This essay analyses a case of intercultural interaction, the inefficiency of which, led a teaching agency located in Milan (Italy) to become insolvent. Section 1 gives an overview of the agency’s business organisation by describing its structure, culture and the broad environment in which the agency operated. Section 2 delineates the changes implemented and the reaction of the teaching personnel. Section 3 offers an explanation based on the relevant cultural dimensions developed by Hall, Hofstede, and Trompenaars; while section 4 lays bare the objections to such dimensions, and explains up to what extent these can facilitate effective communication in a multicultural work context. Finally, the conclusions suggest possible approaches which could help businesses to avoid intercultural misunderstandings.
The English Learning Institute (ELI) was an agency which provided English native speaker teachers with a QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) which they could use in high schools in the greater Milan area. The agency was founded in 2005 when its two co-founders saw an opportunity in the target market to supply qualified mother tongue English speakers to private institutions. Even though the agency started out as a small business, only two years later it was already employing seventy members of staff, twenty of whom were assigned to management and administrative tasks, whilst the remainder made up the teaching staff. To meet the high demand for British English, the majority of teachers employed were native British citizens. Usually, the agency offered full time contracts, however, a few teachers opted to work on a part time basis. The ELI was located in a picturesque, historic building in the Milan’s centre, and boasted an innovative and remarkable resource area supplied with the most up to date English language teaching materials. In addition, it offered a spacious canteen which provided free meals to its employees.