Nowadays we live in a setting with a globalized workforce where several organizations have employees that come from different offices, time zones as well as continents. The presence of free movement of labor across nations is an indication that cultural diversity is a critical ingredient in our workplace. Consequently, managing a team nowadays is a daunting task than it was in the past due to the presence of cross-cultural teams in a company. Therefore, it is quite remarkable, to understand the common challenges associated with cross-cultural differences among the employees and how to mitigate the identified problems. For that reason, the following essay will explore what it takes to build a cross-cultural team and what are the challenges facing the managers of projects that cross-cultural boundaries. Additionally, the article will examine the strategies that can be put in place to mitigate the problems associated with cross-cultural boundaries.
What does it take to build a cross-cultural team?
The first and most crucial issue is accepting and respecting cultural diversity within the team. It is essential for the project manager or the Human Resource manager to address the reality of distinct cultural backgrounds within the organization as well as the necessity of steering those differences so to enhance optimal performance among the workers. Cultural diversity within the group manifests in different forms such as language, behavioral differences attributed to norms and values and also different meanings correlated with words, ideas or actions. For that reason, it imperative to learn the culture of each member present in the team and understand the cultural differences depicted by the members because it will enlighten us on how we interact with our colleagues.
To enhance practical understanding of cultural differences among the team-members, use of ‘Geert Hofstede’s cultural dimension model’ is an ideal approach that can be used to manage cultural differences that manifest in a workplace. The model stipulates measures to be undertaken so as enhance a cohesive workforce is maintained despite cultural diversity among the team-mates. Additionally, Geert Hofstede’s model postulates typical working and communication styles that can be employed in a working set that is characterized by a cross-cultural team. Generally, building a cross-cultural team requires the members to understand cultural diversity amongst themselves and therefore, discuss the identified differences in a team meeting. Establishing a cross-cultural team necessitates the members to have an equal opportunity to discuss and share their cultural background and air their expectations regarding the communication and working style that can be convenient for every member. It is important to encourage members to participate in activities where every team member will have a chance to learn and understand more regarding the cultural backgrounds of their colleagues.
Implementation of norms for the team-members is another critical task that ensures the team members will remain united. Formulation of standards requires every member to contribute to the foundation of norms. Involvement of members makes the norms stronger and obligates every member to strive to live up to the established norms. The next crucial task is to an emphasis on over-communication. In a cross-cultural team, over-communication is a requirement if you desire to maintain a productive team. In most cases where a group comprises of members from different nationality or ethnicity, misunderstanding is always experienced since there is the inconsistency of nuances or expressions among the members. For that reason, it useful to note that the inability of members to deduce the meaning of the tone or body language used can result in misunderstandings. To overcome the problem, it is good to encourage over-communication and carefully choose your words. Moreover, it is good to use simple and clear language and ensures all the members have fully understood what has been communicated.
What are the challenges facing managers of projects that cross cultural boundaries?
The world is becoming a global village, and therefore, project managers involved in managing teams that have employees from different cultural backgrounds are compelled to deal with the challenges arising from the culture as well as ethnic differences of the countries they work in. Cross-cultural teams are confronted with a number of critical challenges. For that reason, the project managers are obligated to identify and resolve these challenges amicably. The following are the critical issues that emanate from a diverse cultural team:
a) Deficient trust– in a workplace where people of different nationalities or cultural backgrounds, team members tend to lack trust with their colleagues. The absence of trust among the team members is a critical issue that is likely to curtail the achievement of the fundamental purpose of the project. Establishing a cohesive and united team is a daunting task to the project manager because the members does not trust each other. For instance, a Chinese project manager may find it difficult to trust his fellow Indian subordinate who always speaks in Hindi. Absence of trust is among the critical issues that faces cross-cultural teams.
b) Perception is another significant obstacle that dominates cross-cultural teams. For instance, employees from developed nations tend to perceive employees from developing nations as inferior. Perception is a factor that creates division among the teammates since some employees tend to feel they are superior to their counterparts. Moreover, perception makes employees dishonor the cultural values of their fellow team-mates, a condition that can create violence in an organization.
