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Cultural Sensitivity
Human Resources » Business Etiquettes

Chrm Message From: ayeshaa Total Posts: 36 Join Date: 14/10/2006
Rank: Executive Post Date: 06/02/2007 08:17:23 Points: 180 Location: United States


We are a manufacturing company headquarted at Indonesia & having manufacturing plants in UK, USA & Hong Kong among other countries.

We have employees being transferred from one country to the other on short or long term assignments. Cross-cultural training is conducted by the organization to equip the employees with skills to do business in a global environment. But there is much more to cross-cultural training than a crash course in etiquette or learning how to order a five-course meal. Whether in multi-cultural teams or in business interactions, the variants of cultural nuances eventually end up affecting the business.

Could anyone please suggest some interventions that we could take up to minimise this problem & have a healthy working environment for all.

Thanks in advance


Chrm Message From: rajeshroy Total Posts: 55 Join Date: 14/10/2006  
Rank: Manager Post Date: 06/02/2007 08:29:06 Points: 275 Location: United States

Hi ayesha,

Sensitivity Training involves such groupings as --T groups (T for training), encounter groups, laboratory training groups, and human awareness groups are all names usually associated with what is known as sensitivity training. Unlike training methods that serve to teach more or less predetermined content, 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. Essentially, this is accomplished by having trainees observe and analyze their own, actual, "here and now" behavior in groups.

It would be impossible to describe precisely all of the ways in which sensitivity training is conducted, since the style, content, and goals of sensitivity training depend so much upon the particular leader who conducts it. This discussion, therefore, will provide only a general description of the nature and process of sensitivity training.

What Is a T Group?

A T group consists of interdependent individuals who are committed to a shared examination of the behavior and interrelationships of themselves and others. This occurs in a seemingly unstructured setting which requires people to become more aware of and sensitive to one another's feelings and behavior. The learning situation appears to be unstructured because there is no formal lesson plan and the instructors do not teach in the traditional sense. Instead, they help people learn about themselves. Exactly what is learned is largely determined by the group members themselves, although the instructors provide some guidance. The focus of attention is not on abstractions, but on real, "here and now" behavior. Three distinguishing features of the T groups, which are as follows:

1. It is a learning laboratory.
2. It focuses on learning how to learn.
3. It does so via a "here and now" emphasis on immediate ideas, feelings, and

A learning laboratory

Not a laboratory in the usual sense, the T group is a laboratory in that it offers the opportunity for inquiry and exploration of behavior and permits experimentation with new forms of behavior. Characterized by some as a miniature society, the T group is oriented toward creating a "psychologically safe" atmosphere which is conducive to learning through exploration and experimentation with behavior. That which is learned is largely determined by what takes place among the group members. However, the instructor usually provides guidance. This guidance is usually of a nature that facilitates learning by getting trainees to pursue particular trains of thought which will lead to increased understanding of themselves and others. The goal of the T group is not to make people change. The T group is a laboratory that aims at creating a group that will provide feedback to its members in a supportive way and will thereby permit them to discover whether new behavior will yield more of what they desire from interpersonal and intergroup relationships.

The so called real world denies this. Most people are only remotely aware of their daily behavior, its effectiveness, and how it is perceived by and impacts on others. The T group encourages its members to level with each other to discover these things, which the real world largely fails to do. The T group experience encourages its members to experiment with new forms of behavior. Thus, for example, a person who is meek and timid might try a more aggressive role in a T group to discover from the eventual feedback how this new behavior affects others and whether he or she is more or less satisfied with it and its consequences.

Learning how to learn

Learning how to learn, may at first seem nonsensical. After all, haven't we all been to school for many years? However, in this we have learned to learn in a particular way.

Primarily, for most of us, that way involves learning those things we have been told from a lecture or a book. In far too many cases, it almost seems that learning was equated with memorizing.

Learning how to learn from a T group experience means essentially three things. First it means that T group participants learn that they, and not necessarily some authority figure or teacher, can provide real answers to all kinds of questions. The inductive nature of the experiences encourages participants to search for meaning from their own experiences and arrive at their own conclusions, which can be just as valid and meaningful as conclusions made by some authority.

Second, learning in a T group setting helps participants to learn to tolerate and live with ambiguity. A T group situation, for most people, is highly ambiguous. Typical reactions to it are, "What are we doing just sitting here talking aimlessly. Why doesn't the instructor teach us something?" To most people it is not clear what it is they are going to learn in such a setting. Learning how to tolerate ambiguity, to see and examine their own behavior in this kind of a setting, and then finally to make some sense out of what has occurred are some of the ways in which T groups help people learn how to learn.

Third, T groups teach their members to learn from one another and to appreciate the potential contributions others can make to their learning. Contrary to traditional education, which holds that the instructor is the only one who can teach, T groups operate primarily on the basis of lateral learning that is, learning from one's peers. Thus the instructor's role in a T group setting is played, from time to time, by whomever provides meaningful information for the group's learning. Thus, in a Tgroup, trainees help each other learn and also learn to value the help others can provide.

The here and now emphasis

The subject matter for discussion in a T group is not theories or principles or concepts or ideas that have been formulated and written down. Instead, the focus of the T-group discussion is on that which is actually happening in the present.

This provides an example of what an instructor might say as he or she starts a group session. This illustrates the kind of framework in which the here-and now discussion takes place.

