visas), there is a growing and important “economic development” rationale for widening opportunities for education abroad. Carol Conway cites four reasons to support this rationale: facilitating export development, paving the way for innovation, a better understanding of immigrants in the workforce, and reducing the gap between haves and have-nots in American society.4 In each instance, Conway explains how the synergy of global and local interests, need for understanding, awareness, and cultural sensitivity, and expansion of opportunity for global careers to minorities are all drivers for expanded linkages between the economic and national security benefits of education abroad. Nancy Arthur at the University of Calgary adds a cautionary note to the internationalization of the marketplace and our universities. She states, “[internationalization] must be tempered with social and ethical
considerations… If the 1990s can be described as the century of technological advances, this century will be a time to examine the impact of globalization on people’s lives… Globally minded employees of the future are needed who see beyond economic gain and see the importance of considering human and ecological costs.”5
Marketing Education Abroad Experience to Employers Numerous essays have appeared extolling the virtues and global competencies learned through both long and short-term education abroad experiences. There is, in fact, a growing body of new empirical research validating the long-standing anecdotal reporting of the positive outcomes of education abroad experiences. As Adler and her colleagues at San Diego State University write in a newly published essay, “New research is now informing those institutions intent on assessing the effectiveness of their campus internationalization efforts, and it is helping international educators learn not only what to evaluate, but more importantly, how to evaluate their success in preparing students for their global workforce.”6 Such empirical evidence, coupled with the pressure of preparing students to enter the workforce and effectively compete in a global economy, have turned around administrative resistance to “internationalize,” as campuses realize that to do otherwise handicaps students in realizing their career goals and succeeding in their job searches. While employers believe job applicants with education abroad experiences are most likely to possess the skill sets they seek in their employees, they do not value education abroad—or related international experiences—for its own sake. Employers are, however, actively interested in whether or not a job applicant demonstrates that as a result of their experiences abroad, they have developed the requisite skills and sensitivity that makes them stand out as the strongest candidate for a particular job. Thus, the challenge facing students is to successfully translate what they learned abroad into accomplishment
The Right Tool... statements on their resumes, and to effectively articulate and clearly describe these skills during their job interviews. Students must build a sophisticated “toolkit” to market the value of their varied portfolio of international experiences to employers.7 The capability to interpret the value of an education abroad experience to an employer is made easier if a student’s decision to go abroad is linked to his or her career goals. The challenge to education abroad advisers and career service professionals on campuses is whether or not they act proactively to assist students to take full advantage of their overseas sojourns. This requires the concerted collaboration of faculty, career staff, and study abroad advisers prior to the start of the journey.
panies or organizations they want to work for. This task is made easier if study abroad advisers and career services staff work together to highlight the synergy of a carefully thought-through decision-making process linking the choice of an education abroad program to the students’ near-term career goals. i This article originally appeared in the July/August 2005 edition of International Educator magazine. Reprinted with permission from the copyright holder, NAFSA: Association of International Educators. Notes 1. J.W. Thompson, “An Exploration of the Demand for Study Overseas From American Students and Employers” (report prepared for Institute of
Efforts to develop innovative campus programs and institute new collaborative administrative relationships between offices of career services and study abroad advising can be found across the United States. In a volume I edited for the American Institute for Foreign Study Foundation,8 authors described numerous examples on campuses; among them are these:
International Education, the German Academic Exchange Service, the British Council, and the Australian Education Office, 2004). 2. Michael Woolf, “Education and Business: It Takes Two to Tango,” International Educator Spring (2004): 33–34. 3. Institute of International Education, “Opening Minds Corporate Leadership Award to GE Chairman Jeff Immelt,” IIE Networker Spring (2005): 32–33. 4. Carol Conway, “An Economic Development Perspective on Education
• The annual University of Michigan International Opportunities Fair brings together 500 students, 40 organizations and diverse administrative units across campus.
Abroad,” International Educator Spring (2004): 34. 5. Nancy Arthur, “Preparing Globally Minded Students and Employers,” NATCOM Papers (2000): 3. 6. Renatte Adler, Steve Loughrin-Sacco, and Ron Moffatt, “The Role of Experiential Learning in Preparing Global-Ready Graduates,” in Impact of
• The University of Minnesota Career Development Network unites 17 distinct career offices and the Learning Abroad Center to coordinate and share information regarding the application of career development practices to study abroad advising.
Education Abroad on Career Development, ed. Martin Tillman (Stamford, CT: American Institute for Foreign Study, 2005), 15–17. 7. Cheryl Matherly, “Effective Marketing of International Experiences to Employers,” in Impact of Education Abroad on Career Development, ed. Martin Tillman (Stamford, CT: American Institute for Foreign Study, 2005), 9–10. 8. Martin Tillman, ed., Impact of Education Abroad on Career Development
• The Boston College Global Proficiency Program seeks to integrate academic, co-curricular, and study abroad experiences to give students a more cohesive focus and document—on student transcripts—their international accomplishments.
