Sample Business Paper on Exploration of Barriers to Effective Business Communication in Saudi Arabia

Chapter 1: Introduction

1.1    Introduction

As business organizations are globalizing and increasing their participation in international business the gap in understanding of the international cultures and corporate practices tend to generate pertinent barriers to effective business communication (Traux, 2008). Such business organizations that operate in an international market work like any other social system where the human resources are responsible for executing the primary business functions and responsibilities, which makes effective communication as the key to facilitating operational efficiency and fulfillment of the research objectives. Business organizations in the international business environment require effective communication at various levels and with a comprehensive range of entities such as culturally diverse employees, customers, suppliers, and the host government (Liu, Volcic and Gallois, 2014).

Within such an environment, communication plays a fundamental role in the exchange of information or ideas, negotiating, decision-making, motivating, and leading. The factors such as cultural understanding, organizational operations and internal culture, language and application of technology play a crucial role in effective business communication. An inadequate understanding of the role of these factors transforms them into pertinent barriers that influence effective business communication in organizations operating in the international business environment (Turner and Reinsch, 2007). In this respect, this research seeks to study and determine the communication challenges in the context of Saudi Arabian organisations.

1.2    Research Background

The examination of the literature has emphasised on two distinct paradigms regarding business communication (Louhiala-Salminen and Kankaanranta, 2009). In this regard, the first paradigm asserts that business communication is a phenomenon that prevails in the interpersonal discourse and interaction in organisations. According to this paradigm, organisations are the main focal point for the process or phenomenon of communication. This view leads the organisations to emphasise on communication as a function like sales or marketing functions. However, this paradigm is criticised for being too narrow and presented a restricted view of communication. Therefore, in contrast to this, the second paradigm views the organisation as an entity created by the means of communication with the help of which it operates (Louhiala-Salminen and Kankaanranta, 2009).

In this regard, the analysis of the organisational discourse refers to explaining and describing the fundamental basis of the existence of organisations. The literature has emphasised that as the principles of management, sociology, economics and psychology are capable of explaining organisational processes; communication can also be considered as a distinct means of explaining or understanding the existence of an organisation. Communication is thus emphasised as a creative force that triggers processes and phenomenon in organisations. This paradigm thus argues that an organisation is not merely a focal point for the process of communication, but it is the origin, outcome as well as the manifestation of the entire communication impulse (Louhiala-Salminen and Kankaanranta, 2009).

As business communication is explained as the process of sharing information with the organisational stakeholders, which plays a highly significant role in controlling and managing the human resource of the organisational towards the accomplishment of organisational goals. In addition to, serve as a fundamental basis of decision making, negotiation and collaboration for business growth, communication also plays a key role in motivating, leading and managing the workforce (Guffey and Loewy, 2015). Therefore, it is critical to the internal, as well as, external growth and success of the organisation. In this regard, although the phenomenon of globalisation has narrowed geographical boundaries, it has led to the emergence of cultural diversity as a key challenge to international business communication, which is one of the major factors for ineffective business communication in organisations (Martin and Chaney, 2012). 1.3 Research Problem

Achieving effective communication has emerged as a pertinent challenge within the pursuit of globalisation because of the diversity of human perceptions, cultures, corporate practices and legal and social environments. The international economic downturn has created a significantly negative impact on the business environments of the Gulf countries. This negative influence is primarily caused because of some pertinent barriers associated with cross-cultural communication along with the factors such as competition, documentation, payments and government regulations (Chadee, Roxas and Rogmans, 2014).  The cross-cultural barriers cause serious issues related to the interpretation of business and interpersonal communication, which has a direct bearing on the decision making and management in the organisations. Such barriers to effective business communication directly influence the growth and expansion of the Saudi Arabian organisations in the international market (Dadfar et al., 2003).

According to the report by the Economist (2012), effective cross-border communication and collaborations are critical to improving the performance and financial success of the companies aspiring for international growth. The literature has emphasised that ineffective communication in the international business environment is one of the major obstructions to the international transactions, which eventually leads to the financial and productivity losses for the organisations. It has also been examined that the differences in cultural traditions, workplace culture and latest information technology are major causes of the misunderstanding and miscommunications which serve as greatest obstacles in productive international collaborations (Economist, 2012). This research thus seeks to examine the types and communication barriers and their impact on effective business communication in Saudi Arabian companies that have expanded in the western countries, as well as, the western companies that are established in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The study explores the main factors that cause such barriers to effective communication, their impact on business performance and the ways in which these organisations can overcome such barriers and trigger international growth and expansion.

1.4 Research Aim and Objectives

The main aim of this research is to explore the major barriers to business communication and their impact on effective business communication in Saudi Arabian organisations while dealing with international businesses and the International businesses while operating the Saudi Arabia.  This aim seeks to understand the various factors that serve as hurdles in business communication, their impact on effective business communication and explore more appropriate and pertinent ways in which such organisations can overcome barriers to international business communication. To fulfil this aim, some objectives have been developed. These are:

  • To explore the requirement of effective communication in business organisation to develop a detailed understanding about the significance and purpose of effective communication in an organisation
  • To investigate the factors that communication barriers in Saudi Arabian organisation that have operations in western countries and the international organisations that operate in Saudi Arabia. The objective will help in exploring the major challenges and barriers of communication among these organisations
  • To analyse the impact of communication barriers on the performance of Saudi Arabian organisation that have operations in western countries and the international organisations that operate in Saudi Arabia
  • To explore the ways in which the examined organisations can overcome barriers associated with international business communication so that suitable recommendations can be provided to the examined organisations with the help of the research findings

1.5 Research Question

The research question has been developed to direct the focus of the study. The research question is, “What are the major barriers to communication in Saudi Arabian companies and how does these barriers hamper the effective business communication in the companies of Saudi Arabia that operate in foreign countries and companies of foreign origin that operate in Saudi Arabia?”

