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CULTURAL

ADAPTATION

THROUGH

SENSITIVITY

TRAINING
Globalization and aggressive foreign direct investment, combined with domestic
restructuring, have dramatically changed the workforce of many companies. As
the world gets ``smaller'', more and more people are spending time living and
working away from their home country, giving rise to greater face-to-face contact
amongst people from different cultural backgrounds.
Globalization not only requires the adoption of a cross-cultural perspective in
order to successfully accomplish goals in the context of global economy but also
needs a new and higher standard of selection, training, and motivation of people.
As a result, cross-cultural training is fast becoming a recognizably important
component in the world of international business.
Cultural differences exist at home and abroad but, in many cases, international
interaction creates problems, since people are separated by barriers such as
time, language, geography, food, and climate. In addition, peoples' values,
beliefs, perceptions, and background can also be quite different. For instance, in
business scenarios, the expectations for success or failure may differ, which can
be very frustrating and confusing to sojourners and expatriates. Intercultural
differences influence international business in many ways. For example, consider
the matter of punctuality or the time factor. In some cultures, e.g. the Germans,
Swiss, and Austrians, punctuality is considered extremely important and lateness
is not tolerated. By contrast, in other European and Latin American countries
there is a different, somewhat ``looser'' approach to time with some degree of
tolerance for lateness. Sojourners or expatriates who lack sensitivity or

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awareness of this ``time'' orientation can make severe interpersonal blunders,


and then need cross-cultural training to avoid culture shock.
THE NEED FOR CROSS-CULTURAL TRAINING
Chen and Starosta (1996) believe that people have to develop their intercultural
communication competence in order to live meaningfully and productively in the
global village. According to Landis and Brislin (1983), as the workforce in various
countries becomes more culturally diverse, it is necessary to train people to
become more competent and thus to deal effectively with the complexities of new
and different environments. Thus, the issue of cross-cultural training in
developing intercultural communication competence can no longer be neglected.
People who are sent abroad must develop such competence in order to be
successful. Cross-cultural training has long been advocated as a means of
facilitating effective cross-cultural interaction (Bochner, 1982; Harris and Moran,
1979; Landis and Brislin, 1983; Mendenhall and Oddou, 1986; Tung, 1981). The
importance of such training in preparing an individual for an intercultural work
assignment has become increasingly apparent (Baker, 1984; Lee, 1983;

Tung, 1981). As Bhagat and Prien (1996, p. 216) put it, ``as international
companies begin to compete with each other in the global market, the role of
cross-cultural training becomes increasingly important.'' A comprehensive
literature review by Black and Mendenhall (1990) found strong evidence for a
positive relationship between cross-cultural training and adjustment. In addition,
another survey revealed that 86 percent of Japanese multinationals report a
failure rate of less than 10 percent for their expatriates who have received
training (Hogan and Goodson, 1990). Numerous benefits can be achieved by
giving these expatriates cross-cultural training. It is seen as: -

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A distinct advantage for organizations;

A means for conscious switching from an automatic, home-culture


international management mode to a culturally appropriate, adaptable and
acceptable one;

an aid to improve coping with unexpected events or culture shock in a new


culture;

A means of reducing the uncertainty of interactions with foreign nationals;


and

A means of enhancing expatriates' coping ability to by reducing stress and


disorientation.

It can reduce or prevent failure in expatriate assignments.

THE CROSS-CULTURAL CYCLE

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The Cross-Cultural Cycle describes the concept of cultural change which


represents a transition between one's own culture and a new culture. Cultural
change is part of a problem-solving process undergone by users. Here, the users
are identified as sojourners and expatriates who experience a new culture which
is unfamiliar and strange. In the initial stage of confrontation with the new culture,
the user experiences a culture shock. Then full or partial acculturation takes
place, depending on factors such as former experience, length of stay, cultural
distance between home and new culture, training, language competency among
other factors. The greater the users' ability to acculturate, the less the impact of
culture shock on them. The ability to acculturate and reduce the impact of the
culture shock can

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be developed through an appropriate and effective cross-cultural training. Apart


from that, training can also help the users to develop intercultural communication
competence, which is needed to adapt better and perform well in the new
environment. As a result, once sojourners and expatriates have succeeded in
completing the cycle, they will be more familiar with it the next time they confront
a new culture. The change process will be improved and becomes less
complicated. However, the success or failure of the users to adjust and perform
depends on how they respond to the cycle.

