Multicultural teams can add a lot of value in today’s global business scenario bringing in varied perspectives and ideas, knowledge of different markets and a combination of talents. However, making all of it work together seamlessly and stress free can be a challenge thanks to these very reasons and cultural differences.
So how can managers best adapt to the requirements of a non-homogeneous team?
Don’t assume that everyone from a certain region/group will behave in the same way. There is a difference between being culturally aware and stereotyping. Being open minded and getting to know your team members is the key.
Be clear about expectations
The most common pitfall facing a multicultural team is the mismatch between expectations and work ethics which are very culture dependent. It therefore helps to maintain clarity on these fronts from as early on as possible. Discussing your expectations with the team and coming up with a system that works for all can reduce the risk of future conflict.
Be aware of holidays and festivals
When working with a team from different cultures, remember that important holidays and festival calendars will also be different. Account for these differences in your planning. Be willing to give them time to meet their familial and religious obligations. You will get the benefit of a more enthusiastic and refreshed team rather than a bunch of resentful employees.
Manage team dynamics
Cultural differences can lead to ongoing communication challenges. Try to be on top of it. What one person thinks of as healthy and necessary exchange of opinions, another might term disrespectful. Or someone raised to deferential to authority might be perceived as spineless and unimaginative. Step in if interpersonal conflict shows signs of being a roadblock to productivity. Help team members realize that some behaviours are not personal shortcomings but a cultural product and facilitate communication that will overcome such issues.
Foster a spirit of understanding and empathy
Understanding and empathy are the bedrock of a successful multicultural team. Once the team members understand that they won’t be pushed into a corner and that others are trying to understand where they are coming from, everyone will be more responsive and collaborative, giving more opportunities for a give and take.
Show the team they are valued, and you will get manifold return in value and productivity yourself.