1.6 Organisation of the Research

To conduct an effective and knowledgeable research, it is essential to establish an appropriate structure to facilitate a systematic flow of the information. The systematic orientation of the research allows the researcher to direct the flow of the information in the research in an organised manner that assists in addressing the research objectives in the most efficient manner. For this purpose, the entire research work has been classified into five main chapters. The composition of the content of each chapter has been discussed below:

Chapter 1: Introduction – This is the first chapter of the dissertation and has presented an introduction to the subject of the research with the purpose of familiarising the readers with the subject and context of research. This chapter also includes the aim and objectives of the research along with the central research question. In addition to that, the research problem is also elaborated in this chapter.

Chapter 2: Literature Review- The second chapter of the dissertation seeks to gather and compile in-depth information on the types of barriers to business communication encountered by Saudi Arabian organisations and the ways in which they can be addressed to enhance growth in the international market. For this purpose, the theoretical and conceptual data has been gathered from various relevant secondary data collection sources such as books, journals, academic publications and scholarly articles. The aim of this chapter is to highlight the gap in the prevailing literature and develop a robust and well-researched theoretical and conceptual foundation for the research.

Chapter 3: Research Methodology- This chapter has explained the research methods, tools and techniques that have helped inefficient data collection, examination and analysis to address the research objectives successfully. The description of the research methods has been described and explained along with the main underlying logic and assumption behind their application in the research. The key focus of this chapter has been the 5Ws that stands for who, what, why, where and when for the collection and analysis of the research data. This chapter serves as a framework that guides and directs the scope of the research to facilitate addressing the research objectives successfully.

Chapter 4: Data Analysis and Discussion- This chapter presents the data findings gathered with the help of survey conducted with the managers of Saudi Arabia business organisations. The overall findings have been presented and discussed with the help of graphical and descriptive analysis methods. The chapter also includes a discussion of the analysed findings in the light of the data gathered from the secondary sources in the form of literature review.

Chapter 5: Conclusion and Recommendations- This is the last chapter of the chapter and presents the conclusion for the overall research on the basis of the interpretation of the findings and the inference drawn from the discussion of the research findings. For this purpose, the chapter addresses each objective defined in the introduction chapter with the help of the research findings. In addition to that, some pertinent and useful recommendations have also been presented in this chapter to guide the Saudi business organisations to overcome barriers to international business communication.


Chapter 2: Literature Review

2.1 Introduction

The section of the literature review holds critical importance in the research lifecycle as it critically evaluates the scholarly journals written by eminent authors pertaining to the phenomenon under consideration (Ridley, 2012). In this essence, the views and perceptions of the authors are discussed in the light of the established research aims and objectives so as to develop a theoretical framework for the research with the help of the existing literature. The literature has also assessed the phenomenon under consideration with the help of the well-defined theories and model so as to develop a better understating of the research purpose (Ridley, 2012).

In the context of the present research study, the literature has focussed on exploring the existing information on the concept of business communication and the key challenges faced by the Saudi companies in effectively complying with the standard practices of business communications. The research-centric data included in this chapter has also highlighted the impact and such barriers and the way they restrict the sustainable growth of Saudi organisations.

2.2 Need and Requirement for Effective Communication in Business Organisations

Guffey and Loewy (2015) defined business communication as the process of information sharing among the organisational stakeholders directed towards ensuring financial benefit to the organisation and interaction within the organisational hierarchies. This phenomenon helps in controlling and directing the people towards the achievement of the set goals and objectives (Guffey and Loewy, 2015). The practice of providing feedback is, therefore, considered to be an integral part of business communication wherein the expectation and output can be made well-aligned. This helps in identifying and highlighting the loopholes in the business processes so that relevant improvements can be made. In this essence, the need for business communication has been established against the prevalence of misunderstandings, dissatisfaction and confusion among the organisational employees and employers, thereby obstructing the sustainable growth of the business (Pakbaz et al., 2014; Abdin, 2008; Jenifer and Raman, 2015). This practice can be carried out either in the verbal form or through non-verbal messages to ensure that the intended message is relayed among the internal and external stakeholders of the company (Guffey and Loewy, 2015).

Along with employee satisfaction and motivation, Conrad and Newbeery (2011) perceived that the competency of business communication among employees help in exploiting their potential to the maximum, thereby enhancing their performance. Business communication entails various communication skills, such as mentoring and conflict resolution, which facilitate the establishment of such an organisational environment that is conducive and favourable for the employees and employers (Conrad and Newbeery, 2011). Apart from these skills, the authors have also highlighted the importance of optimism, persuasion and motivation, as the critical aspects of the leadership skills, which help in ensuring effective communication in organisations. In order to ensure that the interpersonal relationship within the organisations and other associated stakeholders are cordial, harmonious and favourable, the presence of active speaking and listening, as well as relation and trust building, has regarded to be the prerequisite requirement (Conrad and Newbeery, 2011; UK Trade and Investments, 2013). These communication skills enable the organisational stakeholders to be well-connected and align their personal goals with that of the organisation.