(Stamford, CT: American Institute for Foreign Study, 2005).
At the end of the day, it is up to students to make the case and demonstrate the link between their international experiences and the specific skills valued by the com-
Intercultural Management Quarterly
Style Switching for Success in Multicultural Groups by Julia Gaspar-Bates
acilitating multicultural groups often presents unique challenges that require additional preparation for trainers and educators. While our work as interculturalists is to help others learn about culture, we may sometimes forget to practice what we preach. In all cases, we must do a careful analysis of the different cultures present in our trainings or classrooms—not only to determine the content of the course material, but also to gauge how we should best respond to the different needs and expectations of our audience. It is important to remember that a “one-size-fits-all” approach to training and teaching doesn’t work in every cultural context. It is therefore necessary, in certain circumstances, to “style switch” in order to engage those students and participants whose styles may differ from our own. Being a trainer is like being an actor—you need to set the stage, improvise when necessary, and engage your audience. Engagement, however, can be interpreted very differently across cultures. For some, it might mean excessive enthusiasm, being humorous, and literally putting on a show. For others it might entail a more subtle delivery, focused heavily on in-depth content. Knowing your audience allows you to find ways to integrate different styles to meet everyone’s expectations. In the U.S., for example, it is common to start a presentation in a light-hearted manner by using humor or telling a joke. This style would be perceived as completely inappropriate in the Japanese or German cultures, where the use of humor could cause the trainer to lose her credibility. In Japan, it is customary to apologize profusely as a way to show humility towards others, while in Germany, providing facts about your academic credentials to clarify your qualifications is the norm. One American trainer, Julia Gaspar-Bates is president of Intercultural Alliances, a cross-cultural training and consulting firm, and an adjunct professor at The George Washington University. She has trained hundreds of multicultural groups in multiple languages on four continents and frequently uses mindfulness skills to help her adopt different behaviors when she finds herself out of her comfort zone.
well versed in such nuances of culture, adeptly addressed an American-Japanese audience by stating the different expectations between the two cultures and then apologizing for not telling a joke. Such an ability to integrate different styles allows trainers and educators not only to enhance their credibility as intercultural experts but also to fully engage their audiences. “Style switching” can be defined as the ability to interrupt your normal behaviors and adapt to the predominant behavioral norms of your audience to reach a desired outcome. It is a useful tool to enhance effectiveness when you are trying to realize your goals, communicate your ideas and successfully collaborate with others. However, switching is different from just “going along” with a different way of doing things—and abandoning your original intent or objectives in the process. Instead, it requires the intentional decision to adopt a certain behavior. It is much more than the old adage, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” which can in fact be fraught with potential mishaps. For example, if working with a French group, you might observe people entering the training room to faire la bise—giving a light “air kiss” to their colleagues on each cheek. According to the adage, you might easily assume this is a standard greeting. However, while strangers may font la bise upon meeting one another in a social context, it is only common to do so in a professional environment once a trusting relationship has formed. At the same time, not adhering to typical French business protocol by entering a training room and failing to greet each of the trainees individually with a handshake might also convey disrespect. The German writer von Goethe once said, “Behavior is a mirror in which everyone displays his image.” Our behaviors are central to how others view us. As interculturalists, we are—presumably—keenly aware of how hidden aspects of who we are shape them, such as our cultural values and beliefs as well as our personalities. However, the more we can be aware of the image we present to our audiences and the more we can observe and inform ourselves about the images others display,
Style Switching... the more we can adapt our behaviors situationally. Developing self-awareness requires a keen desire to explore what makes us tick. This means that the more we can articulate how our values, beliefs, and attitudes shape our approach to facilitation, the more we can be aware how they are reflected in our behavior as trainers or educators. For instance, it is common in the U.S. to address workshop participants or students informally, on a firstname basis. When you encounter different behaviors from your trainees—repeatedly addressing you by your last name, for example—you should recognize the discomfort your own behavior may cause and find a way to adapt. Invite them to call you by your first name and then, as a sign of respect, asking them each how they would like to be addressed. This may be particularly important with participants from cultures that favor hierarchy and are status-oriented. It is important to remember, however, that in all situations we must work within constraints. We each have core values that affect our behavior and may be non-negotiable. For example, a Muslim woman coming from a society where gender segregation is the norm may have a difficult time shaking hands with a male trainer. Being aware of such cultural taboos can help the trainer avoid uncomfortable encounters that could cause loss of trust and credibility right from the start. Conversely, there are certain behaviors that are negotiable and that we can more easily adopt. As a trainer, it is important to consider in advance what these non-negotiable behaviors might be and to take into account alternative behaviors to avoid such pitfalls.
