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What is Cultural Intelligence and Its Importance in the Workplace

Cultural intelligence can be determined as a capability to relate and effectively work across different cultures and it has many similarities with the concept of cultural agility (Caputo et al. 2019). This concept is mainly applied in education, academic, government, and business research contexts. Cultural intelligence mainly refers to the skills that help to work in various diverse situations effectively and it also helps to prosper in the multiple cultures. Achieving cultural intelligence helps to provide a competitive advantage to the business because it helps to access more resources, talent, and information (Chao, Takeuchi and Farh 2017). Cultural intelligence helps business organizations in improving their overall performance, teamwork, cooperation, and communication. Cultural intelligence focuses more on three major areas and those are, behavior, metacognition and cognition, and motivation. Cultural intelligence plays a major role in bridging divides and the knowledge gaps in a business organization and it also helps to establish interpersonal connections (Awan, Kraslawski and Huiskonen 2018).

Cultural intelligence is very much important in a workplace environment and it helps to understand the people from different cultures and regions (Hu et al. 2017). The managers or higher-level authority of any business organization are always trying to establish a cultural intelligence in the workplace environment as it helps to transfer or share knowledge among various groups and it also enhances an individual's creativity. As an example, the manager of a business organization wants to build cultural intelligence in the workplace and for this, the manager has taken several initiatives. The manager of that organization encourages all of the workers or employees to learn about others’ cultures and the managers also help to develop self-awareness among the employees. The manager can also diversify the hiring process so that people from different cultural backgrounds can work in the same workplace and diversifying hiring practices can easily promote cultural intelligence in the workplace (Ali et al. 2019). Apart from this, the most important thing for promoting cultural intelligence among the workers is improved communication process and it is the main responsibility of the managers of the business organizations to improve the communication skills of the employees so that the workers can easily communicate with their co-workers or colleagues (Korzilius, Bücker and Beerlage 2017).

Social cognition can be determined as a process in which many people remember, use and process information in different social contexts for predicting and explaining their own as well as others' behavior (Stein and Slavin-Mulford 2017). Two types of social cognition are socioemotional selectivity, person perception, and stereotypes.

Social cognition is very much important in the workplace and it focuses more on some specific cognitive processes or methods that the employees engage in while they are learning (Ragins and Verbos 2017). With the help of type two cognition, an employee can display self-control in several critical situations. The managers can also understand the employee-perception, stereotypes, discrimination, decision-making, attitudes, and other important areas. Most of the well-known business leaders or marketers think that one of the best ways to eliminate diversity challenges from the workplace is by highlighting everyone's differences immediately. The manager will also encourage the employees to work collaboratively with other employees from different cultural backgrounds in a critical situation so that the biases related to traditions and cultures can be eliminated (Ellingson and Noe 2017). So, social cognition is very much essential for the employees and the managers for conducting a business smoothly and successfully.

Ways to Develop Cultural Intelligence in the Workplace

Geert Hofstede had completed a study that mainly focuses on four different cultural dimensions and those are, power distance, masculinity-femininity, individualism-collectivism, and uncertainty avoidance. These cultural dimensions help to display the impacts of the society's culture on the values of the members and it also shows how all of these values are related to behavior (Gallego-Álvarez and Pucheta-Martínez 2021). As an example, in business organizations communication is the most important thing and the employees have to communicate with the international workers for different work purposes. So, it is very much necessary for those employees to understand others' cultures and Hofstede’s cultural dimensions help to provide insights into other cultures.  

Cultural Dimension



Collectivism and individualism

In individualism, personal independence is more valued but collectivism represents a culture in which more people are integrated to form a strong and cohesive group (Kim 2017).

Individualistic: Great Britain, Australia, and the US.

Collectivistic: Mexico, Singapore.

Power distance

A less powerful member of the company thinks that power is unequally distributed.

High: Singapore, Japan

Low: Canada, US

Uncertainty avoidance

The members or employees feel threatened or challenged by unknown situations.

High: Japan, Greece

Low: Denmark, Singapore, Jamaica.


Masculinity refers to a culture in which the social roles of the genders are distinct clearly (Saleem and Larimo 2017).

Femininity refers to a culture in which social roles of the genders overlap.

Femininity: Norway, Sweden

Masculinity: Austria, Italy, Japan.