According to the viewpoint of Fielding (2006), there are three major organisational functions that require the establishment of effective communication strategies. In this context, the most critical function is helping the employees and employers in the process of the generation of new ideas, as well as the adaptation to the organisational changes (Fielding, 2006). Along with this, the function of generating the best quality products and services require seamless communication among the involved stakeholders involving the process of appreciation, feedback and improvements. Lastly, in order to ensure the achievement of organisational objectives, employees and employers cannot work in isolation due to the requirement of a collaborative work environment (Fielding, 2006). This further leads to the interaction among these stakeholders so as to put in combined efforts and capitalise on the expertise of all the involved organisational resources. Therefore, this leads to the requirement of an effective

Martin and Chaney (2012) have highlighted another critical requirement for business communication in terms of narrowing the geographical boundaries for interaction with external stakeholders of the company. This basically involves the interaction with other foreign companies for carrying out business operations due to various factors, such as expansion or diversification. Such interaction involves cultural and linguistic differences, which make the medium of business communication highly precise and significant (Martin and Chaney, 2012). In such international business practices, emotion and reason are the two aspects that define the course of the business communication. The business culture and values change drastically across national boundaries, which make the presence of appropriate business communication necessary in order to establish a two-way interaction platform. Globalisation has resulted in an undeniable need for narrowing the geographical boundaries for expanding business operations and including the element of diversity in the workforce (Martin and Chaney, 2012). This need for business communication, thus, crops up when interacting with people in the business environment, who belong to a different background and culture.

In line with the need for international business presence for organisations, Schmidt et al. (2007) have discussed the interdependent and integrated global economy, which has declined the barriers to technological advancements and cross-border trade. In the lieu of this international expansion, organisations are seeking to the creation of such communication strategies that can support the achievement of their overall objectives and strategies. This has also led to the requirement of effective communication strategies so as to communicate with the foreign stakeholders belonging to varied cultural and language backgrounds (Schmidt et al., 2007). Therefore, a common platform for business communication is necessary to establish dialogue transfer between the stakeholders belonging and dwelling in different countries.

Rentz, Flatley and Lentz (2011) have discussed a communication model for explaining the role of effective communication in the contemporary business environment. The model has described the use of basic sensory organs, such as tongue, skin, nose, ears and eyes to be the basic aspects of communication, which can be either verbal or non-verbal. According to this theory, the communication process is undertaken in five stages that include the sending and responding to a particular message (Rentz, Flatley and Lentz, 2011). The first two stages are concerned with the detection of the useful information from the message received from the person.

In a similar manner, the third stage defines and filters the gained message with the help of which a meaning can be formed with respect to the message. The last two stages are related to forming and sending an appropriate response to the message so that a chain of interaction can be developed (Rentz, Flatley and Lentz, 2011). Business communication, in this essence, can be defined as a complex procedure involving the generation and exchange of ideas, the medium of interaction, encoding and decoding the message and finally providing a feedback for the message (Rentz, Flatley and Lentz, 2011; Baric, Jelovac and Fain, 2013). The same message can be perceived differently by different people depending on their pick-up power. Therefore, this theory emphasises the presence of knowledge, intelligence, experiences and emotions to be critical components in ensuring effective business communication.

2.3 Overview of the Business Culture in the KSA

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the largest country of the Arabian Peninsula, has an oil-dominated economy and is taking rigorous steps to diversify its economic structure so as to make a global presence and be well-aligned with the practices of globalisation. As stated by Dlabay and Scott (2005), the culture of Saudi Arabia is dialogue-oriented and multi active with adequate compliance with the Islamic principles. In line with the Islamic culture, Arabic is spoken as the national business language for communication, which is a hyperbolic language wherein the culture prefers to overly praise and comment on the merits of others in the work environment (Dlabay and Scott, 2005; Albougami, 2015). The business culture in the KSA poses numerous challenges for women, which restricts their participation in the labour market. This is due to the prevalence of orthodox and conservative cultural norms in the country wherein the practice of gender segregation is extensively practiced.

In the perception of O’Kane (2013), the existence of cordial personal relationships holds significant importance for ensuring successful business in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Along with this, respecting and knowing the basic Islamic principles also serves as a favourable foundation in order to earn the trust of both, employees and employers (O’Kane, 2013; Rentz, Flatley and Lentz, 2011). However, due to the presence of gender segregation, the norms that are applicable for men might not be applicable for women. This has also been supported by the thoughts of Stenslie (2012), who has stated that Saudi men are reluctant to conduct a meeting in the presence of a women or Saudi women, when attending a business meeting, should be accompanied by a male member, which is not applicable to the Saudi men (Stenslie, 2012; Grasso, Golen and Burns, 2005). Along with this, the business etiquette for clothing also varies for men and women in Saudi Arabia wherein women have to face more stringent rules and policies.

Wang (2008) has discussed that, with respect to practices of business communication prevalent in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, an indirect form of communication is preferred and adopted. However, the Saudi business culture tends to ensure the considerable presence of interpersonal communication within the business practices with the exchange of pleasantries, before discussing business. Business and familial hierarchy holds significant importance in the business communication practices in Saudi Arabia, which outlines the importance of deferring to the most senior personnel and using the titles while communicating with the colleagues (Wang, 2008). This has been further elaborated by Peng (2010), who stated that Saudi managers are generally loud as compared to business people from other countries, such as the UK, wherein the western culture prevails, which is regarded to be more subdued (Peng, 2010). Therefore, while carrying out business relations on international basis, it is important to be aware of the basic understanding regarding the cultural and linguistic background of the foreign country so as to avoid any misunderstanding.

