Beyond Frontiers: The Critical Role of Cross-Cultural Competence in the Military


This paper explores how the concept of cross-cultural competence can be understood in relation to the US military.


Cross-cultural competence (3C) has been conceptualized in many ways, but most definitions center on the ability to quickly understand and effectively act in a culture different from one’s own (Abbe, Gulick, & Herman, 2008; McDonald, McGuire, Johnston, Semelski, & Abbe, 2008; Selmeski, 2009). It is a vital element for military and civilian personnel who must frequently interact with people from other cultures—both here in the United States and when deployed or operating in other countries. Cross-cultural competence can prove very advantageous, as it equips individuals with the requisite knowledge, skills, abilities, and personal characteristics that enable them to function effectively in culturally diverse situations. Furthermore, 3C provides the individual with the conscious knowledge of when and how to switch from an “automatic home-culture international management mode” to a more “culturally appropriate, adaptable mode” (Zakaria, 2000). Thus, 3C helps mitigate undesirable and costly outcomes by supporting critical skills, including those needed for conflict resolution, communication, stress coping, language acquisition, tolerance for ambiguity, and adapting to living in other cultures (McDonald et al., 2008).

Full Reference

Culhane, E., Reid, P., Crepeau, L. J. and McDonald, D., 2012. Beyond Frontiers: The Critical Role of Cross-Cultural Competence in the Military. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 50(1). Available at: <https://www.siop.org/Portals/84/TIP/Archives/501.pdf?ver=2019-08-19-115509-730>.