Research Proposal: Cross Culture Communication

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Cross-Culture Communication

Cross-Cultural Communication -- the E-Mail at Dewey Ballantine, LLP

Analysis of the Situation

The final years of the twentieth century have seen the wakening of globalization, a practice by which territorial boundaries are lifted and the free circulation of merchandise, capitals, people and even cultural, technological or political values is strongly encouraged. Within workplace climates, this materialized in the creation of a highly diverse workforce. But the increased levels of diversity brought about a series of internal problems, generally pegged to misunderstandings, mistakes or lack of sensitivity in cross cultural communications (Pope-Davis, 2003).

Such a situation occurred at prestigious law firm Dewey Ballantine LLP not once, but twice, in the course of the past six months. With both occasions, the company made the news in a means they would not have wanted. On the first instance, the subject of the dispute was the skit presented by the Dewey Ballantine employees, mocking the firm's closing down of its Hong Kong office. The second time, a firm-wide e-mail was sent about some puppies that needed a home. The statement which made the news was the plea to not "let these puppies go to a Chinese restaurant" (Tuleja, 2005). In both instances, a great turmoil was generated.

The immediate outcome in the first scenario was that of canceling company parties, as they had already moved passed a point of utility. In the case of the second incident, the company send apologies for the message wrote by one of their employees -- Douglas L. Getter -- and argued that not only does the company not believe in such statements, their opinions are 180 degrees different and additionally, that measures would be taken. A proposed endeavor was that of offering sensitivity training. In the end however, little remained to be done aside from continuing to apologize.

A better understanding of the situation requires a deeper look at elements such as the biased understanding of several parties involved, the stakes of several categories of stakeholders, potential reputation loses or prospective solutions. From the standpoint of the organization, the main issue is explained as an unintentional lack of sensitivity towards the Chinese culture. The skit was for once offensive and inappropriate as it mocked the accent of the Chinese people and created and fed stereotypes. The second incident revealed a gross misinformation relative to the Chinese cuisine (as an integrant part of the national culture) and insinuated that Chinese people consume dog meat on regular basis. This in fact is not the case, as while one could, on rare occasions, encounter dog meat in the rural regions of China, this will not occur in Chinese households and restaurants located anywhere on the globe (Tuleja). All in all, the company's formal stand is that the two incidents did not represent attacks on the Asian-American community, but were isolated misunderstandings that do not, in any way, represent the stand of Dewey Ballantine.

The stakeholders generically represent the totality of individuals and/or groups of individuals who impact or are impacted by the company's actions, decisions etc. (LaGuardia, 2004). Within the context of the given situation at the law firm, the main categories of stakeholders that stand to influence or be influenced are the company's employees, the customers and nongovernmental, not-for-profit institutions. First off, the employees could feel pressure and even shame from working for an entity which is publicly perceived as stereotyping the Asian-American minority community. This could materialize in loss of employee on the job motivation and satisfaction, which could culminate in low performances or even higher rates of employee turnover. In case of the employees, the direct impact is given by the negative connotation of being associated with a company which apparently forwards discriminatory and stereotypical statements.

Then, one must not forget that Dewey Ballantine works with clients from the Forbes 100 List, and that these organizations have made it a clear objective to support culturally diverse working environments. Then, customer dissatisfaction -- and as such the loss of the customer with the adjacent money -- could occur due to reduced employee performances. With regard to the latter category, it has to be noted that groups such as that formed from Asian-American law students are already discussing boycotting Dewey Ballantine. This could impact the law firm in several instances, two of the most important ones being the reduced ability to attract new employees and the severe attack on the company's reputation.

In terms of reputation, this could be damaged by a public perception of the company as one which allows stereotyping and politically incorrect behavior towards minorities. The email and the skit could be perceived as the beginnings of other incidents putting down the Asian-American community. Alongside with the loss of credibility, the loss of reputation could also translate into the emergence of numerous other problems. For once, customers could lose their trust in the entity, and could sign off their contracts, which would materialize in substantial financial and prestige loses for Dewey Ballantine.

Then, with the loss of customers and reputation, the company's financial stability could be affected in the meaning that the value and market price of the stock could decrease. Consequently, the company's access to financial resources, including bank loans, could decrease as the institution would be perceived as higher risk. The cost of capital would also significantly increase. Finally, the loss of reputation also means a reduced ability to attract and retain the best lawyers, which in turn materializes in a reduced ability to attract and retain customers and so on. In a nutshell, the loss of reputation triggers a chain reaction of negative events.

A next issue which should be addressed refers to the importance in time of the current situation. Generally, if the e-mail message had been an isolated incident, chances are that it would have created some turmoil for the time being, but would have soon been forgotten. Yet, since the e-mail incident was preceded by the skit incident, and since both prejudiced the same national minority, chances are that the repercussions will be felt for longer periods. Given this status, it is highly likely that complaints and animosity against Dewey Ballantine persist for some time in the future. The conclusion is also supported by the intense feelings manifested by the Asian-American society against the law firm.

Given this context, it becomes rather obvious that Dewey Ballantine will not be able to lay low and wait for the crisis to pass. Similarly with the expected animosity, had this incident been an isolated one, the law company could have waited it out. However, the "puppies in Chinese restaurants" reference was the second offense against the Asian-American community and could even be portrayed as the second in a potential series of future attacks on the Chinese population and their culture. The company could now be negatively associated with stereotyping and could face numerous repercussions. This translates into the impossibility of taking a low profile and waiting for the crisis to resolve on its own, or be forgotten.

Jokes circulate that political correctness is more drastic than the communist censorship. In some aspects, this could be true. In this situation however, it is not, and the clear and cut answer is once more due to the precedent with the skit. If this "puppies in Chinese restaurants" comment had been an isolated one, it could have been perceived as an overreaction to political correctness.

Yet, it was preceded by the skit incident and the continuation of stereotyping behavior means that this is no longer a simple overreaction. Given the severity of the situation, it is necessary for the managerial team at Dewey Ballantine to take more proactive measures, such as the implementation of sensitivity training programs or the implementation of repercussions against those who do not show the proper respect to multicultural diversity issues.

2. Proposed Course of Action

The situation is as follows -- Dewey Ballantine has twice in the past six months been targeted by the media as the centerfold of denigrations of the Chinese community. In both cases, the managerial team clearly stated that the two situations represented unfortunate, but isolated incidents. Additionally, they argued that neither the skit nor the e-mail represented the official stand of the company, but that the law firm is detached from the views presented in both scenarios. In their own words: "This isn't Dewey Ballantine: this isn't who we are. This isn't the firm that they joined. it's not emblematic or symptomatic of who we are" (Tuleja). Despite this vehement opposition to the views forwarded through the skit and the e-mail, the company officials have done little to exonerate the company from negative publicity. All they did in fact was to apologize to everyone emotionally hurt by the two statements.

But, as mentioned throughout the previous analysis, the multicultural diversity issue has reached high levels within Dewey Ballantine law firm, meaning that the managerial team must become engaged in more proactive actions in order to get the company through these tough times. First of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Cross Culture Communication.  (2009, October 14).  Retrieved December 11, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/cross-culture-communication/696472

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"Cross Culture Communication."  14 October 2009.  Web.  11 December 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/cross-culture-communication/696472>.

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"Cross Culture Communication."  Essaytown.com.  October 14, 2009.  Accessed December 11, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/cross-culture-communication/696472.