Peng (2010) has also discussed on the business communication styles adopted in the organisational culture prevalent in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by stating that the Saudi business are upfront and believe in providing honest feedback. This is regarded to be one of the most advantageous characteristics of the Saudi business culture so as to avoid any manipulation in interacting with other colleagues, subordinates and seniors (Peng, 2010). In this essence, the practice of appreciation is explicitly undertaken, which is accepted and reciprocated graciously. In addition to this, criticism and negative feedback is communicated in an implied so that the established business relations do not get tainted. This is regarded to be a crucial business practice with the help of which the employees are motivated, satisfied and driven to perform better for the achievement of personal and organisational goals (Peng, 2010).

In the perception of Hans and Hans (2014), the maintenance of an adequate coordination within the various functional processes undertaken in the business organisations operating in Saudi Arabia can be ensured with the help of effective practices of business communication. This requires the basic knowledge and understanding of the foreign languages with the knowledge of the English language being mandatory. Along with this, business communication in the country is also promoted with gaining cross-cultural understanding in the context of carrying out cross-border trade activities with foreign companies (Almutairi, 2015). These factors are considered to be critical in enriching and nurturing the business relations that prevails between the Saudi business organisations and the foreign companies.

2.4 Barriers that Hinder Business Communication and their Impact on the Effective Business Communication in Saudi Companies while dealing with Foreign Companies

2.4.1 Conservative and Stringent Policies

According to the perception of Rosenhauer (2008), the business environment in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is formed with the elements of cultural and religious values. The Islamic culture norms that prevail in all the sectors of the country are responsible for affecting the processes and aspects of decision-making process, business communication and the management style (Rosenhauer, 2008). Due to the presence of stringent policies and business values in Saudi Arabia, the foreign companies that carry out trade activities with Saudi organisations, should be well aware of the Saudi culture, which has a great influence on the non-verbal and verbal communication undertaken in the business culture of the country (Rosenhauer, 2008). The enrichment and development of cordial employee-employer relationship is also promoted by effective practices of business communication, which also affect the international trade. However, due to the presence of such conservative and stringent policies, there are various barriers to international business communication practices in the KSA.

2.4.2 Cultural and Linguistic Barriers

This has also been supported by Albougami (2015), who has enumerated the numerous barriers that lead to hindering the establishment of effective business communication within the business culture of Saudi organisations. In this essence, it has been stated that the prevalence of cultural and linguistic barriers is responsible for restricting the growth of Saudi business organisation overseas due to ineffective business communication. The presence of gender segregation, as a critical aspect of the Saudi culture, is regarded to be the major barrier to business communication in the country. In accordance with the culture of the country, it is mandatory for the Saudi women to wear a veil for covering their faces, which hinders the establishment of verbal communication in the absence of expression visibility and limited eye contact. This is further worsened by the cultural norms of the country that restrict the interaction of women, whether verbal or non-verbal, in the workplace setting. This creates a communication gap within the organisation, thereby making the coordination of the various functions and operations a difficult task.

The presence of such barriers has been further elaborated by Soundaraj (2007) wherein it has been discussed that communication hurdles can restrict the organisational interaction due to the presence of various factors. These factors include generation gap, gender segregation, religious norms, employee personality, lack of adequate styles of communication, dependency on tradition communication methods, cultural differences and language problems (Soundaraj, 2007). These barriers demand the adoption of suitable techniques and strategies so as to prevent any barrier to business communication, irrespective of the culture and language of the stakeholders involved.

According to Ali (2009), the cultural barriers in the KSA stem from the misunderstanding among the international managers regarding the cultural values and norms that shape the communication meaning and style of Arabians, as well as aligning it with their communication style. The most critical aspect that could lead to misunderstanding in business communication is the language. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a high-context culture and the Saudi business people overlap their business and personal affairs, which add complication to practices of business communication (Ali, 2009). In addition to this, the presence of certain perceptions and stereotypes that are held by the Saudi managers and their international business counterparts leads to stringent business communication policies. In this essence, while undertaking international business, the British or American managers might perceive the Saudi managers to be rich and less business-minded whereas they, in turn, might be perceived as unfriendly and arrogant (Ali, 2009). The prevalence of such perceptions leads to the creation of psychological barriers, thereby hindering the international business dealings.

2.4.3 Organisational Barriers 

In line with the cultural barriers, Raddawi (2014) has shed light on the organisational barriers that exist in the business culture in Saudi Arabia, thereby restricting effective business communication for cross-cultural trade activities. In this essence, the bargaining power held by the organisation, and perceived status of the communicators, are regarded to be the most significant organisational barriers (Raddawi, 2014). The status and title of the communicator is given high consideration in Saudi Arabia wherein the person’s authority in the process of negotiation and communication is considered to be significant. Saudi managers prefer to deal with top-level executives and senior employees and if this is not ensured they tend to give less attention to the counterparts.

Along with this, Jandt (2015) has stated that the organisational barrier with respect to the bargaining power is associated with the foreign company. If the foreign company is capable of providing such a product or service, which the Saudi businesses need, the business communication is carried out on the terms laid down by the foreign company and, therefore, they dictate the course of action. However, of the Saudi companies are provided with various alternatives in the market and have a high bargaining power, their stance in the process of negotiation is emboldened accordingly (Jandt, 2015). This leads to defining the terms of the business communication in the favour of the Saudi companies.

