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Emotional Intelligence for Effective Cross Cultural Management

written by: Vikas Vij•edited by: Ginny Edwards•updated: 9/12/2011

Managing business in an increasingly borderless global village? Look for the vital links between emotional intelligence and human resource management.

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    Emotional Quotient and Managing Cultural Diversity

    Emotional Intelligence for Effective Cross Cultural Management The global business environment has become increasingly interdependent due to an increased global flow of investments and trade in recent decades. No economy today can afford to survive in isolation of other economies. The international economic borders have become increasingly open, resulting not only in a global exchange of goods and services, but also an equally important exchange of human resources. Technological advancements in the field of information technology and communication have also contributed substantially to this rising trend of interconnected businesses and the spectacular growth of the multinational and transnational corporations. But this changed scenario has also created a serious need to utilize the natural linkage between emotional intelligence and cross cultural management.

    Recognizing Cultural Differences

    It has become critically important for the global corporations of today to recognize cultural gaps within the organization. People belonging to diverse nationalities, diverse cultures, diverse religions and diverse linguistic backgrounds are working together under a single roof. Even in terms of corporate communication between employees based in different geographical locations, or with international clients, vendors, investors or other global business associates, there is a need to understand the sensitivities of cultural differences. As the companies increasingly recognize the fact of cultural diversity within their immediate environments, they will be able to put in place firm human resource management policies and systems that ensure the successful adaptation of the organization to the new emerging global culture.

    Link between EQ and Cultural Management

    People’s behavior is influenced to a great extent by their cultural background. Therefore, human resource managers as well as the company’s leaders have to make use of the emotional quotient in order to run global organizations successfully as a unified entity. Emotional understanding is needed by business leaders and HR managers to determine how to choose the right personnel for different country offices and how to customize their business approach and business policies in accordance with the cultural needs of the particular market. For instance, some countries have a culture of team work or collective management where as in some other countries individual performance and personal excellence is more important. Therefore, rewards, incentives and other motivational tools must be designed in view of the cultural ethos of the particular geographical territory.

    Integrating Cultures Using Empathy and Understanding

    Empathy is probably the most important attribute that an effective manager or leader must possess. The success of a business organization operating in multi-cultural environments depends upon how smoothly the leaders manage to integrate different cultures with their own leadership styles. For instance, when a western manager operates in a culturally diverse setting such as China or Hong Kong, it is important to communicate with the local staff and local customers in a simple language and a personalized manner in order to win their cooperation and understanding. Similarly, there are certain cultures in Western Europe where punctuality and time consciousness is not regarded as highly as it is in the American culture. So having a high tolerance level and awareness about the local cultural conditions helps in running the business in a smooth and effective manner.


    Reilly, Anne H. and Karounos, Tony J. Exploring the Link between Emotional Intelligence and Cross-Cultural Leadership Effectiveness. Journal of International Business and Cultural Studies.

    Photo Credit: Rbut under licensing agreement.