The impact of cultural diversity on organizational and operational risk levels

Open Access
Conference Proceedings
Authors: Pedro ÁguaArmindo FriasAnacleto CorreiaMario Simões-Marques

Abstract: The blue economy develops in a multicultural environment, posing an additional risk for the organizations involved. Operations at sea where people are involved, be it in ships or offshore infrastructures, are not free from operational risks, affecting safety of on board operations for example. Moreover, international projects and operations pursued by multinational organizations (such as UN, EU or NATO), have the potential for the risk levels to increase as a result of a particular aspect of human factor – cultural diversity. Crises response and peace operations, for instance, force teaming up people not only with different cultural backgrounds among themselves, but additionally make such teams interface with local populations whose culture is usually much different from theirs. Not being aware of the cultural differences of the involved people may lead to increased misunderstandings, unnecessary controversies, increased risks and avoidable accidents. Conflicts originate from different mental models of the world, which are developed as a consequence of the growing experience – not only within a specific social context, but also national one. Therefore, when people with different backgrounds are gathered as part of a multinational effort, the potential for misaligned perceptions and conflicts arise, and consequently organizational and operational increased risk levels.Several distinct models and frameworks exist to bring understanding over intercultural management; however, there’s barely any established taxonomy or standard model which one could refer to in order to master any situation. Among the main frameworks, we have the ones from Hall, Trompenaars, Hofstede. The purpose of this paper is to bring some clarity, and if possible order, contributing to establish a general framework as a result of the integration, or blending, of the main different ones, and as such provide guidance for professionals who have to face risks in their respective fields of work as a result of the impact of different multicultural settings. Even if the writing of this paper was done with the maritime industry in mind, which is perhaps the oldest multicultural industry in the world, the attained results and practical implications will spill over the purely maritime operations and extend their application into most multinational systems’ endeavours – be it within the business, NGO or security contexts.The methods used comprise the analysis and comparison of the main culture models and associated frameworks, clarifying where such models superimpose each other and where they are complementary. Once they are understood, it will be possible to think in terms of cause and effect and design useful procedures to support the people on the fields, hence contributing to an improved human factor paradigm in what intercultural interactions concern.The expected outcome will be a clearer and tentatively universal model – a proposed taxonomy - which may help to address, manage and keep risks derived from multicultural interactions under control, so their organizational risk level doesn’t arise as a result of such endeavours.Finally, and guided by the principle of usefulness, some practical implications will be presented and discussed; and a summary of suggested actions, followed by some conclusions.

Keywords: Culture Models, Intercultutal communication, Risk, Conflict

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe1003610

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