A Critical Evaluation of a Reading in Cross-Cultural Service Encounter: Exploring the Relationship between Cultural Intelligence, Employee Performance and Service Quality


Executive Summary

The article “A reading in cross-cultural service encounter: Exploring the relationship between cultural intelligence, employee performance and service quality” is a tourism and hospitality research conducted by Alshaibani and Bakir and published in 2017. The article mainly reveals the manner in which employee attitude and behavior influence the quality of service in an organization. Thus, the prime objective covered by the two authors is to explore the significance of cultural intelligence, emotional intelligence, employee attitude, and employee behavior towards performance and quality of service in the hospitality tourism domain. Acquired knowledge through cultural practices has a significant impact on the way workers relate to each other and with customers in the tourism sector. In the article, the cultural intelligence of service employees is an outstanding construct used to justify employee behavior at the workplace. Moreover, the study goes to a great extent of revealing new information regarding the relationship between cultural intelligence and service quality. The revelation is an excellent milestone since no research in the past has ever linked cultural intelligence to service excellence. In their attempts to establish a clear understanding of the relationship between cultural intelligence, employee performance, and service quality, Alshaibani and Bakir provide a brief explanation regarding role and script theories. In the role theory, customers and service employees are perceived to be social actors while in the script theory, roles are scripted, so that deviation from the script by one actor causes discomfort to another. In conclusion, the paper presents as a theoretical model of propositions which shows indirect relationships between ‘the cultural intelligence of service employees and customers’ perceptions of service quality through employee performance.’

A Critical Evaluation

Research Context

Context is key to research, and it can be the difference between study and insights (Sellers, 2015: Np). Sometimes researchers tend to overlook the concept of research context, which may lead to grave consequences such as failure to address or capture the real issues in a physical location or the even geographical environment. The research article by Alshaibani and Bakir revolves the context of employee service in the hospitality and tourism sector. Thus, the presented research is mainly influenced by cultural factors and social factors. For instance, the hospitality industry which forms the setting of the study involves visitors from different parts of the world and hosts from different communities all of whom have different cultures. Thus, the manner in which the participants are dealt with in the research environment such as the one presented in the article has a significant impact on research outcomes. This means that hostility or friendliness during the research is also experienced by the researcher and not just by other participants such as tourists and service employees. The article should have also captured how the culture of the research participants influenced results. 

Approach to Research

The approach taken in the research appears to be a pragmatic approach which enabled the authors to achieve triangulation. For instance, there is the use of several different researchers to present arguments and facts in the research; this can be termed as investigator triangulation. Triangulation, in this case, played a significant role in enabling the researchers to establish validity in the study and analyze research questions from different perspectives to be consistent in their analysis. An instance of investigator triangulation in the paper is depicted on page 250 at a point where emotional intelligence is differentiated from personality since more than one author is used to establish the difference. 

The approach taken in the research an exploratory approach since the journal embodies qualitative approach. The paper presents a qualitative analysis of the findings regarding the relationship between cultural intelligence, employee performance, and service quality. For instance, the journal maintains that role conflict in culture influences human relationships and interactions since a behavior may be perceived as appropriate by one culture and as inappropriate by the other culture. Therefore, the article argues how job is influenced by culture are expressed by Gelfand, Erez & Aycan (2007: pp. 484-485). The significance of the qualitative analytical approach adopted enables the reader to understand clearly the authors’ stance. 

Research Methods

The article is dominated by qualitative research method. Secondary sources are extensively employed in the paper at close intervals. In the article, a report concerning an experiment involving the relationship between cultural intelligence and service quality is presented through a theoretical model of propositions. The model’s formulation has a potential contribution to the literature applied in the qualitative methodology. The significance of the selected method for the research can be attributed to the fact that it enables the researcher to obtain detailed information from participants through interviews. According to Sutton and Austin (2015: p. 227), the data collection process involves collection of a significant amount of data. 

Analysis and the Importance/Value of the Article

The article is relevant because it can help improve on employee management in the tourism and hospitality domain. This can be applied to the human resource department (HRM). According to Armstrong (2014: p. 1), “HRM can be regarded as a philosophy about how people should be managed, which is underpinned by some theories relating to the behavior of people and organizations.” The journal then presents a comprehensive coverage of cultural intelligence is preferred over emotional intelligence in a business environment. However, the high level of significance of cultural intelligence over emotional intelligence does not mean that emotional intelligence should be overshadowed in a service industry. Emotional intelligence is also critical considering that it is culture specific. For instance, the development of various emotional intelligence measures to enable the investigation of cross-cultural differences. Moreover, emotional intelligence is associated with the development of a global mindset (Crowne, 2015: p. 7). Thus, by discussing the concepts of intelligent in management, the article proves to be significant since it reveals some of the most significant intelligence concepts such as emotional intelligence and how they can be applied in managing tourists and hosts in the tourism industry. 

