IQ. EQ. It seems that these days we have a “Q”, or quotient, for every sort of ability. In fact, there is a good chance you have probably taken some sort of survey which has tested you on these abilities. But do you happen to know what your CQ score is? If you have not heard about CQ yet, it stands for cultural intelligence, and it is getting increasing press in academic and business psychology. CQ is a person’s ability to function successfully in settings that are culturally diverse (Earley & Ang, 2003).So what’s so special about CQ? After all, if we have a good idea of someone’s overall intelligence (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ), do we really need another “Q” in our lexicon? Well, the answer is…yes. Think about it – the workplace has been becoming increasingly global now for years, and for many it’s been the norm for quite some time. In fact, according to the United Nations, the number of multi-national companies has doubled since 1990. The chances that you work or interact with someone from another country or culture have never been higher. It used to be that you had to travel internationally to really be able to interact with other cultures, but with today’s technology and growing globalization trends, now you can interact with international customers or co-workers anytime from your office or cubicle. And, this can apply to anyone from the C-Suite to a customer service rep on the phone.
Most of us have heard stories about “ugly Americans”, who come across as culturally ignorant or insensitive when traveling abroad. Taking this approach in the work setting can be detrimental. In fact, research shows that CQ is related to better expatriate adjustment and job performance on overseas assignments. This is not surprising, given that cultural differences can influence various attitudes and behaviors related to leadership, communication style, and decision-making.
But what exactly makes someone culturally intelligent? Is it simply knowing about other cultures or speaking the local language? Is it about being adaptable and open-minded? Or does it just boil down to being more self-aware and having good interpersonal skills? Actually, it has to do with all of these things. CQ is a multi-faceted ability that can be broken down into four separate factors:
In summary, CQ is much more than just speaking the language, loving other cultures, or just having good social skills. It is a sum of various abilities, each of which plays a key role in this complex and increasingly relevant psychological construct. The next time you jump on a conference call with a client overseas, think about your CQ. Human resource managers, particularly those working in companies with a global reach or international aspirations, may want to build the CQ factors into their selection and evaluation processes to ensure that their employees possess the ideal level of CQ to be successful.
Earley, P.C., & Ang, S. (2003). Cultural intelligence: Individual interactions across cultures. Standford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Hall, E.T. (1976) Beyond culture. Oxford, England: Anchor Press.