2.4.4 Personal Barriers

In the perception of Ali (2009), the presence of personal barriers also restricts the practices of effective business communication between the Saudi and foreign companies. The business culture prevalent in the West is regarding to be intriguing for the Saudi managers due to which they prefer to conduct international trade with foreign companies. However, this leads to a more positive business communication with the Western counterparts as compared to other regions, such as East Asia (Ali, 2009). They also prefer to be identified with the business culture and actions of the Western countries, which leads to a better reception of the Saudi businesses towards the foreign companies operating in the Western countries (Ali, 2009). This has however restricted their scope and reach of international business communication in terms of their preference and suitability.

2.4.5 Technological Barriers

Ramady (2010) has explored another critical barrier, referring to the technological advancement, which has obstructed the business communication of Saudi organisations with other foreign companies. With the revolution brought in the technological world, with the help of the internet, organisations are facing the need to be equipped with the latest technological tools and techniques to compete in the ever dynamic globalised era. In this essence, Saudi Arabia has found to be lagging behind in the incorporation of the required technological tools so as to developed business relations with countries operating overseas (Ramady, 2010). With the help of the technology, the geographical boundaries are shrinking, making the practices of business communication easy and seamless.

Due to the absence of adequate technological tools in the business function in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi managers are not well aware of the procedure to implement and use the required technology for carrying out international business communication (Ramady, 2010). In this essence, the business personnel in Saudi Arabia also lack the required training in using the technology for business communication, involving online business meeting, which has become the need of the hour. Saudi managers are still adopting the traditional communication method, preferring face-to-face meeting over the adoption of digital platforms, which leads to additional efforts in terms time and money due to travelling (Ramady, 2010). This hinders the international business communication practices in Saudi Arabia due to the lack of appropriate digital communication networks and platforms.

2.4.6 Barriers related to Non-Verbal Communication

In the perception of Dlabay and Scott (2005), another barrier that has restricted the business communication of Saudi companies with foreign organisations is the aspects of non-verbal communication and behaviour associated with the Arabian culture. Due to the conservative and orthodox culture prevalent in the country, the non-verbal communication and behaviour carried out by Saudi managers vastly differs from the non-verbal message exchange in other countries. The most significant aspects of this barrier have been observed in terms of haptics, which refers to the sense of touch and dress code, which defines the attire of the business people (Dlabay and Scott, 2005). The gestures used by the Saudi managers are different from that used by American and Britons, which might lead to the occurrence of miscommunication or misunderstanding (Dlabay and Scott, 2005). For instance, the left hand is considered to be unclean as per the norms of Saudi Arabia, which is not the case in the Western culture.

In a similar manner, Wang (2011) perceived that the dress code followed in the business culture of Saudi Arabia is highly conservative as compared to other cultures, particularly that of the western countries. This can be regarded as a barrier in the non-verbal communication in the context of international trade activities. Particularly for the Saudi women, the dress code includes numerous stringent specifications, which differs from the dress code followed in other cultures (Wang, 2011). This can lead to misunderstandings, such as the Saudi managers can consider the business attire of American or European businesswomen to be flagrantly immoral.

2.5 Ways and methods that can be helpful for Enhancing International Business Communication Practices in Saudi Business Organisations

Rasmussen, Mylonas and Beck (2012) have emphasised the establishment of rigorous training within Saudi organisations so as to make the employees aware of the international culture with which business relations can be developed. Such training should include the sessions for providing the organisational employees the basic understanding of the culture of the foreign company so that they are prepared for the communication and interaction (Rasmussen, Mylonas and Beck, 2012; Martin and Chaney, 2006). The change in the cultural values also require adequate change management approaches so that the employees can adapt to the difference in the business values, which is vast in the case of Saudi Arabia and other Western countries. The training does not include changing the cultural norms of the country, including the compliance with the Islamic principles, but making sure that the employees are well aware of the ways to seamlessly interact with their counterparts in foreign companies with whom communication will be carried out. This will also be beneficial for the development of a diverse work culture in Saudi companies, thereby providing them a competitive advantage (Rasmussen, Mylonas and Beck, 2012).

In the context of intercultural business communication, Rosenhauer (2008) has elaborated the Communication Accommodation Theory under which the assessment of the verbal and non-verbal interaction among the individuals, who are culturally diverse, is undertaken so as to understand the difference in the personal and cultural characteristics associated with the person. The theory discussed the impact of collectivism and individualism, as significant cultural dimensions, on the process of accommodation in the context of cross-cultural communication (Rosenhauer, 2008; Information Resources Management Association, 2016). The adoption of such theories can prove to be successful for Saudi companies while undertaking cross-cultural trading activities.

In the perception of Conrad and Newberry (2011), the incorporation of the latest and useful technological tools holds significant importance for establishing effective business communication practices, particularly in cross-cultural trade activities. In this essence, Saudi Arabia should redesign its technological structure in business organisations so as to undertake business communication on the various digital platforms (Conrad and Newberry, 2011). There is a need in Saudi business culture to shed the implementation of traditional business communication strategies and align its technological use with the other business cultures (Conrad and Newberry, 2011; Guffey and Almonte, 2009). This would help the Saudi business culture in the creation of an environment facilitating the combination of voice networks, internet protocol and data for simplifying the practices of international business communication.