Collectivism can be determined as a culture in which social harmony, group goals, and the needs of the people are focused more than the individuals' needs (Domingues 2021). I am culturally collectivist and as a collectivist, I always want to work collaboratively for doing things more easily and it is my belief that collectivist culture emphasizes the desires and needs of individuals. In such a culture, relationships with other people of a group and interconnectedness between the people play an important role in the identity of each person. As a collectivist, I always provide more importance to social harmony, respectfulness, and the group's need over individual needs. Collectivist cultural values are included with social order, politeness, self-discipline, national security, and others. Collectivist culture is mainly characterized by highlighting the cohesiveness among the people. Collectivist culture helps to promote a prosperous and integrated society in which all people get things that they actually need. I always focus more on workgroup and family goals over individual desires or needs. In my recent workplace, I always take opinions or ideas from the other members before making any decisions, and for such an approach, other employees also feel that their ideas or opinions are valued and respected and they will provide more efforts towards the growth of the business organization. Individualism mainly focuses on self-independence and an individualistic person is more rational and autonomous. As I believe in a collectivist culture, I can communicate with people more efficiently in the workplace.

According to Schein, the top layer of the cultural iceberg is known as Artefacts that is included with visible organizational processes and structures. Artefacts can be defined as obvious and overt components of a business organization and these things are visible like organizational structure and others (Kloss 2019). It is very simple to observe the artefacts but it is very much critical to realize the artefacts until the cultural analysis goes deeper. The other two important layers are. Espoused values and shared basic assumptions. Espoused values are less visible and these are included with goals, strategies, norms, and rules. On the other hand, basic assumptions help to determine behaviors and perceptions and these are included with human nature, way of thinking, values, and others.

Two examples of artefacts are the organizational structure and mission statement of the company. Organizational structure helps to define how different activities like supervision, task allocation, and coordination are directed towards the completion of organizational objectives or aims (Joseph and Gaba 2020). On the other hand, the mission statement of a business organization represents the overall intention and purpose of the company. It also supports the organization's vision and provides appropriate direction to the stakeholders, employees, vendors, and customers. The organization's culture, fundamental goals, agenda, ethics, and values are mainly reflected by its mission statement. Amorphous and fluid organization structure provides a context in which cross-cultural management may be affected. Therefore, a good relationship can be noticed between the cultural heritage of the organizational members and organizational structure.


Ali, I., Ali, M., Leal-Rodríguez, A.L. and Albort-Morant, G., 2019. The role of knowledge spillovers and cultural intelligence in enhancing expatriate employees' individual and team creativity. Journal of Business Research, 101, pp.561-573.

Awan, U., Kraslawski, A. and Huiskonen, J., 2018. Governing interfirm relationships for social sustainability: the relationship between governance mechanisms, sustainable collaboration, and cultural intelligence. Sustainability, 10(12), p.4473.

Caputo, A., Ayoko, O.B., Amoo, N. and Menke, C., 2019. The relationship between cultural values, cultural intelligence and negotiation styles. Journal of Business Research, 99, pp.23-36.

Chao, M.M., Takeuchi, R. and Farh, J.L., 2017. Enhancing cultural intelligence: The roles of implicit culture beliefs and adjustment. Personnel Psychology, 70(1), pp.257-292.

Gallego-Álvarez, I. and Pucheta-Martínez, M.C., 2021. Hofstede’s cultural dimensions and R&D intensity as an innovation strategy: a view from different institutional contexts. Eurasian Business Review, 11(2), pp.191-220.

Hu, S., Gu, J., Liu, H. and Huang, Q., 2017. The moderating role of social media usage in the relationship among multicultural experiences, cultural intelligence, and individual creativity. Information Technology & People.

Joseph, J. and Gaba, V., 2020. Organizational structure, information processing, and decision-making: a retrospective and road map for research. Academy of Management Annals, 14(1), pp.267-302.

Kim, S., 2017. National culture and public service motivation: investigating the relationship using Hofstede’s five cultural dimensions. International Review of Administrative Sciences, 83(1_suppl), pp.23-40.

Kloss, R., 2019. Adding value to project management–The magic triangle meets the “cultural” Iceberg. In Practical Wisdom and Diversity (pp. 205-218). Springer Gabler, Wiesbaden.

Korzilius, H., Bücker, J.J. and Beerlage, S., 2017. Multiculturalism and innovative work behavior: The mediating role of cultural intelligence. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 56, pp.13-24.

Ragins, B.R. and Verbos, A.K., 2017. Positive relationships in action: Relational mentoring and mentoring schemas in the workplace. In Exploring positive relationships at work (pp. 91-116). Psychology Press.

Saleem, S. and Larimo, J., 2017. Hofstede cultural framework and advertising research: An assessment of the literature. In Advances in Advertising Research (Vol. VII) (pp. 247-263). Springer Gabler, Wiesbaden.

Domingues, J.M., 2021. Authoritarian Collectivism and'Real Socialism': Twentieth Century Trajectory, Twenty-First Century Issues. Anthem Press.

Ellingson, J.E. and Noe, R.A. eds., 2017. Autonomous learning in the workplace. Taylor & Francis.

Stein, M.B. and Slavin-Mulford, J., 2017. The social cognition and object relations scale-global rating method (SCORS-G): A comprehensive guide for clinicians and researchers. Routledge.

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