Emotional Intelligence and Cultural Acumen

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Words: 2848 |

Pages: 6|

15 min read

Published: Feb 13, 2024

Words: 2848|Pages: 6|15 min read

Published: Feb 13, 2024

Globalisation has changed the way businesses run their operations especially in the 21st century, and because of this the world has become more interconnected than ever before which has led to many multinational companies and firms from the developed world go to new markets in other countries. In the new foreign markets, the multinationals send expatriate managers to oversee the firms progress in the foreign market and also give these managers the power to oversee operations in the respective office. Before looking at other aspects of the essay a core definition of expatriates is needed.

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Expatriates are basically individuals who travel around the world to work in other foreign countries. Expatriate managers need to have a certain level of emotional intelligence in order to get the best out of the home workers. The reason why businesses use expatriates is because it is a main method used in international strategic management, expatriates are a main part of human resources which are assets that can influence and assure competitive advantage for the multinational firm (Tan and Mahoney, 2006). Expatriates are used by the multinational firms to achieve control coordination and information processing within the multinational network (Tan and Mahoney, 2006).

Emotional intelligence is defined as an individual’s capability to manage and control their emotions as well as other peoples’ emotions. Emotional intelligence is divided into five elements which are self-awareness which can be defined as a situation where an individual is aware of their emotions and how it can affect others, self-regulation is basically how much control an individual has of their emotions, motivation is when an individual works consistently towards achieving their goal , Empathy is the ability of an individual to put themselves in someone’s shoes to earn their respect and lastly social skills is when an individual is a great communicator by building rapport with others (The Economic Times, 2019).

These aspects are important for an expatriate manager to gain favour with the home workers in order to complete business assignments efficiently however they are other factors that influence the way a business assignment can be administered.

One of the main factors in particular that affect the expatriate managers ability to oversee successful implementation of any business assignment is the difference in culture. Culture in international business is important as it affects the way business is or should be practiced in every sector of the economy, culture can be defined as the collective programming of minds, it usually manifests itself in the values of a society or country who imbedded it in business practices of the particular country (Hofstede, 2013).

Culture is subdivided into the following topics silent language, cultural values, linguistic distance and interpersonal skills (Rugman, 2009). Silent language is the brainchild of the author Edward T Hall who wrote in his article “The silent Language in overseas Business” that human beings are not aware of the power of culture, because it communicates below everyone’s’ level of consciousness in “silent languages” (Rugman, 2009). The silent language is subdivided in five main areas; Time, Space, things, friendship and agreements (Rugman, 2009).

Time communicates differently across cultures for example being on time for an appointed schedule is the norm across many European countries while across African countries people do not adhere much to the time of an appointed schedule (Rugman, 2009). Space can be applied when for example in countries such as USA the size of an office is important as the bigger the office is the more superior an individual is in a corporate setting while in Arab countries the sizes of the office do not matter (Rugman, 2009). Things or materialism is the love of expensive and trendy items which matter in countries such as the USA while countries such as India value spirituality more (Rugman, 2009). Quick friendships in the USA is more commonplace while Latin America have a slow developing friendship which creates strong social bonds (Rugman, 2009). Lastly Agreements in the USA involve signing of written contracts while in other places interpersonal relationships between business people is much more prominent than a contract (Rugman, 2009).

By using the information of silent language expatriate managers can build stronger relationships with the workers of the home country because the expatriate managers understand the basic business practices of the particular country they were sent to, which can help them achieve the business assignments they have been given however understanding silent language can get the expatriate manager so far in completing business assignments, as they may have to an aptitude in emotional intelligence especially in their social skills by building rapport with the workers who can help the manager to understand their culture.

This is especially important with distinguishing between a low context culture and high context cultures, in low context cultures the social context of communication (e.g. Who says it, when it is said) has little to do with the interpretation of what is said, examples of countries who have low context cultures are USA and Germany (Rugman, 2009). On the other hand, high context cultures can be understood through the importance of social hierarchy and relationships, Mexico and Japan have high context culture (Rugman, 2009) .

Between the years of 1968 and 1972 Hofstede had more than 100,000 employees of IBM in more than fifty countries complete a questionnaire regarding work values, based on the analysis of the data he found that they are four dimensions of culture: individualism/collectivism, power distance index, uncertainty avoidance index and masculinity/femininity index (Rugman, 2009).

Power distance can be defined as the extent to which the less powerful members of organization accept that power is distributed unequally, uncertainty avoidance is defined as the intolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity, individualism versus collectivism is the extent to which individuals are integrated into groups and lastly Masculinity versus femininity is one society attributes of assertiveness and competitiveness versus another society attributes of modesty and care (McSweeney, 2002).