Culture
Culture is the complex whole, which includes belief, knowledge, art, law, morals
and customs and any capabilities and habits acquired by a person as a member
of a society. According to Hall (1959), culture is communication and
communication is culture.
Acculturation
Acculturation is defined as, ``Changes that occur as a result of first-hand contact
between individuals of differing cultural origins'' (Redfield et al., 1936). It is a
process whereby an individual is socialized into an unfamiliar or new culture. In
short, it refers to the level of adoption of the predominant culture by an outsider
or minority group. According to Gordon, 1967; Garza and Gallegos, 1985;
Domino and Acosta, 1987; Marin and Marin, 1990; Negy and Woods, 1992, the
greater the acculturation, the more the language, customs, identity, attitudes and
behaviors of the predominant culture are adopted. However, many sojourners
and expatriates experience difficulty in fully acculturating, only adopting the
values and behaviors they find appropriate and acceptable to their existing
cultures. It is a question of willingness and readiness.

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Culture shock
Many expatriates experience what is called ``culture shock'' when they first
confront or come into contact with a different culture. Adler (1997) defines this as
the frustration and confusion as a result of being bombarded by too many new
and un-interpretable cues. Culture shock is also the expatriate's reaction to a
new, unpredictable, and consequently uncertain environment (Black, 1990)

Cross-cultural training
Training in general can be defined as any intervention aimed at increasing the
knowledge or skills of the individual. This can help them cope better personally,
work more effectively with others, and perform better professionally. It is an
organized educational experience with the objective of helping expatriates learn
about, and therefore adjust to, their new home in a foreign land.
Cross-cultural training may be defined as any procedure used to increase an
individual's ability to cope with and work in a foreign environment. There are
many types of training that can be given to people to be sent abroad depending
upon their objectives, the nature of their responsibilities and duties, the length of
their stay, and their past experiences. As Kealey and Protheroe also point out,
``The effectiveness of the various types of training will naturally depend to some
extent on the time and resources available for undertaking them, the quality of
trainers, and the possibilities for in-country training'' (p. 149). Some of the types
of training available to expatriates are technical training, practical information,
area

studies,

cultural

awareness,

intercultural

effectiveness

interpersonal sensitivity training.

Intercultural communication competence

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skills,

and

Many theorists have wrestled with the exact nature of the definition of
``competence'' in the context of cross-cultural adaptation. However, one of its
most common definitions is ``effectiveness'' (Hawes, and Kealey, 1979; Abe and
Wiseman, 1983; Gudyskunst and Hammer, 1984). This effectiveness is generally
described in terms of skills, attitudes, or traits which the sojourner and expatriate
use to build a successful interaction (Ruben, 1976). Scholars have also argued
that the concept of communication competence can be broken down into three
broad sets of skills: affective, cognitive, and behavioral (Chen and Starosta,
1996). Wiseman and Koester (1993) examined the relationship between
intercultural communication competence, knowledge of the host culture, and
cross-cultural

attitudes.

As

result,

they

conceptualized

intercultural

communication competence as:

Culture-specific understanding of the other;

Culture-general understanding; and

Positive regard of the other.

SENSITIVITY TRAINING
Sensitivity training is about making people understand about themselves and
others reasonably, which is done by developing in them social sensitivity and
behavioral flexibility. Social sensitivity in one word is empathy. It is ability of an
individual to sense what others feel and think from their own point of view.
Behavioral flexibility is ability to behave suitably in light of understanding.

Sensitivity training is often offered by organizations and agencies as a way for


members of a given community to learn how to better understand and appreciate
the differences in other people. It asks training participants to put themselves into
another person's place in hopes that they will be able to better relate to others
who are different
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than they are. Sensitivity training often specifically addresses concerns such as
gender sensitivity, multicultural sensitivity, and sensitivity toward those who are
disabled in some way. The goal in this type of training is more oriented toward
growth on an individual level. Sensitivity training can also be used to study and
enhance group relations, i.e., how groups are formed and how members interact
within those groups.

Sensitivity Training involves such groupings as T-Groups, encounter groups,


laboratory-training groups and human awareness groups.
Sensitivity training attempts to teach people about themselves and why and how
they relate to, interact with, impact on and are impacted upon by others.
HISTORY OF SENSITIVITY TRAINING
The origins of sensitivity training can be traced as far back as 1914, when J.L.
Moreno created "psychodrama," a forerunner of the group encounter (and
sensitivity-training) movement. This concept was expanded on later by Kurt
Lewin, a gestalt psychologist from central Europe, who is credited with organizing
and leading the first T-group (training group) in 1946. Lewin offered a summer
workshop in human relations in New Britain, Connecticut. The T-group itself was
formed quite by accident, when workshop participants were invited to attend a
staff-planning meeting and offer feedback. The results were fruitful in helping to
understand individual and group behavior.