Anderson and Brown (2010) stated that for promoting effective and seamless business communication practices, decentralising the organisational hierarchy is necessary. In this essence, the Saudi organisations should adopt the decentralisation procedure so as to avoid the preference of communication with only the senior employees (Anderson and Brown, 2010). This also helps in brining uniformity within the business communication practices that are prevalent in the Saudi culture and the culture of the foreign companies. For instance, the rigidness of not communicating with the female counterparts might not be well received with the other cultures wherein the foreign companies are operating, with specificity to the Western countries. Therefore, the adoption of a decentralised structure and including flexibility with the hierarchical structure of the foreign companies will help the Saudi organisations in establishing cordial business relations. This will also help in brining significant improvement within the internal organisational communication of Saudi companies with the inclusion of two-way interaction irrespective of the designation and profile of employees (Anderson and Brown, 2010).

2.6 Gap in the Existing Literature and the Conceptual Framework

The examination of the literature has helped in determining the gap in the existing literature on factors creating barriers to business communication. In this respect, with the help of the examination of the literature, it has been identified that although there has been considerable research regarding the factors creating to barriers to business communication and the various sub-factors that foster the generation of such factors (Ali, 2009; Ramady, 2010). However, no significant research has been conducted in the past to study the impact of such factors on effective business communication. In addition to that there is an absence of research on the impact of these factors on effective business communication in domestic, as well as, internationally situated Saudi Arabian organisations, which further highlights a pertinent gap in the existing literature (Rosenhauer, 2008; Raddawi, 2014; Jandt, 2015). Therefore, there is a need for additional and in-depth research on the impact of barriers to communication on effective business communication in Saudi Arabian organisations.

On the basis of the examined literature a conceptual framework has been developed with the help of the themes identified from the literature. The conceptual framework in this research involves a systematic examination and evaluation of the key themes of the related to barriers to business communication and their impact on effective business communication in Saudi Arabian business organisations. In this respect, the main theme of the conceptual framework is barriers to business communication in Saudi Arabian organisation while the sub-theme is impact of barriers to communication on effective business communication.


Conceptual Framework

Chapter 3: Research Methodology

3.1 Introduction

Research is an organised and systematic endeavour to conduct an empirical enquiry to gain new knowledge or address a research problem. It can be undertaken for synthesising prevailing knowledge, examine and analyse the major socio-economic issues, investigate the contemporary problems and help in generating a suitable solution for the identified research problem (Piepenburg, 2011). Research methodology is a crucial part of a research study because it presents the main research tools, techniques and methods applied to conduct the research along with the fundamental underlying logic for incorporating them in the research. Research can be classified into main categories like experimental research, exploratory research, creative research, action research, descriptive research and historical research (Kuada, 2000).

The examination of the literature in the previous chapter has revealed that the advent of globalisation and liberalisation has led to the development of multinational and transnational business organisations across the globe; however, it has simultaneously led to the emergence of cross-cultural communication as a significant barrier to the growth of such businesses. Further, extensive research has been conducted to explore the ways in which ineffective communication serves as a barrier for international businesses; there is a dearth of significant study about the communication barriers that influence the international businesses in Saudi Arabia. This has created a considerable gap in the existing research. In this context, the following research methodology chapter seeks to present the key research methods and approaches that have helped in the data collection and analysis to examine the various types of challenges and barriers to effective communication in the companies in Saudi Arabia. To answer this research question, the systematic phases of conducting research given in the Saunders Onion Model, postulated by Saunders, has been followed to carry out this research in a scientific and logical manner (Supino and Borer, 2012). The Saunders Model with its primary research phases is illustrated below. The application of the Saunders Onion Model has served as the Methodological framework and helped in providing the key guidelines for the selection of the research methods to be used in this research. The application of this model has helped in developing an effective and logical framework in the form of research paradigm, design, approach, data collection and analysis and sampling. Such framework has facilitated the management of the flow of information and addressing the research question successfully (Supino and Borer, 2012).

Figure 1: Saunders’ Onion Model


3.2 Research Paradigm

A research paradigm is a highly crucial part of the research methodology and helps in providing a wider perspective to undertake the study in a successful manner by incorporating a comprehensive set of views, perceptions, beliefs and practices that guide the overall research. It is a matrix of interrelated practices and beliefs that help in defining the nature of enquiry associated with the research (Krauss, 2005). It is a systematic framework of academic and scientific ideas and assumptions about the nature and conduct of the research for generating knowledge, which is commonly shared among a community of researchers. Research paradigm thus indicates the structure of enquiry and methodological choices used for conducting the research and allow a researcher to develop a suitable research design that is effectively aligned with beliefs of the researcher regarding the nature of reality. There are three most commonly used paradigms in research namely, positivism and interpretivism (Levers, 2013).

The positivist paradigm assumes human behaviour to be controlled and passive. It makes use of empirical means of experimentation and investigation to examine and present facts. It is scientific in nature and is characterised by testing the hypothesis developed with the help of existing theories based on observation of social realities. It quantifies the gathered data, establishes a relationship between them and involves statistical and mathematical analysis (Krauss, 2005). Interpretivist paradigm assumes the world to be socially constructed and subjective. The interpretive researchers believe the reality to be based on the subjective experiences of the people and the external world and the conclusions are derived from a detailed examination of the phenomenon. It makes use of the methodologies that rely on the subjective relationship between the researcher and the subject, like the participant observation and interviews (Pat, 2006).

