This article talks about cultural barriers and how to overcome them to achieve maximum efficiency.
A team is a synergy of varied working styles, behaviour, and mindsets that work together to achieve a common goal or purpose. Handling a team is difficult due to the difference in personalities and thought processes. Having a cross-cultural team that consists of people from different nationalities and cultural backgrounds makes it even more challenging.
What are cross-cultural or multicultural teams?
Cross-cultural, or multicultural, teams are international teams that include people from different countries, work cultures, and behavioural patterns. Having cross-cultural teams help bring together the unique experiences and skills of people from different backgrounds. It helps a business foster innovative solutions and expands its knowledge base. Employees hailing from different countries have different working cultures and approach problems in various ways.
Having said that, it is also important to note that this may cause differences and raise barriers within the team. Therefore, managing a cross-cultural team and dealing with the individual differences of the team members can be quite challenging.
What are cultural barriers?
Cultural issues refer to the misunderstanding or conflict that arises from the cultural differences between conflicting parties. While one employee may be ready to work overtime, others might want to maintain a work-life balance and stick to working within the prescribed hours. Here are five reasons that lead to cross-cultural conflicts.
Language: Employees coming from different countries also mean differences in language and the lack of a common medium of communication. Translations are not always effective in conveying the true meaning, making language a critical barrier.
Stereotypes and Prejudices: Stereotypes refer to negative preconceived notions about people from different countries. Stereotypes lead to prejudices among people and influence their behaviour toward each other.
Signs and Symbols: The hand gestures, signs, or symbols used in different cultures and countries differ from each other. Any difference in the meaning of each sign or symbol used can create a conflict-like situation.
Behaviour and Beliefs: Behavior, like gestures, body language, manners, and style of communication, also differ from culture to culture. All this can lead to a lack of proper communication and even a conflict in the case of a mismatch of beliefs.
“Us” vs. “Them”: People generally have the “Us” vs. “Them” feeling. They act differently toward outsiders who don’t behave the way they want, alienating them. This leads to cross-cultural issues in management.
How to overcome cross-cultural issues in management?
Cross-cultural management is not easy and requires consistent effort and careful planning on the part of the management. Given the cultural differences, it is important to find a commonality amongst the team members and bind them together.
According to research, cross-cultural teams are likely to give 35% higher returns than non-diverse teams. Effective management of cultural barriers can improve team efficiency. Here are a few ways to manage a multicultural team:
Get to know every team member individually: As a team manager, you must arrange individual meet-ups with each team member and get to know them personally. Learn about their skills and experiences. This will help you analyze their overall behaviour and assign them the most suitable roles for the benefit of the company. It might also help you discover the talents of your team members and identify common points between your team members.
Be flexible: You should ensure flexibility, keeping your work schedules adjustable. You should be able to modify your plans according to your team members’ needs and priorities. For instance, some might prefer finishing the task by working overtime, while others might prefer to finish it while maintaining a work-life balance. You can also send your employees on a workation.
Let everyone speak: For a cross-cultural team to perform well and achieve its objectives, it is important to hear your team members out. Everyone should be given an equal opportunity to voice their opinions. Establish open communication within the team to make them feel appreciated and heard.
Be a good listener: Listen to the needs and concerns of your team members actively, and don’t let any preconceived notions affect your decisions. Rather than creating biases for people from certain regions, the leaders should understand, acknowledge, and embrace cultural differences before making decisions.
Organize team-building activities: Another great way to overcome cross-cultural issues in a global team is to organize team-building activities from time to time. This will help the members know each other better and embrace their differences.
Prompt conflict resolution: Despite all the efforts to prevent them, conflicts may still arise at times. When this happens, make sure you address it immediately, be a middleman, and find a solution.
Clearly define each member’s roles: Create a common goal for everyone to bind them together, then break it into small actionable tasks. Clearly define the roles of each team member to avoid any confusion and ensure smooth functioning. Let everyone know how important their role is and encourage them to work toward achieving their goal.
Build a collaborative environment: Build a collaborative environment by listening to each and every team member to build trust among them. Understand and embrace cultural differences and develop unity in diversity. Make your team members accept the cultural differences as well and treat everyone equally with respect and honour.
Create an awareness program: Create an awareness program and educate the team members on multicultural meanings. Teach them how to interact with people from different cultural backgrounds to make them feel welcome. This will help the team members get acquainted with different working styles and cultures, thereby minimizing cultural conflicts, removing cultural barriers, and building a collaborative and cooperative environment.
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