Hofstede assumes that national culture is a common component of a wider culture which contains both global and sub-national constituents (McSweeney, 2002). Hofstede also assumed that national culture is Territorially unique as National culture is not theorized as the only culture, or the totality of cultures, within a nation, but by definition it culturally distinguishes the members of one nation from another (McSweeney, 2002).

Hofstede claims that every national population somehow shares a unique culture. By the term national culture Hofstede means the culture of a country or state and not necessarily of a nation (McSweeney, 2002). For example, in a country like Kenya individuals think about the collective benefits of their society e.g. Family, tribe etc. which helps them determine most of their decisions in life which is way different that of a country like Britain which the individuals care more about self-gain than anything else. This shows that Kenyans are more collective than individualistic and British are more individualistic than collective.

Hofstede scored fifty-one countries in his case study he noticed that the more individualistic countries such as United States that group membership and social ties are not of importance while in highly collective countries such as Japan society cohesion is of great importance (Rugman, 2009). High power distance index countries such as Mexico, social hierarchies are salient and behaviours differ according to an individual’s social status, in a low PDI countries such as Australia democratic values strongly influence behaviour and social status distinctions are ignored and even denigrated (Rugman, 2009). Uncertainty avoidance can be best explained by comparing two countries for example, the Japanese like to avoid risks while the Chinese welcome uncertain risks openly (Rugman, 2009).

A high score in masculinity shows that society is driven by competition, achievement and success with success being defined by the winner or the best in a field for example in the UK they have a high score in masculinity score whereas in Finland they have a low masculinity score which shows they lean towards the feminine aspect (Hofstede Insights, 2019). This means Finland cares about the quality of life and individuals are more caring about one another (Hofstede Insights, 2019).

Expatriate managers can use Hofstede model to understand the difference of cultures between their home countries and their assigned country of work, they can use the four dimensions of culture to adapt and implement strategies in the workplace which do not deviate from the employees cultural behaviours and practices however to use this effectively the managers may have to use emotional intelligence in conjunction with Hofstede model but especially two elements mainly Empathy which can help the manager understand their culture and social skills which can be used to effectively communicate the manager goal towards the employees.

However, this model might not be very accurate as cultures might change within every country and can leave the information provided false rendering the exercise useless.

Interpersonal skills are needed by expatriate managers because these skills affect how well the assignment has been done by the subordinates. Interpersonal skills are needed due to cultural differences which can cause problems in the undertaking of the business assignment, they are four levels of cultural differences which are language, non-verbal behaviours, values and thinking decision (Rugman, 2009).

By the expatriate having good proficiency in the language of the host country, observing non-verbal cues, also by the expatriate knowing the cultural values and how they influence decisions in the host country it will increase the success rate of the business assignment. This factors also add up to cross-cultural learning that will greatly help the expatriate’s professional life while managing the business within the parameters of a different culture (Ching Ko and Li Yang, 2019).

Cross cultural training goal is to help employees feel comfortable living and working in a host country which can increase the ability to understand and appreciate multiple cultural perspectives (Ching Ko and Li Yang, 2019). This can increase the chances of expatriate assignments being a success, cross cultural training can help in managing change in terms of personal and professional transition, managing cultural differences and managing their responsibilities within a different cultural environment (Ching Ko and Li Yang, 2019).

Cross cultural training can be used in the following methods: the cognitive approach, the Affective approach and the Experiential approach (Ching Ko and Li Yang, 2019). The cognitive approach deals with learning of information in which the basic assumption is that knowledge can increase empathy which in return can modify behaviour that can improve intercultural relationships (Ching Ko and Li Yang, 2019). This knowledge is provided by culture-orientation programs designed to provide trainees with information regarding the history, the geography, the religion, the people, the economy, and the way of life of the target culture (Ching Ko and Li Yang, 2019).

Affective approach is the learning of information or skills via techniques that raise affective responses on the part of the trainee, which results in cultural insights. Affective approach is also influenced by cultural assimilation, sensitivity training, attribution training and cultural awareness (Ching Ko and Li Yang, 2019).

Cultural assimilation assists members of one culture to interact and adjust successfully with members of another culture, attribution training enables trainees to develop similar attributes and to handle discomfort expectation as well as possible, in order to internalize the values and standards of the host country (Ching Ko and Li Yang, 2019).

Cultural awareness training is the study of the trainee’s home culture and its effect on their behaviour to enable the trainee to understand the essence of cultural differences (Ching Ko and Li Yang, 2019).

Sensitivity training leads the trainees to understand their own values and culture and to be aware of cultural differences by demonstrating a behaviour that may be completely different from that of their own culture (Ching Ko and Li Yang, 2019).

Experiential approach refers to techniques that provide realistic simulations or scenarios to the trainee such as assessment centres, field simulations. The nature of the approach is learned by doing which means it is a experience based approach in which techniques such as role playing, intercultural workshops and simulations are used in experiential learning (Ching Ko and Li Yang, 2019).

