Identify and discuss the stages of cultural shock. Analyse the extent to which multinational firms can alleviate cultural shock? Provide relevant examples?
People adapt to the regions and the ways of the community that they are born into because it is familiar and comfortable. Moving to a new place can be exciting to an individual and especially if they will be visiting the new place for a short while. However, an individual that might be moving to a new place it might be difficult for them to adapt to the surroundings and the people. Culture shock takes effect when one is not able to relate to the people in their new environment or be able to relate to the surroundings. The initial excitement that an individual has when moving to a new place eventually dies and it is replaced by a mixture of anger and frustration. People that move to foreign countries to find employment have a hard time adapting to the new surroundings when they are not able to adapt to the new culture. Culture shock presents itself in the lack of knowledge of essential things such as language. Without understanding the language, it is difficult for one to interact with others as well as live a happy life. There are several stages of culture shock and they include; the honeymoon stage, frustration, adjustment and Acceptance stage. It is the role of the organization to ensure that the employees joining their organization from different countries are able to adapt to the new changes. They should come up with programs that aimed at welcoming new employees into the organization, additionally networking would help the new employees form relationships with other people whom they share a similar culture.
The honeymoon stage is the first stage of cultural shock that an individual experiences when they move into a new country. At this stage the person is intrigued by their new environment and they want to learn more about the people and the location (Adler, 1981). The belief that they are able to interact with individuals that have led a different life from them makes it exciting and enjoyable for the new person. An individual is able to embrace the new environment and especially if they were looking for a change (Adler, 1987). The change is able to open them up to the belief that there is more to be conquered and many people to be met. At this stage the person is open to developing relationships with the people that they meet. Everything about the new environment is exciting since it is different from what they are used to in their previous location. The mind is at ease and this is the period when a person wants to try out different things such as learning the language and discovering new foods (Befus, 1988). Despite the fact that the culture might be different from what they are used to, they embrace it because they want to fit in with other people. The new places to visit also make it easier for the individual to forget about their home and their culture. The excitement is based on the belief that the individual is getting a new start in their life (Bhugra, 2004). When one moves as an employee to the new country, the individual is open to learn the morals and values of the people within the first months in order to fit in.
However, the honeymoon phase lasts momentarily and it might vary from one individual to the other. Frustration phase settles in immediately after the excitement is over. The honeymoon phase only lasts for individuals that have short trips outside their culture because there is no enough time for the other effects of the culture shock to set in. frustration becomes apparent when an individual begins comparing life at their new place with the life that they left behind (Brein, 1971). What was initially an excitement turns into a trigger for anger and frustration. The lack of understanding of the new language makes it difficult for the person to read and interpret signs. It is difficult for one to understand all the signs and rules in a new country when it is written in a foreign language (Brown and Immy, 2008). The constant need to ask for help makes the person to feel incompetent in their new environment. It is frustrating for many people when they cannot communicate effectively with the people that they interact with. Some people find it hard to make orders in a restaurant since they cannot understand the language. Additionally, making friends and lasting relationships becomes hard due to language barrier (DeVito, 2007). The cultural diversity also means that the food that people eat at different places is different and it is hard for one to adapt to a new form of diet. These frustrations lead a person to think about their home town and appreciate their culture. The probability that there will be no change for them in a long time further leads an individual to feel frustrated and angry at their new situation (Henderson, Virginia and Ling Cao, 1993).
Adjustment is the third stage of cultural shock. This is the stage where an individual accepts their surroundings and the new culture. The move from what one is used to can be difficult for an individual especially if the move is long term. However, after the frustration and anger for not understanding the new culture an individual slowly becomes acquainted to the new environment (Heyward, 2002). The frustration phase occurs since the person is not aware of the rules in the new environment and how to behave. However, after a period of time the person is able to learn the language and develop a routine that they follow. This makes it easier for them to communicate and form friendships (Irwin, 2007). When language barrier is lifted, the individual is able to interact with other people freely and they can move around their new surroundings without having to rely on the help of other people. Individuals that move to a new place when they already know the language suffer less from culture shock because they are able to communicate and learn about the culture quickly (Kieser, 1994). Moreover, at this stage the person has accepted that they want to live in their new community and they have developed a routine that helps them to solve problems. The person is aware of what will happen when they take certain actions and how to respond to them. The person begins to feel in control of their new surroundings and this elevates their moods and understanding of the new culture (Kim, Young Yun, and Ruben, 1988). It is at this phase that the person is more open to the idea of forgetting their past culture and embracing the possibility of leading a happy life in their new environment.