This research has applied positivist research paradigm because the data in this research has been gathered with the help of objective research methods, the analysis has been undertaken with the help of mathematical operations and the analysis of the prevailing theories on communication has been undertaken to make additions to them (Krauss, 2005). This paradigm was helpful in developing an objective and analytical study and undertaking analysis of the gathered data in a manner that the pertinent and logical results are derived. The application of this paradigm also helped in enhancing the validity and reliability of the study and assisted in the development of a theory that can be generalised (Levers, 2013).

3.3 Research Approach

Research approach gives a suitable direction to the study and helps in deriving logical conclusions. It helps in studying, evaluating and drawing logical and appropriate conclusions that help in addressing the research questions in a successful manner. There are two main types of approaches that are applied in the research, namely, deductive and inductive research approach. The inductive research approach is also called as reasoning approach and helps in developing a generalised view by examining the available knowledge (Jonker and Pennink, 2010). It is based on interpretive approach and its key stages involve observation of the available data and the patterns of changes in the data and the development of the hypothesis and theory. It is primarily used by the researchers who seek flexibility in the research and apply a comprehensive range of theories to provide a fundamental basis for data (Crowther and Lancaster 2012).

Deductive approach is based on the positivist methodology, which facilitates the researcher in developing assumptions that are essential to conducting research successfully by facilitating suitable data collection and analysis (Hair et al., 2012). The deductive approach involves various stages such as developing theory, generating assumptions by the examined theory and collecting and analysing data for the available research problem. This approach involves the flow of information from general to specific, because of which, it is also termed as a top-down approach (Jonker and Pennink, 2010).

This study has applied deductive approach because this research moves from general (examination of the types of communication barriers for business organisations) to specific (examination of the types of communication barriers for business organisations in Saudi Arabia). Further, this approach helped in developing a hypothesis based on the prevailing communication theories, as well as, designing a research strategy to check hypothesis. This approach also allowed in providing a fundamental basis of reasoning to the research and thus helped in enhancing the credibility of the study. In addition to that, as this research is aimed at making additions to the prevailing theories than creating a new theory, the application of deductive approach has served to be beneficial for this research (Hair et al., 2012).

3.4 Research Method

There are two main kinds of research methods, qualitative and quantitative research methods. The qualitative research method allows gaining a detailed insight into the research problem with the help of detailed theoretical examination. It helps in generating ideas and developing the hypothesis for further study (Tracy, 2012; Miller and Yang, 2007). The main purpose of this research method is to explore the perceptions of the scholars regarding the contemporary social issues. It is conducted by analysing unstructured data gathered from primary or secondary sources, which might include interviews, internet-based sources and the available literature (Wetcher-Hendricks, 2011). On the other hand, qualitative research method considers varied facts and phenomenon by evaluating the responses gathered through primary data in a scientific manner by the application of statistical or mathematical tools. The different responses and opinions gathered from the primary data collection sources are quantified and analysed objectively, which helps in preserving the credibility of the study. The qualitative research method is considered to be more structured and efficient in exploring pertinent findings from the gathered data (Tracy, 2012).

This research involves the application of qualitative method because this is a management research in which qualitative methods, which are more suitable for social research, cannot be helpful in addressing the aim of this research (Wetcher-Hendricks, 2011). Further, the types of communication barriers and the ways in which they influence the growth of the organisations in Saudi Arabia require an objective study of the opinions of the managers of the Saudi Arabian companies which can be undertaken more successfully only with the help of qualitative methods.

3.5 Research Design

Research design gives an appropriate framework for the study that integrates the research problem with appropriate methods for data collection and analysis. It helps in providing an effective structure to the study by providing guidance about a reasonable strategy for data collection and analysis in a logical and organised manner. Such strategy assists in aligning the various components of the research in a rational and simplified way. There are two most commonly used research designs, namely exploratory and descriptive research designs (Scruggs and Mastropieri, 2006).

Exploratory research design helps in gaining a general view of the research problem. It is more suitable when the researcher is unaware of the research problem and there is a need for additional work to undertake the research. It is considered as an informal approach to research and seeks to gather additional information about the subject of research and postulated the hypothesis (Scruggs and Mastropieri, 2006). This research design is used to explore the general idea about the research problem. However, it does not provide a final answer to the problem; rather it assists in examining the depth and extent of the problem along with its crucial aspects. It is thus suitable for gaining basic information about an unexplored problem, developing a hypothesis, establishing research priorities and defining terms with the help of a combination of primary and secondary data collection methods (Supino and Borer, 2012).

On the other hand, descriptive research design helps in addressing the research problems by facilitating detailed and in-depth examination of the problem. For this purpose, it involves identifying, studying and evaluating the given situation for the purpose of developing a suitable theory. It makes use of secondary data, interviews, observations and case studies (Supino and Borer, 2012). It usually involves the description of the primary characteristics of key entities associated with the research problem like, the population census, economic indicators or crime statistics along with their relation to the main aspects of the research problem. The main purpose of using descriptive research design is to study the various variables and factors in the research problem. By the examination of the patterns of individual variables that behave in a certain fashion, it facilitates prediction and thus helps in determining the relationship between the different variables. The descriptive research design can be further classified into the cross-sectional and longitudinal study (Scruggs and Mastropieri, 2006).