Skills for Style Switching Style switching therefore requires certain key skills to be done effectively. The first, as mentioned, is self-awareness. Knowing your particular strengths and weaknesses as a trainer or educator, understanding your cultural biases and any stereotypes you might hold, and being aware of your style of delivery and how you interact with your audience are critical first steps to understanding
your behavior. Along these same lines, being aware of the other cultures present is vital. If you are working with a group made up of five or six different cultures, learning some of the fundamentals about them is essential. This might entail including questions during the needs assessment process to find out about different modes of learning, to gain insight into preferred communication styles within the group, and to assess any special needs. If you have no familiarity with the cultures, do some preliminary research. Integrate a nugget or two on the participants’ cultures into your discussions to show you are knowledgeable and credible. Next, it is important to be a keen observer. Observing interpersonal interactions, group dynamics, and other behaviors will provide some indication of what to expect; it will allow you to consider behaviors you may need to change in order to promote cohesiveness and participation. For example, if you come from an egalitarian culture like the U.S., you might expect trainees to take initiative by asking questions or freely sharing comments during a discussion. However, students coming from more hierarchical cultures may not be comfortable doing so. In this case, to engage everyone might require an additional effort on the trainer’s behalf—inviting people to speak and giving priority to participants of higher rank first. Style switching demands energy in addition to flexibility and adaptability. When we have a strong emotional investment in a certain behavioral style, it can be more challenging for us to effectively switch to a more culturally appropriate one. For example, you might prefer an informal atmosphere in your trainings or classroom to invite open dialogue and self-disclosure, yet you are working with a group that prefers a more structured, formal, and didactic approach.This puts additional pressure on you, as trainer or teacher, as it requires a complete shift in teaching style to a more lecture-based approach. A carefully written role play you believe to be a valuable learning activity may therefore need to be abandoned at the last minute, if you realize your group will not be receptive to the idea of acting spontaneously in front of others without advanced preparation. To shift gears at
Intercultural Management Quarterly
Who Am I... continued from page 11 the last minute without compromising the integrity of the training’s content requires advance planning. It is also always wise to allocate extra time to take different cultural attitudes toward time into account. Finally, practicing mindfulness skills—such as the ability to detach yourself from outcomes—can alleviate the anxiety that often plagues people when speaking in public. Also, developing empathy and compassion for the challenges your participants may encounter is central to connecting with them. For example, varying levels of English create frequent linguistic challenges. As a trainer or educator, recalling the times you have struggled during an intercultural interaction will help you be mindful of different approaches to communication. With this in mind, you might speak more slowly or allow for longer periods of silence as your audience translates and contemplates its response. It is also important to be cognizant of your choice of words and expressions and to remain aware of “loss-of-face” issues. Even singling out an individual in a complimentary manner might have a negative impact and be perceived as disrespectful by participants coming from group-oriented cultures.
Conclusion In summary, some behaviors are inherent to our culture and strongly impact the way we work as intercultural trainers and educators. It is easy to become overly confident because of our familiarity with the topic, and wearing blinders is an all-too-common consequence. In particular, if we often work with monocultural audiences, we can easily get caught in our own trap and forget that our stylistic approach to training or teaching may not appeal to everyone. Stepping out of our comfort zone is a good opportunity for us to take stock of our behaviors and consider which methods work and which do not. It is also good practice for us to develop a repertoire of different behavioral styles that we can apply, when necessary, to allow us to truly “walk the walk.” i
I have seen some TCKs react with such relief at discovering a name for their unique experience that they emphasized this identity to the exclusion of all others. They began to believe that no one who had not shared this experience could ever understand them at all. The reality is that this growing cultural complexity will render defining and sub-defining all the distinguishing characteristics of each person nearly impossible. Before we divide ourselves into a million pieces, I propose we begin to look not only at our differences, but also to reconsider the likenesses we share as human beings—as well as those things which make each of us unique. Please note that likeness is not sameness. No one is “the same.” However, we all do share our basic humanity. Humans of all backgrounds are relational beings who want to know and be known—to belong somewhere. They are also emotional beings who feel loss and creative beings who need to express the creativity inherent within them. They can think and find solutions to the challenges of their environments. The list goes on, but the bottom line is that culture often serves as a tool to meet these basic needs. We devise customs that govern our relationships, our emotions and our expressions, yet our needs are the same. The greatest gift of my cross-cultural childhood was learning this reality, not from books, but from interacting with friends who lived in the villages around us or from going to a colonial friend’s home for tea. Yes, these experiences were very different, but the human connections they created were real and wonderful. On the other hand, as we understand the ways in which we are alike, we can begin to find new ways to discover how our unique experiences and gifts shape us each individually. When that sense of self is strong— that “This is who I am, no matter where I am,” feeling—there is also remarkable resiliency. Only then can we begin to learn the ways of each new culture and place, to interact positively, without fear of losing “us” as we move to include “them.” This is the beauty and the gift of growing up with a culturally complex sense of identity in a globalized world. i
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Published on May 8, 2012
Vol. 13, No. 1: "Cultural Differences in Crisis Communication: One Year After Fukushima" by Motoo Unno; "Crossing Barriers of Communication...