Adaptation is the final phase of cultural shock and this occurs when an individual is totally convinced of the possibility of leading a life in the new country. At this stage it becomes apparent to the person that they can be able to live happily in the new place and they adopt some of the new culture. The person embraces the differences in culture and becomes privy to the fact that there are some good aspects of the new culture that they can adopt (Lyon, 2002). However, the individual does not completely forget about their old culture but rather chooses to accept the new situation. An individual can change their preference to food and even the mode of dressing but perhaps remain conservative about their religion and the roles played by different people in the society. The adaptation stage is also known as the bicultural stage where the person is able to balance between the two cultures. Some aspects might not change such as their accent, language and belief but they will adopt a new language in order to communicate with other people (Muecke, Lenthall and Lindeman, 2011). Additionally, a person will be open to trying new meals and allow their pallets to adapt to the new types of food that they meet in the new place. However, these individuals will also try to ensure that they remember their culture from time to time and this can be through forming relationships with people that they share the same culture with as well as enjoying meals that remind them of their past life. Their old culture does not get replaced but an individual becomes more open to accepting their new culture.
Multinational organizations employ people from different backgrounds and countries and this leads to the creation of different cultures in the work place. Many employees that come from different countries might find it difficult to interact with the people that they meet in their new workplace due to difference in cultures. It is the role of the managers in the organization to ensure that they get to organize functions where the new employees are introduced to other employees in the organization and get familiarized with the new culture. Moreover, the organization needs to foster relationships with the new employees in order to ensure that they are comfortable in their new environment. They should give them information about their new environment and the places where they can visit in order to be acquainted with the new environment.
Creating networks is one of the things that the organization can do in order to ensure that their employees are comfortable in the new environment. Networking helps people to know those in their circle and foster relationships (Pedersen, 1994). For an individual that is new in a given culture, it is important to ensure that they are able to meet other individuals that will help them to adapt in their new environment. For example, the organization can have a group that welcomes people into the organization and is responsible for helping them get settled in their new environment. There is consolation in knowing that there will be a person that one can call when they are stuck in a predicament (Selmer, 1999). These people will help the employee to learn the new language and the places to visit when they miss their previous culture.
Moreover, the organization needs to ensure that there are several people from different cultures in order to create a balance in the work place. An individual only feels out of place if he/she is not able to relate to other people in the organization. There needs to be a policy that allows for the recruitment of people from different cultures so that the culture shock can be minimized. When people from different backgrounds are brought together, it becomes possible for them to create relationships that last (Stewart, Louise, and Leggat, 1998). They are able to go through the different stages of culture shock together thus lessening the burden that one might feel when getting to adapt to a new place. There is a need for the organization to strike a balance in the people that they employ so that one does not feel left out in the organization (Ward, Colleen, Bochner, and Furnham, 2005). For example, having two people working in the organization that share the same culture would be beneficial to both employees. This is because they will share with each other their experiences and their hopes. The reason why many people find it hard to fit in a new environment that has different culture is because they want to have people that will help them to cope with the new transition and at times it might be difficult for them.
Additionally, the organization can organize cultural festivals where the people get familiarized with other people’s cultures. A multinational organization employs people from different cultures and it is important that from time to time the organization is able to hold festivals that will expose the employees to other cultures (Winkelman, 1994). Stereotypes affect the way that people relate with each other in the work place and it is the role of management to ensure that stereotyping does not affect the way that people relate with each other (Xia, 2009). A cultural festival allows the employees to showcase their understanding of their environment as well as introduce their fellow employees to their culture.
In addition, the organization can employ counselors that can advise their new employees on how to handle their new environment especially when they get to the frustration phase. A counselor will listen to the fears and worries of the new employees and get to reassure them about getting to fit in the new environment (Zapf, 1991). In many cases, people suffer from stress and depression when they are unable to understand their new surroundings and the people that they are working with. The counseling room will be a safe place where the individual can have an open conversation about the challenges that they are facing in their life (Zapf, 1993). The counselor, on the other hand will serve as a friendly individual that will help the person cope with the new environment.
Cultural diversity helps to bring people together and share in their differences but it can also be overwhelming for an individual that has moved to a new place. There are four stages of culture shock and they include; honeymoon stage, frustration stage, adjustment stage, and adaptation phase. For one to be able to get to the adaptation phase quickly, the organization can ensure that the individual is surrounded by people who will help them to overcome frustration. Cultural festivals can help people to open up about their culture; additionally having a company counselor can help people to adapt to the new environment.
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