Moreover, Alshaibani and Bakir reveal cultural intelligence as a management tool in multi-cultural environments. According to the article, cultural intelligence consists of the meta-cognitive, cognitive, motivational and behavioral component. The meta-cognitive cultural intelligence is associated with the high order of cognitive process. Thus, the article has enough knowledge to inform investors and workers in the tourism sector on what influences their performance and service quality. Also, the article is linked to a number of studies that explores human relationships on the basis of culture, intelligence, and attitude. This offers a break through to further research in hospitality tourism management. 

An Evaluation of the Importance/Impact of the Research for Managers and Scholars of Hospitality and/or Tourism Business

Managers will find the article very useful because it explains the relationship between cultural intelligence, employee performance, and service quality. Managers are entitled to ensure that employee performance and the quality of service provided by employees meet the required standards of the business. Therefore, they will find the article useful as it narrows down to service quality and explores the surrounding factors. For instance, the concept of cultural intelligence reveals how employees can be able to manage tourists from the different culture by just understanding that they view different matters from different perspectives. Furthermore, the paper hints managers on the need to educate employees on how to handle customers even if the customer’s culture appears to be offensive. The article is a great tool to improve service delivery in the tourism business. 

It is important to note that the hospitality industry is founded on service delivery. Therefore, scholars of hospitality can also find the journal useful since it educates them on matters that pertain to improved service delivery. Alshaibani and Bakir presented a clear understanding of how important it is to understand your clients in any business based on their cultural backgrounds. For instance, in the distribution of values across cultures, Americans perceive French people to be flamboyant, arrogant, and emotional, on the other hand, French people see Americans be naïve, aggressive, and unprincipled (Dennis, 2014: Np). Leaning such cultural aspects that are associated with stereotyping will equip a scholar of hospitality with the general knowledge on how to respond to treat and react to people from different cultural backgrounds.

Essay 2
Cross-Cultural Skills and Their Development

Culture refers to a set of values and beliefs in a community of people about what is permissible and impermissible (Burke, 2008: p. 29). These values dictate formal and informal practices of society. In simpler terms, culture is what we wear, the food we eat, languages we speak, what we believe, how we celebrate, how we express our imagination through art, writing, and music. Undoubtedly, culture is a beautiful aspect of life that makes interactions between different people a pleasant experience. Nonetheless, not all people hold the same sentiments. Some people feel that encounters with different cultures are uncomfortable and bothersome and would rather avoid the whole experience. That is not all – their attitudes towards different cultures are often riddled with false stereotypes. In any case, dealing with different cultures is a skill that is acquired through experiences with other cultures. This essay aims to discuss various cross-cultural attitudes, skills required and how to develop and exploit them.

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Ideally, there are a countless number of cultures worldwide. All these cultures are mostly different in almost every aspect. As mentioned above, the differences elicit different reactions in people. For instance, the dressing is one aspect that varies among cultures. In the Western countries such as Europe and America, short dresses and skirts are an acceptable form of dressing for females. In contrast, in the Arab culture, women are expected to be fully covered, and showing off skin is considered unacceptable. The difference between these two cultures is because of their priorities in values. In fact, Americans have freedom as one of their first prioritized cultural values (Kohls, 2017, par8). Hence, they exercise that freedom even in their choice of dressing. Seemingly, for Arabs, democracy is not their highest priority. Instead, they value family and parental guidance which influence even their dressing. As a person belonging to either of these cultures, it is predictable that attitudes will be formed towards each other. The westerner might view Arabs as to conservatives while the Arabs might see the westerners as too obscene. In this case, it is necessary to withhold judgment towards the other culture during interactions. 