This research has used exploratory research design because it is a flexible and systematic approach that helps in gaining a proper insight in all the key aspects of the research problem with the help of a combination of methods. This design has assisted in gaining a detailed insight into the types of communication barriers encountered by Saudi Arabian companies. The application of description design has not be made because it depends heavily on observational methods and would not have allowed the application of objective data collection and analysis methods in the research (Marczyk, DeMatteo and Festinger, 2010).

3.6 Data Collection and Access to Data

Data collection helps in gathering relevant data in respect of the research problem and facilitates in addressing the research question with suitable and pertinent data. There are two kinds of data collection methods, namely, primary and secondary data collection. Primary data is collected first time specifically for the purpose of a particular research and can be with the help of surveys, interviews, observation or experiments (Sapsford and Jupp, 2006). It helps in gathered relevant data but involves considerable time and costs. On the other hand, secondary data is the data that was gathered in the past for some purpose other than the current research but is closely related to the subject of research. It is gathered from books, journals and academic publications (Wetcher-Hendricks, 2011; Bashir, Afzal and Azeem, 2008).

This research has made use of the combination of primary and secondary data collection methods. Such combination helped in acquiring appropriate information and developing a rational theoretical framework to overcome organisational communication barriers in Saudi Arabia (Sapsford and Jupp, 2006). The primary data has been gathered with the help of survey with the managers of different international business organisations in Saudi Arabia. The survey was conducted with the help of questionnaire that consisted of a combination of open and close-ended questions. The questions were developed by the data gathered and examined in the literature review. The respondents were chosen after receiving their consent. The questionnaire was pilot tested on five managers initially after which three questions were revised while one was removed. The pilot test of the survey questionnaire helped in determining the relevance of the questions and the time that would be required to fill the questionnaire (Taylor, Kermode and Roberts, 2006).

The revised questionnaires were mailed to the respondents on their official e-mail ids which were obtained from their official registers of their respective organisations. A period of 15 days was given to the respondents to fill and return the questionnaires. 12 questionnaires were not received by the due date, for which the respondents were e-mailed the request to fill and send the questionnaires and a period of 7 days was provided after which all the questionnaires were received. In combination of the primary data, secondary data was also used in the research where academic publications, books, scholarly articles, business reports and management journals were referred to collect comprehensive and most closely related theoretical and conceptual data on the research problem. A significant number of secondary sources of data were applied in the research to obtain pertinent information that helped in developing a strong conceptual and theoretical foundation for the study (Vartanian, 2010).

3.7 Sample Size and Sampling Technique

Sample size refers to the total number of observations in a given data set. The method used to determine the most appropriate sample for the research is termed as sampling technique. There are two primary sampling techniques, namely, probability sampling and non-probability sampling technique. This research has applied probability sampling method. Under the probability sampling techniques, a sample of known population is selected and the most commonly used probability sampling techniques are simple random sampling, stratified sampling, cluster sampling and systematic sampling (Lim and Ting, 2013). In this research, simple random sampling method has been used with the help of which a sample size of 100 managers from different managers of multinational companies in Saudi Arabia was identified. The application of simple random sampling technique assisted in removing the bias from the research by allowing the equal chance of participation to each participant, which helped in enhancing the validity of the research. 100 was determined by the most suitable sample size because gathering data from less than 100 managers would not be able to provide adequate data to facilitate an effective research analysis. On the other hand, more than 100 would require more time and endeavours in selecting more managers and led to enormous data which would have been difficult to be compiled into logical results (Lim and Ting, 2013).

3.8 Data analysis

Data analysis is another crucial part of the research methodology because it involves the conversion of raw data into meaningful and logical information that helps in addressing the research question. It includes analysis and interpretation of the gathered data findings by the application of logical, critical and analytical reasoning. The skills, technique and approach required for evaluating qualitative data is different to that required for the analysis of qualitative data (Jackson, 2008). The findings of the qualitative data can be distorted if the statistical analysis is not applied correctly. It requires a scientific approach and involves two ways, namely, the descriptive and graphical data presentation method. This research has made use of both the methods, wherein the description of the qualitative data has been undertaken with the help of descriptive analysis method (Cavusgil and Riesenberger, 2009). Under the graphical data presentation method, the gathered information about the barriers in communication encountered by the managers in Saudi Arabia are presented graphically with the help of the MS Office software. The combination of the two methods for data analysis in this research has assisted in determining the comparing the variables about communication barriers and determining the relationship between them in the form of their impact on the performance of the organisation in an objective and coherent manner (Blaikie, 2009).

3.9 Ethical considerations

Research ethics refers to a coherent set of principles that define the ways in which the researcher and the research organisations while interacting with the respondents, research participants, users, scholars and the community in general (Paul, 2010). In respect of this research, all ethical considerations in the major areas such as informed consent, confidentiality, voluntary participation and communication of the results have been fulfilled effectively to preserve the credibility of the research. In this regard, the while gathering primary data, voluntary participation of the respondents was ensured and there was no involvement of coercion to gather data (Sterba, 2011).

The complete information regarding the research, researcher and the purpose of conducting the research was explained to the participants. The use of written consent form was made to ensure informed and voluntary consent. The anonymity and confidentiality of the respondents were strictly ensured throughout the research. For this purpose, it was assured that none of the questions in the survey questionnaire are intended to ask the respondents to disclose their personal identity and all the individual opinions thus gathered were kept confidential and used solely for the purpose of the research. Practices such as manipulation of the data and plagiarism and