This group will meet for many hours and serve as a kind of laboratory where each individual can increase his understanding of the forces which influence individual behavior and the performance of groups and organizations. The data for learning will be our own behavior, feelings, and reactions. We begin with no definite structure or organization, no agreed upon procedures, and no specific agenda. It will be up to us to fill the vacuum created by the lack of these familiar elements and to study our group as we evolve. My role will be to help the group to learn from its own experience, but not to act as a traditional chairman nor to suggest how we should organize, what our procedure should be, or exactly what our agenda will include. With these few comments, I think we are ready to begin in whatever way you feel will be most helpful.

In this unstructured situation, some members may try to take charge or monopolize the discussion. Others may remain passive. Others may criticize those who remain passive, challenging them to say something or complaining that they are not contributing or are acting superior. Others may be critical of those who try to dominate the group. Still others may try to get the instructor to take a more commanding role and be more directive. No matter what role a person plays, he or she also observes and reacts to the behavior of others. These perceptions and reactions are given as feedback and become the focus for discussion and further exploration. This is so unlike what most people are accustomed to that some degree of frustration is often experienced. Moreover, the self examination of one's behavior, or its evaluation by others, is threatening.

Assumptions Underlying Sensitivity Training

The principal assumptions underlying sensitivity training as being the following:

1. A substantial number of group members, when confronted with others' behaviors and feelings in an atmosphere of psychological safety, can produce articulate and constructive feedback.

2. A significant number of the group members can agree on the major aspects of a particular individual's behavior exhibited in the group situation. Certainly a complete consensus is not to be expected, but neither must the feedback go off in all directions. A certain degree of communality is necessary if the feedback is to be helpful for the individual.

3. Feedback is relatively complete and deals with significant aspects of the individual's behavior.

4. The behavior emitted in the group is sufficiently representative of behavior outside the group so that learning occurring within the group will carry over or transfer.

5. Psychological safety can be achieved relatively quickly (in the matter of a few hours) among either complete strangers or among associates who have had varying types and degrees of interpersonal interaction.

6. Almost everyone initially lacks interpersonal competence; that is, individuals tend to have distorted self images, faulty perceptions, and poor communication skills.

7. Anxiety facilitates new learning.

8. Finally, transfer of training occurs between the cultural island and the 'back home" situation.

Goals of Sensitivity Training

While the emphases, styles and specific goals of the multitude of sensitivity training programs vary, there does seem to be some consensus as to general goals. These include:

1. Increased understanding, insight, and self awareness about one's own behavior and its impact on others, including the ways in which others interpret one's behavior.

2. Increased understanding and sensitivity about the behavior of others, including better interpretation of both verbal and nonverbal clues, which increases awareness and understanding of what the other person is thinking and feeling.

3. Better understanding and awareness of group and intergroup processes, both those that facilitate and those that inhibit group functioning.

4. Increased diagnostic skills in interpersonal and intergroup situations. For the authors, the accomplishments of the first three objectives provide the basic tools for accomplishing the fourth objective.

5. Increased ability to transform learning into action, so that real life interventions will be more successful in increasing member effectiveness, satisfaction, output, or effectiveness.

6. Improvement in individuals' ability to analyze their own interpersonal behavior, as well as to learn how to help themselves and others with whom they come in contact to achieve more satisfying, rewarding, and effective interpersonal relationships.

Different sensitivity programs may emphasize one or more of these goals or may neglect some. However, they are goals that are common to most T groups.

Outcomes of sensitivity training

. The outcomes they depict (self, role, and organization) are only possibilities, and cannot be guaranteed for everyone attending a sensitivity training program. This is because some participants do not learn or learn very little from a T group experience, others learn some things, and others learn a considerable amount and variety of things and because programs vary so much in terms of their nature and goals. Possible outcomes are as follows:


1. Increased awareness of own feelings and reactions, and own impact on others.

2. Increased awareness of feelings and reactions of others, and their impact on self.

3. Increased awareness of dynamics of group action.

4.Changed attitudes toward self, others, and groups; i.e., more respect for, tolerance for, and faith in self, others, and groups.

5.Increased interpersonal competence; i.e., skill in handling interpersonal and group relationships toward more productive and satisfying relationships.


6. Increased awareness of own organizational role, organizational dynamics, dynamics of larger social systems, and dynamics of the change process in self, small groups, and organizations.

7. Changed attitudes toward own role, role of others, and organizational relationships, i,e., more respect for and willingness to deal with others with whom one

is interdependent, greater willingness to achieve collaborative relationships with others based on mutual trust.

8. Increased interpersonal competence in handling organizational role relationships with superiors, peers, and subordinates.


9. Increased awareness of, changed attitudes toward, and increased interpersonal competence about organizational problems of interdependent groups or units.

10. Organizational improvement through the training of relationships or groups rather than isolated individuals.

Hope that this helps in your assignment.

Cheers !

Rajesh Roy

Chrm Message From: jsahni Total Posts: 1 Join Date: 14/10/2006  
Rank: Beginner Post Date: 05/04/2010 07:04:19 Points: 5 Location: United States
Dear Rajesh,

I really like the way you have comprehensively explained the various ways and methods to improve cross cultural sensitivity.

I have traveled extensively across the globe and lived in different countries, I can understand and since I too conduct cross cultural awareness training sessions. I agree with all the points you've mentioned .

Very well put.


Jesslina Sahni