Another aspect of culture is food. Different foods define certain cultures. Pasta, for instance is mostly associated with the Italian culture while tofu is attached to the Chinese culture. Nevertheless, there are some cultures that enjoy cuisines that are a bit outrageous. In Chinese culture, snakes, snails and crocodiles are an acceptable type of food. The idea of eating such foods seems a bit ridiculous, however, it is a most enjoyed delicacy for the Chinese. A culture that may hold the same sentiments is the African culture. The African culture believe that some animals such as snakes are evil and should be avoided at all costs. Hence, they may readily associate the Chinese with evil due to their culture. In this scenario, it is necessary to first learn about each other’s culture and beliefs. Furthermore, an attitude of tolerance is definitely required. Regarding art, many cultures indulge in this creative outlet. Artists such as Michelangelo, an Italian are renowned and praised for their artwork. One of his paintings Creation of Adam is a piece that has stood the test of time. This type of art is referred to as nude art. However, this kind of art might not be appreciated in some cultures such as Arab and African cultures. For instance, in Africa most cultures believe that displaying nudity is a taboo. In fact, in some cultures it would be punishable by death. In this case, two people from those two cultures will probably not enjoy viewing such art and might even spark a heated disagreement about morals. Nonetheless, cross-cultural skills are required for the two to co-exist. As mentioned before, this calls for tolerance from both cultures. Patience is only possible when there is cultural intelligence that allows people to interact effectively (Bucher 2008, p.14)

Language is another aspect of culture. In fact, it is the most apparent difference between cultures and a straightforward cause of frustration during interactions. The basic model of communication requires a sender and a receiver and the message and feedback is encoded and decoded (Nodquist, 2017: par 3). However, when it comes to interactions with different cultures the decoding bit is severely inhibited. Worse still, some words and phrases mean different things in different cultures. According to Sapir-Whorf hypothesis of linguistic relativity, thoughts encoded in one language are unique to that particular language (Kennison, 2013: p.23). A good is example is the British language. The words “I will bear it in mind” to a foreigner means that the person will consider the issue or point. However, to the British, it says that they have already forgotten about it. In an instance where this conversation is occurring between businesspeople, it might fail business deals due to miscommunication. In this case, the cross-cultural skill needed is the use of standard words found in the dictionary. It would be prudent to entirely avoid the use of slang, metaphors or other phrases that are unique to a particular culture. 

Apart from the differences between cultures, it is important to note that cultures are also very alike. The similarity is attributed to the human nature regardless of the culture.  Non-verbal communication is one way that acts as a reminder of our likeness. For instance, facial expressions can easily be decoded and encoded. The six primary emotions of happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, fear, and disgust are considered to be universal. Therefore, it is safe to say that cross-cultural skills heavily depend on non-verbal communication. In fact, studies have revealed that 60-70% of communication is usually non-verbal. Other non-verbal communications include eye contact, body language, hand and body gestures and tonal variations. In whichever culture, a handshake will never be misinterpreted. Body posture can communicate confidence or shyness. For instance, an upright yet relaxed body posture is associated with faith. Nonetheless, these non-verbal cues may be widely understood in all cultures but are not necessarily accepted. In Nigerian culture, the young are not allowed to make eye contact with their seniors. Also, in the Muslim culture, a hug or handshake is unacceptable between males and females. Also, some few non-verbal cues are unique to the culture. For example, a thumbs up in Iran is obscene while in Japan means boyfriend. Also, in India, nodding the head up and down says “No” and sideways means “yes.” Therefore, to alleviate the confusion in such cases, cultural intelligence comes into play. It is necessary that other cultures learn that these non-verbal cues have different meanings. 

Cross-cultural skills as seen in the previous discussion are necessary for smooth interaction between different cultures. It is therefore essential to develop these skills especially for a career in hospitality or tourism business. Such skills can be improved through cultural intelligence. Cultural intelligence is defined as the ability of people from different cultures to efficiently interact (Dyne & Ang, 2015: p.3). Understanding a culture enables one to reshape their thinking and be more tolerant and sympathetic to the culture. Consequently, one’s behavior will be more appropriate when around the people of the particular culture. Learning about the culture will mostly occur through experiences with that culture. Therefore, there are several traits that are necessary enable learning such as openness. This character requires one to be adventurous and imaginative. Also, being conscientious and sociable will ease the process. Gaining knowledge about other cultures will help especially in demystifying stereotypes held by many. In fact, stereotypes are often perceived as offensive and hurt the interaction between cultures. Most people are guilty of judging other cultures using these preconceptions; however, they should be avoided during communications. In any case, these preconceived notions are often false hence why they are loathed. 

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In conclusion, culture is a beautiful aspect of life which makes cross-cultural interactions interesting. Nevertheless, sometimes the differences between cultures cause conflict due to values and morals held by different societies. In fact, most people judge other cultures based on values from their own culture. For this reason, cross-cultural skills are vital for effective interactions especially in careers such as tourism business and hospitality. Non-verbal communication is one of the significant things that enable different cultures to interact smoothly. These cues mainly involve the dominant six emotions that are considered universal. Cultural intelligence is also critical and enables people from different cultures to behave accordingly. Furthermore, it allows for demystifying the stereotypes many hold about the culture.

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