Among the tasks of a manager are the necessities of instructing, motivating and leading his subordinates. He may often lead by example, but as far as motivation and the issuing of directives are concerned, he will be heavily dependent on language.
Different languages are used in different ways and with a variety of effects. Hyperbolic American and understated British English clearly inform and inspire listening staff with separate allure and driving force. Managers of all nationalities know how to speak to best effect to their compatriots, for there are built-in characteristics in their language which facilitate the conveyance of ideas to their own kind. They are, in fact, only vaguely aware of their dependence on these linguistic traits which make their job easier.
With increasing globalisation, problems will arise in the following instances:
- when a manager is involved in international team building
- when he himself has to use a language other than his own
An example of situation (a) is when a Briton or American addresses a team containing, among others, Germans. The occasional quipping or half-serious remarks typical of Anglo-American managers will only too often be taken literally by Germans, who may carry out “orders” which were only being casually considered.
An example of (b) is when a Japanese managing Anglo-Saxons hints at directives in such a courteous and half-suggestive manner that all is lost in a fog of impeccable courtesy.
How does the particular genius of a certain language, manifested by its structure, vocabulary and tones, play its part in conveying instructions and inspiration to its listeners? Let us examine some of the characteristics of languages which are tools of management in the industrialized world.