The advantages of this approach are that it helps trainees develop the skills necessary for effective performance, for more positive interaction with locals however this claim is not backed up by any empirical evidence (Ching Ko and Li Yang, 2019).

Trainees however can develop their skills by gaining field experience means sending e.g. Expatriate to the assigned country or to micro-cultures nearby so that they can experience the emotional stress of living and working within different cultures, by coupling this empathy this can help the manager understand the challenges the home workers go through and the expatriates can motivate them using non-financial rewards such as holidays, insurance etc. if they work to a certain standard. This in turn can help expatriates achieve their business assignments (Ching Ko and Li Yang, 2019).

Linguistic distance is important aspect for expatriates as language is an important aspect of culture and linguistic distance can be useful metric for cultural differences because researchers have determined that languages around the world conform to “family trees” based of their similarity of their forms and development an example of this is that Spanish, French and Italian have common roots in Latin (Rugman, 2009). However even though they have common roots in Latin these languages are different from each other in pronunciation of words etc. which can be a problem for an expatriate who is Italian going to France to complete assignment (Rugman, 2009).

The only way to bridge the gap between the Expatriate and home worker is to implement language training. By using Language training, it will increase the expatriate’s language ability which comprises various dimensions such as speaking, writing, and comprehension of the host country language (Selmer and Lauring, 2015). Language proficiency, familiarity with cultural differences, values and norms are seen as cornerstones of expatriate adjustment with language itself being a crucial instrument by which expatriates develop their understanding of the new culture (Selmer and Lauring, 2015).

However, the expatriate might experience language difficulties which is the extent of difficulty with which resident adult foreign nationals may be able to learn the host country language due to some country specific circumstances (Selmer and Lauring, 2015). But by moving past this language difficulties the expatriate can improve his/her social skills to a point where they can be more relatable with the home country staff which would make achieving their goals easier (Selmer and Lauring, 2015).

An expatriate can still fail to complete their assignments due to the following reasons comprise of four distinct categories: job and work environment factors, family factors, organizational support, and contextual factors in the host country (Cole and Nesbeth, 2014). Job and work environment factors focus on a lack of role clarity which can affect job satisfaction and performance outcomes which leads to the expatriate having little to no promotion opportunities (Cole and Nesbeth, 2014). Family factors include issues such as family concerns due to a spouse’s inability to adapt to the culture which can lead to the expatriate wanting to leave the country (Cole and Nesbeth, 2014). Organizational support is the number of resources provided by the organization to the expatriate and family e.g. Tax advice however it does not pay attention to professional and social skills for expatriates to adjust in the new location e.g. Career counselling (Cole and Nesbeth, 2014). Contextual factors focus on cultural adjustments in terms of languages, values of an expatriate which has a profound impact on their success (Cole and Nesbeth, 2014).

In conclusion for an expatriate to be successful in their business assignment they need a good grasp of emotional intelligence and a high understanding of the country’s culture they are being posted to, with high understanding of aspects such as cultural dimensions, silent language, linguistic distance and interpersonal skills used in conjunction with emotional intelligence the expatriate can succeed but without the understanding of either of these aspects they will fail.

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  2. The Economic Times. (2019). What is Emotional Intelligence? Definition of Emotional Intelligence, Emotional Intelligence Meaning - The Economic Times. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Dec. 2019].
  3. Hofstede, G. (2013). Culture's consequences: comparing values, behaviors, institutions,and organizations across nations. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage, p.1.
  4. Rugman, A. (2009). The Oxford handbook of international business. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford Press, pp.504-505.
  5. McSweeney, B. (2002). Hofstede’s Model of National Cultural Differences and their Consequences: A Triumph of Faith - a Failure of Analysis. Human Relations, [online] 55(1), p.91. Available at: .
  6. Hofstede Insights. (2019). Country Comparison - Hofstede Insights. [online] Available at:,the-uk/ [Accessed 28 Dec. 2019].
  7. Ching Ko, H. and Li Yang, M. (2019). The Effects of Cross-Cultural Training on Expatriate Assignments. [ebook] Intercultural Communication Studies, pp.158-161. Available at: [Accessed 29 Dec. 2019].
  8. Selmer, J. and Lauring, J. (2015). Host country language ability and expatriate adjustment: the moderating effect of language difficulty. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, [online] 26(3), p.403. Available at: [Accessed 3 Jan. 2020].
  9. Cole, N. and Nesbeth, K. (2014). Why Do International Assignments Fail?. International Studies of Management & Organization, [online] 44(3), pp.68-70. Available at: [Accessed 5 Jan. 2020]. 
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Emotional Intelligence and Cultural Acumen. (2024, February 13). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 28, 2024, from
“Emotional Intelligence and Cultural Acumen.” GradesFixer, 13 Feb. 2024,
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