Communication is a key to work with cultural differences

Written by Student Reporter (Andina Hutahaean, Management 2022)

Different cultures have different work ethics. Kevin Evans, the Indonesian Director at Australia-Indonesia Centre, shared his experiences in dealing with the challenges he faced while managing cross-cultural conflicts (3/11/2020). 

Evans mentioned that he spent half his life in Indonesia representing the Australia-Indonesia Centre (AIC), a Melbourne-based centre focusing on relations between Indonesia and Australia. Throughout his career, he encountered a number of cultural-related issues and presented his biggest findings.“When you stop assuming how a culture works and start seeing things from their perspective, that is when you start finding answers”, Kevin said. He found that most people tend to behave logically based on the surroundings they grew up in, however, each individual’s behavior cannot be stereotyped by their culture. 

Kevin stated, “It is important to find out where differences come from. If you understand that, you may be able to make them see your point of view and vice versa. This is one way to get around culture shock and cultural conflicts.” He backed his statement with Indonesia’s case of being a mega plural society that tends to avoid conflict, instead of managing it. As an example, he used his experience in a recruitment process where he listed ethnic groups in different work divisions from 327 Indonesian districts. His research discovered that some areas only have subliminal discrimination while sudden conflicts frequently broke out in areas with the most diversity, like Ambon, Poso, Batam, Sambas, Sampit, Banyuwangi, and Jakarta. He claimed that mega plural societies are normally the ones that want to get ahead, but that could only happen if the people communicate their differences in order to manage it. “The best negotiation is by communicating, without thinking ‘what’s in it for me’ as it will create a better agreement to be reached. It’s important to treat everyone with respect since it’s just basic human decency”, Kevin concluded.