The spread of globalisation has made the business world more complex than ever. Due to globalisation, business organisations throughout the world are now dealing with each other on a regular basis. A major issue that business organisations encounter while carrying out business deals with companies belonging to different parts of the world is the presence of cultural differences. Culture, in simple words, can be defined as a set of morals, ethics, religious values, ethnicity, cuisine, language, etc. that governs the behaviour of a particular set of people. This difference in behaviour of people can play a crucial role in a business setting which both can turn out positive and negative depending how it is managed.
Further, the rising competition is also forcing business organisations to enter international market and have employees from diverse cultural backgrounds to enhance innovation, productivity and efficiency. In such a scenario, it sometimes becomes difficult for human resource managers to manage culturally diverse teams or cross-cultural. Therefore, this report aims at identifying some techniques and strategies that can help managers in leading cross-cultural teams. In order to gain a deeper insight into the strategies that managers can use to manage cross cultural teams, a number of online sources and journal articles are used in this report.
Some advantages of having cross-cultural teams in workplace are given below:
First of all, having a diverse workforce is a huge plus point for all business organizations as they help in fostering an innovative environment. Secondly, a diverse workforce can help business organizations in offering culturally diverse services to its customers. Thirdly, culturally diverse teams have the ability to develop better products and services. Fourthly, a cross-cultural team can perform better during problem solving sessions and can offer unique solutions. Lastly, having a cross cultural company can offer market competencies to the companies.
Issues in managing cross-cultural teams
Managing cross-cultural issues is not only a dubious task but can also have some serious implications for the teams as well as for the organisation on the whole. Some issues related with the management of cross-cultural teams are:
Resistance: All companies and teams have a few people that have a resistant approach towards diversity and the changes that it can bring. Such people pose a serious challenge to the managers who are trying to manage cross-cultural teams as they can damage employee morale, decrease productivity and reduce the team spirit. If the team member not change then there should be used “Exit” strategy, getting rid of the problem. (Brett, Behfar, & Kern,2006)
Poor communication: In cross-cultural teams, the team members belong to different age groups, sexes, religions, etc. and they all have their own style of communicating. A major challenge that managers face while trying to manage cross-cultural teams is the poor communication between the team members that can lead to misunderstandings. (Brett, Behfar, & Kern, 2006) Misunderstandings can further lead to misinterpretation of information and disturb the relationships between employees (Holt).
Implementation of cross-cultural teams: Implementing diversity in the workplace is also a considerable challenge for the managers that are managing cross-cultural teams. They need to design a proper strategy and implement it in such a way that all departments and functions of the organisation accept and support a culturally diverse team (Greenberg).
Conflict management: While working in cross-cultural teams, it is very easy for conflicts to originate amongst the team members because of difference in communication and perceptions such as direct and indirect communication. (Brett, Behfar, & Kern, 2006) The conflicts that arise as a result of difference in communication styles and perception of the group members are not easily resolved and require a lot of expert supervision to bring things back to normal.
Leading cross-cultural teams
Cross-cultural teams or multi-cultural teams can provide a number of advantages to business organisations, such as increased knowledge about a wide variety of products, culturally sensitive customer service, an innovative environment, etc. and these advantages make management of a cross-cultural team worth it even if it is difficult (Brett, Behfar, & Kern, Some strategies or techniques that can be used by managers to effectively manage cross-cultural teams are discussed below:
Face to face communication: Managers leading cross-cultural teams should try to indulge in face to face communications as much as possible since communication is a interaction act which should help with making the cross-cultural relationships more constructive. (Varey,2010) During face to face communication sessions, the changes of miscommunication gets decreased as it allows the manager as well as the team members to assess each other’s body language, levels of understanding and foster a positive relation between the team members (Ten Tips for Leading a Multicultural Team)
Cultural clarity: It is often said that it is important for managers to be experts in the field in which they are leading their employees. Similarly, it is also important for the managers leading cross-cultural teams to have clear knowledge and understanding of their own culture and the culture of the team members. Having cultural knowledge can greatly help managers in having a better understanding of how culture can have an influence on the work, communication style, feelings, actions, etc. and can definitely help them in leading a cross- cultural team in a much better way. (Majlergaard)
Keeping a check: Managers leading cross-cultural teams are responsible for the actions of the team members and to ensure better productivity and team spirit, managers should continuously keep a check on all the team members and try to walk in their shoes to gain a better understanding of what they are going through. This will help managers in understanding the different perspectives that the members of a cross-cultural team have. (Ten Tips for Leading a Multicultural Team)
Promoting a shared vision: Promoting a shared vision is one of the most important techniques that can help managers in leading their teams and fostering a positive team spirit
Promoting a shared vision amongst the group members of diverse cultures is a great ways to enhance team spirit and overall productivity as it unites them together and also helps in removing some barriers to teamwork and communication. (Strategies for Effective Cross- Cultural Communication within the Workplace, 2015)
Keep an open mind: Cross-cultural teams are one of the most difficult teams to be managed by any manager because of the ease with which cultural issues can erupt within the teams and end up causing misunderstandings amongst the team members. The managers who are
leading cross-cultural teams have to keep an open mind while dealing with the team members because all of them have a different way of thinking and perceiving things (Meyer, 2014). A decision made in haste or without analysing the idea that a team member wants to communicate can have serious consequences and can cause unrest within the teams. Therefore, it is important that the managers managing cross-cultural teams have an open mind towards the ideas of the team members Strategies for Effective Cross-Cultural.
Active listening: For managers to effectively manage cross-cultural teams, it is important that they are able to make the employees feel that the company doesn’t only accepts them but values them as well. By ensuring active listening to the viewpoints of the team members of a cross cultural team, managers can make them feel more confident. In fact, the managers managing cross-cultural teams as well as the members of the team should practice active listening and pay attention to verbal as well as non-verbal cues that are shared by the members while interacting with each other. Thus, cross-cultural teams can be managed in a better way if the managers as well as the team members practice an active listening technique while interacting with each other. (Ten Tips for Leading a Multicultural Team)
Being patient: One of the most essential and obvious techniques for managers to ensure proper management of cross-cultural teams is to be patient and give time to the employees. (Meyer, 2014) The managers should maintain their calm and should also advice the team members to do so. Coming to quick conclusions based on verbal or non-verbal communications can lead to misunderstanding amongst the team members. The key to success is to avoid feelings of anger and frustration during conflicts and being patient enough to reach a conclusion or a stage of negotiation (Majlergaard). By being patient, the managers
and the team members will be able to establish better team work and trust amongst each other, which will definitely help in boosting up the team spirit.
Identifying root causes of issues: Last but not the least, it is important for the managers who are managing cross-culture teams to identify the root causes of conflicts that arise amongst team members due to cultural differences. The managers should know when an intervention is necessary and also enable or empower them to deal with cross-cultural issues, which might arise in the future, by themselves (Brett, Behfar, & Kern, 2006).
The above discussed information helps in gaining a deeper insight into the issues that are related to the management of cross-cultural teams. Though cross-cultural teams involve a lot of efforts and strategies to be managed properly but the benefits of having cross-cultural teams in the workplace makes it worth it. Thus, managers managing cross-cultural teams should definitely be culturally sensitive towards the culture of all their team members and should undertake strategies that can help them in ensuring a better coalition amongst the team members. Cultural understanding needs constant awareness, companies will try to attract the best human recourses they can get without being limited by culture. Therefore, cultural understanding should be a field, which attain constant awareness.
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