Based on this success, Lewin and colleagues Ronald Lippitt, Leland Bradford,
and Kenneth D. Benne formed the National Training Laboratories in Bethel,
Maine, in 1947 and named the new process sensitivity training. Lewin's T-group
was the model on which most sensitivity training at the National Training
Laboratories (NTL) was based during the 1940s and early 1950s. The focus of
this first group
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was on the way people interact as they are becoming a group. The NTL founders'
primary motivation was to help understand group processes and use the new
field of group dynamics, to teach people how to function better within groups. By
attending training at an offsite venue, the NTL provided a way for people to
remove themselves from their everyday existence and spend two to three weeks
undergoing training, thus minimizing the chances that they would immediately fall
into old habits before the training truly had time to benefit its students. During this
time, the NTL and other sensitivity-training programs were new and experimental.
Eventually, NTL became a nonprofit organization with headquarters in
Washington, D.C. and a network of several hundred professionals across the
globe, mostly based in universities.

During the mid-1950s and early 1960s, sensitivity training found a place for itself,
and the various methods of training were somewhat consolidated. The T-group
was firmly entrenched in the training process, variously referred to as encounter
groups, human relations training, or study groups. However, the approach to
sensitivity training during this time shifted from that of social psychology to
clinical psychology. Training began to focus more on inter-personal interaction
between individuals than on the organizational and community formation
process, and with this focus took on a more therapeutic quality. By the late
1950s, two distinct camps had been formed-those focusing on organizational
skills, and those focusing on personal growth. The latter was viewed more
skeptically by businesses, at least as far as profits were concerned, because it
constituted a significant investment in an individual without necessarily an eye
toward the good of the corporation. Thus, trainers who concentrated on
vocational and organizational skills were more likely to be courted by industry for
their services; sensitivity trainers more focused on personal growth were sought
by individuals looking for more meaningful and enriching lives.

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During the 1960s, new people and organizations joined the movement, bringing
about change and expansion. The sensitivity-training movement had arrived as
more than just a human relations study, but as a cultural force, in part due to the
welcoming characteristics of 1960s society. This social phenomenon was able to
address the unfilled needs of many members in society, and thus gained force as
a social movement. The dichotomy between approaches, however, continued
into the 1960s, when the organizational approach to sensitivity training continued
to focus on the needs of corporate personnel.

The late 1960s and 1970s witnessed a decline in the use of sensitivity training
and encounters, which had been transformed from ends in themselves into
traditional therapy and training techniques, or simply phased out completely.
Though no longer a movement of the scale witnessed during the 1960s,
sensitivity-training programs are still used by organizations and agencies hoping
to enable members of diversified communities and workforces to better coexist
and relate to each other.
PROCEDURE OF SENSITIVITY TRAINING
Sensitivity Training Program requires three steps:
1. Unfreezing the old values It requires that the trainees become aware of
the inadequacy of the old values. This can be done when the trainee faces
dilemma in which his old values is not able to provide proper guidance.
The first step consists of a small procedure:

a. An unstructured group of 10-15 people is formed.


b. Unstructured group without any objective looks to the trainer for its
guidance

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c. But the trainer refuses to provide guidance and assume leadership

d. Soon, the trainees are motivated to resolve the uncertainty


e. Then, they try to form some hierarchy. Some try assume leadership
role which may not be liked by other trainees
f. Then, they started realizing that what they desire to do and realize
the alternative ways of dealing with the situation

2. Development of new values With the trainers support, trainees begin to


examine their interpersonal behavior and giving each other feedback. The
reasoning of the feedbacks are discussed which motivates trainees to
experiment with range of new behaviors and values. This process
constitutes the second step in the change process of the development of
these values.
3. Refreezing the new ones This step depends upon how much opportunity
the trainees get to practice their new behaviors and values at their work
place.
GOALS OF SENSITIVITY TRAINING
According to Kurt Back, "Sensitivity training started with the discovery that
intense, emotional interaction with strangers was possible. It was looked at, in its
early days, as a mechanism to help reintegrate the
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individual man into the whole society through group development. It was caught
up in the basic conflict of America at mid-century: the question of extreme
freedom, release of human potential or rigid organization in the techniques
developed for large combines." The ultimate goal of the training is to have
intense experiences leading to life-changing insights, at least during the training
itself and briefly afterwards.