c) Inaccurate biases– people tend to hold indiscriminate form of cultural prejudices against a particular group of people. The presence of inaccurate preferences within team tends to tarnish the reputation of some team members. For instance, people regard Indians as people who do not deliver on time. Such kind of prejudice has a potential to affect adversely the morale of Indian employees in an organization. People believe that Japanese people always dominate and make the decisions within the team. The presence of a notion that Japanese people are dictatorial in nature is an inaccurate prejudice which make the team-members to avoid Japanese people.
d) Erroneous Communication– people tend to use a different tone and body language when conveying a particular message in a team. The manner in which the message conveyed is interpreted by the members is likely to result to misunderstandings among the members. For instance, during team meetings, Japanese like nodding their heads frequently to signify politeness. However, the idea of nodding the head may be interpreted as a sign of an agreement to what is being conveyed by a member within the team which can cause misunderstandings.
What strategies can be used to address these challenges?
The cross-cultural team is a component of international corporations nowadays are striving to establish and maintain since they result in innovative and creative business ideas. However, if the diverse cultural teams are not efficiently managed can result in confusion and frustration due to a plethora of challenges that face these teams. The following are the strategies that can be employed to mitigate the challenge that confronts the cross-cultural teams:
i. Define team language upfront– The project manager should decide the default language that the team members will be using for communication. The default language should be used for documentation as well as during the interactions among the team members. The presence of a clearly defined language for communication will aid to eliminate trust deficiency among team-mates. It is prudent to assess the ability of team members to speak the chosen language to evaluate if the team-mates can understand the basic concepts of the default language. In case the members are not entirely familiar with the default language of communication, it is imperative to establish training programs.
ii. Adoption of written communication since written documents enables the targeted recipients to analyze the information at their own pace. Written communication also offers the opportunity for the recipient to translate the information into their language, a situation that enhances a deeper understanding of what is covered in the document. Therefore, use of written communication can effectively mitigate misunderstandings among the team members.
iii. To abate miscommunications within a cross-cultural team, confirmation queries should always be used so that to evaluate the understanding of people regarding what has already being covered. The project manager should avoid asking the team members if they are happy with what has being deliberated or if they have mastered job specifications, which they can efficiently respond by giving a ‘Yes ‘answer irrespective of their level of knowledge. The team members should be encouraged to emphasize some clarifying questions as a strategy to head off miscommunications within the team.
iv. Avoid use of prejudices within the group to define some team-mates. Negative biases hold a significant effect of harming the morale of the targeted team members consequently causing disunity within the team. Formulation of ethical codes to guide how people should relate with one another is an effective strategy that can be used to curb manifestation of inaccurate biases within a workplace.
v. Tasks should be assigned based on the level of skills and competency to avoid the presence of perception that some people are superior compared to others. The remuneration and promotion criteria should be based on merit and not on any nationality or cultural backgrounds so that to curb the notion that some people are superior to others.
vi. Use of a clear and straightforward language should be a key deliverable within the team. The project manager should encourage the team members to be mindful as well as respectful of their fellow colleagues. Members should be encouraged to use simple and short sentences. It is also important to discourage the team-mates to avoid use idioms or words that tend to have different meanings to avoid causing misconstructions.
To sum up, a cross-cultural team in global business management is a concept that has earned substantial attention in the contemporary business environment. To establish a cross-cultural team, people are required to understand and appreciate the cultural differences that exist among the team members. Next, it is essential to develop norms that will guide team-mates on how they should relate with one another. Efficient performance of the cross-cultural team is confronted with a plethora of challenges such as the use of inaccurate prejudices, inaccurate communication, lack of trust and negative perception among some members. However, use of simple and clear communication can aid to curb misconceptions that arise when team members fail to understand the message conveyed. Assigning tasks based on the level of skills can help to eliminate negative perception among the teammates. It is good to note that cross-cultural teams are an integral part of Human Resource, but sound management practices should be employed so that to alleviate the challenges associated with the diverse cultural groups.