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Team Management and Development - Cross Cultural Teams

Essay by   •  January 30, 2012  •  Research Paper  •  1,934 Words (8 Pages)  •  1,925 Views

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Team management and development

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Cross-Cultural Teams


Globalization has impacted the corporate dynamic, in such a way that you cannot operate without cultural diversity. Making this topic paramount in the international arena because it is unavoidable. Cultural Diversities can be defined as, members under the same group sharing deeply ingrained values, morals, and perceptions. Most individuals have grown up in a certain culture and are perceived to be resistant to change. This can cause a conflict when working in a cultural diverse team dynamic.

The differences held by members of different cultures in goal preferences, interpretations of behaviors, and values can increase the probability for misunderstandings, conflict, efficiency, and effectiveness; such as deviations in body language, gestures, and causes and intentions. These differences can cause implications for team cohesiveness and integration, making coordination harder to control in culturally diverse teams.

One of the major repercussions of cultural differences is the issue of familiarity. People are most comfortable when relating to those with the same background. The difficulty in understanding the behavior of another culture creates a barrier of uncertainty, which will in turn lead to a low sense of familiarity. Especially in a team environment this can become a major issue, when working with someone on a day-by-day basis one needs to have a certain feeling of chemistry, work becomes more efficient when one can likely predict the actions of the other person.

Issues in cross-cultural teams

Once getting past the barriers of working in a culturally diverse team, and all the team members are connected with the same common goal, it can actually create a more effective team. All the barriers that were originally thought of as disadvantages, can build a highly creative team, with a broader perspective. Cross-cultural issues can be created while working and interacting between team members. Every member has a unique cultural background that includes: different genders, race, languages, and nationalities.

When miscommunication occurs in a team, it leads to very difficult and completely ineffective team productivity. They will not be able to make correct decisions, resolve issues, work correctly together in the 4 development phases: Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. Good quality of communication in a team is crucial for greater productivity. In a Cross Cultural team a lot of miscommunication can take place.

The languages the team-members speak can have a big impact on the whole of the team. Some speak in a form of slang while others may have a different nationality and have a "weird" foreign accent that may not always be properly understood. Even the body expression and expression we say may sound weird to some and completely normal to others. Cross-cultural appears all the time in teams and in the workplace. We have to stay respectful and mindful about how we express ourselves to avoid potential misunderstandings or hurt feelings.

For example a high level of eye contact is considered a sign of attentiveness in some cultures and a sign of rudeness in others.

Different races in a cross-cultural team can lead to prejudice and cultural stereotypes. For example having a Chinese man in a team while the members assume he will do the math for the project is a real demoralizer for that team member. That assumption can hurt the team and the discriminated member as well. He may become demoralized and feel not belonged to the group. This will restrain him from not working to his fullest potential. Having different cultures in a team with different behaviors and assumptions are part of life and they play a big role in the workplace.

In a work team, some members have the need to express stronger emotions while others are more private and quiet and avoid eye contact. The way we speak is also related to the cultural background we all have. Some cultures are very direct. They like to "cut to the chase" and get frustrated with someone who "beats around the bush". While indirect cultures will rather deal with relational aspects first and, will try to reestablish coordination before addressing substantive issues. The sort of behaviors may arise prejudices, misunderstandings, and confusions between people of different cultural backgrounds and lead to rejection. This will affect the efficiency of the team.

Conflicts resolutions

For a team leader, facilitating the resolution of conflict is primordial. Indeed, a team members' commitment to the team and to team's goal can increase if conflicts are well managed and resolved, but decreases if conflict goes unresolved. "If unhealthy conflict goes unresolved for too long, team members are likely to quit or to search for alternatives." Wallace Bishop and Dow Scott

Every situation is different, and often a combination of techniques is required. Starting by knowing yourself and your own culture is very important. The fact that you can distinguish your own beliefs, your values, and your behavior will help you to be more open to different ideas, different behaviors. A team member with an excellent knowledge and acquisition of his own culture will approach conflicts in another way, without being threatened. And that's the starting point for a correct conflict resolution.

A second point is to learn others expectations. Having an explicit conversation about the conflict's nature and an explanation about the way we should deal with it is an important step in conflict resolution. This conversation could probably deviate on the way the team prefers to adopt when working together. Learning about others expectations could give an idea of the way their culture works and then, start the process to work with them. Learning about others culture takes time.

The third point is to verify your assumptions. Everyone is making assumptions; it's natural. The important point is "to develop acceptable communication protocols to check out the basis of our perceptions". Otherwise, this can lead to inaccurate stereotypes and can force you to become hostile to your team member without any reasons. A correct approach is to give precise feedback on the behavior that you observed and clarify it. It is important to understand that your first interpretation might be wrong. Another approach is to give feedback on the way you felt when the specific behavior occurred. This



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