Sensitivity training was initially designed as a method for teaching more effective
work practices within groups and with other people, and focused on three
important elements: immediate feedback, here-and-now orientation, and focus on
the group process. Personal experience within the group was also important, and
sought to make people aware of themselves, how their actions affect others, and
how others affect them in turn. Trainers believed it was possible to greatly
decrease the number of fixed reactions that occur toward others and to achieve
greater social sensitivity. Sensitivity training focuses on being sensitive to and
aware of the feelings and attitudes of others.

By the late 1950s another branch of sensitivity training had been formed, placing
emphasis on personal relationships and remarks. Whether a training experience
will focus on group relationships or personal growth is defined by the parties
involved before training begins. Most individuals who volunteer to participate and
pay their own way seek more personal growth and interpersonal effectiveness.
Those who represent a company, community service program, or some other
organization are more likely ready to improve their functioning within a group
and/or the organization sponsoring the activity. Some training programs even
customize training experiences to meet the needs of specific companies.

The objectives of sensitivity training are: - 195 -

1. Increased understanding, insight, and self-awareness about ones own


behavior and its impact on others, including the ways in which others
interpret ones behavior.
2. Increased understanding and sensitivity about the behavior of others,
including better interpretation of both verbal and non-verbal clues, which
increases awareness and understanding of what the other person is
thinking and feeling.
3. Better understanding and awareness of group and inter-group processes,
both those that facilitate and those that inhibit group functioning.

4. Increased diagnostic skills in interpersonal and inter-group situations.

5. Improvement in individuals ability to analyze their own behavior, as well


as to learn how to help themselves and others with whom they come in
contact with to achieve more satisfying, rewarding and effective
interpersonal relationships.

CULTURAL SENSITIVITY
Extensive research across disciplines has investigated the question of how to
create culturally competent managers (e.g., Chen and Starosta, 1996; Hinckley
and Perl, 1996; Post, 1997; Shanahan, 1996; Spitzberg and Cupach, 1989).
From the numerous definitions of competence, one subsumes the ongoing
discussion quite well: competence may be described as (work-related)
knowledge, skills and aptitudes, which serve productive purposes in firms. It
distinguishes outstanding from average performers (Dalton, 1997; Kochanski,
1997; Nordhaug, 1998; Nordhaug, 1993). When operationalizing cultural
competence, previous

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research has mostly focused on one of the following dimensions: the affective
(motivation), the cognitive (knowledge) or the conative (skills) dimension.
However as results have shown, this emphasis on just one dimension falls short
of depicting this complex construct. Therefore, more recent attempts to measure
cultural competence integrate all three dimensions. Among these holistic
approaches, the so-called Third Culture Approach by Gudykunst et al. (1977)
has found a particularly widespread reception in the field. Under the ThirdCulture approach, a manager displays cultural competence, when he/she
interprets and judges culturally overlapping situations neither from an
ethnocentric perspective, nor from an idealised host culture perspective, but
assumes a neutral position. To achieve this neutral position, Gudykunst et al.
(1977) stress the importance of the affective component of cultural competence,
which may be called cultural sensitivity. In their model, cultural sensitivity is a
prerequisite which instils the acquisition of knowledge (cognitive dimension) and
skills (conative dimension). Gudykunst et al. (1977) see cultural sensitivity as the
psychological link between home and host culture. This notion clearly contradicts
the current business practice mentioned earlier, where language or professional
knowledge and skills are deemed key prerequisites for successful foreign
assignments.

Cultural Sensitivity is the ability to be open to learning about and accepting of


different cultural groups. It leads to Cultural Competency. The following diagram
shows an individuals path to cultural competency: -

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Multiculturation
Selective Adoption

Appreciation/Valuing

Acceptance/Respect
Understanding
Awareness
Ethnocentricity

Individuals Path to Cultural Competency


1. Ethnocentricity This is a state of relying on our own, and only our
own, paradigms based on our cultural heritage. We view the world
through narrow filters, and we will only accept information that fits
our paradigms. We resist and/or discard others.

2. Awareness This is the point at which we begin to realize that there


are things that exist which fall outside the realm of our cultural
paradigms.
3. Understanding- This is the point at which we are not only aware that
there are things that fall outside our cultural paradigms, but we see
the reason for their existence.

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4. Acceptance/Respect - This is when we begin allowing those from other


cultures to just be who they are, and that it is OKAY for things to not
always fit into our paradigms.

5. Appreciation/Value- This is the point where we begin seeing the worth in


the things that fall outside our own cultural paradigms.

6. Selective Adoption - This is the point at which, we begin using things that
were initially outside our own cultural paradigms.

7. Multiculturation- This is when we have begun integrating our lives with our
experiences from a variety of cultural experiences.