The structure of the workplace is changing rapidly due to globalization. For example, Office for National Statistics reports that the workforce in the United Kingdom is presented by various groups of the population, including those coming from British, Indian, Chinese, and Pakistani backgrounds. The employment rate of individuals coming from minority ethnic groups comprises 65%, meaning that there is a significant need to manage diversity in the workplace (Office for National Statistics 2019). The same situation can be observed in other countries, too; Imakwuchu and Billy report that multiculturalism has become a part of many other countries due to globalization and immigration. All members of cross-cultural teams have been influenced by their cultural backgrounds at least to some extent. This fact implies that companies should enhance their understanding of cultural differences to improve negotiation, communication, decision-making processes, leadership, and organizational relationships. This part of the paper will discuss the culture-related issues the organizations’ authorities should be aware of and the approaches that they can implement to eliminate possible challenges cross-cultural teams may encounter.
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Key Issues in Understanding Cultural Differences: Motivation and Leadership
One of the most important issues in understanding cultural differences is that culture has a significant effect on individuals’ personalities, attitudes, behavior, and performance. For example, Hartland (2018) reports that individuals remain products of their culture although they can decide on whether culture should affect their choices. Many employees may have work-related expectations tied to their cultural backgrounds. In addition, many individuals that move abroad for work may experience additional pressure and distress due to language barriers, cultural shock, and lack of communication (Gierveld, Van der Pas & Keating 2015). Moreover, employees coming from diverse populations may experience inner conflicts between their new and old cultures (Hartland 2018). Thus, they may have reduced motivation to work and show a lower level of performance compared to their co-workers.
Employers should also address differences in individuals’ perspectives while developing strategies to enhance workers’ dedication. For example, individuals that were raised in China may value a high salary most while people of Swedish background can work for a lower salary if the tasks are interesting (Flisak & Bjerkhage 2015). The differences in these population groups’ perceptions are evident, which means that providing all employees within one organisation with desired benefits can be challenging. Osabiya’s (2015) report shows that companies’ authorities must ensure a participative style of management, have equitable personnel policies, and provide employees with opportunities for socialization to increase their dedication. Moreover, they should collect staff members’ feedback on existing policies and reward systems. These steps can help organisations to meet individuals’ basic needs and ensure that they can respond to culture-driven expectations.
It is crucial to address the significance of appropriate leadership for the effective management of cross-cultural teams. Imakwuchu and Billy (2018) report that companies’ authorities should be able to foster effective communication between teams and their supervisors, as well as understand the aspects of various cultures present in the group of employees. Leadership in the diverse workplace requires organizations’ managers to understand potential culture-driven boundaries and limitations, acknowledge each individual’s skills, and be willing to establish trust-based relationships among employees (Imakwuchu & Billy 2018). In addition, a leader must pay attention to the composition of a cross-cultural team, too. Companies’ managers should understand that cultural factors may affect the quality of communication among team members, their responsiveness, and their approaches to conflict resolution (Imakwuchu & Billy 2018). Thus, it is evident that cross-cultural teams should be handled differently compared to traditional ones.
Key Issues in Understanding Cultural Differences: Communications and Negotiating
Communication can be considered essential for diverse cultures and cross-cultural groups of personnel. Effective communication is especially significant for cross-cultural teams because when people having different beliefs and values work together, their culture-driven traits and perceptions may conflict (Imakwuchu & Billy 2018). Thus, the managers’ task is to help individuals to coordinate their work better, as well as encourage them to participate in team activities.
As mentioned above, even insignificant differences in needs, beliefs, interests, and concerns of employees from cross-cultural teams determined by their cultural differences can lead to poor communication and decrease the quality of negotiating. Prause and Mujtaba (2015) note that it is crucial to understand that all staff members have the same basic desires of feeling safe, respected, and appreciated; however, they may use different approaches to meet their needs. As a result, even though all staff members may want to achieve the same goals, they may not be able to agree on the same working conditions due to the variety in their perspectives. Thus, organizations must understand both the possible drivers for employees’ behaviors and performance and their needs that are not related to culture.
It is crucial to add that in different cultures, people may have conflicting or even opposing views on job responsibilities, communication with co-workers and supervisors, and employee participation (Prause & Mujtaba 2015). Some employees may think that being ambitious, honest, and independent are the most significant traits of an individual while others may value openness, forgiveness, and friendliness. It means that staff members may encounter challenges while interacting with each other and their superiors, as they may interpret their co-workers’ intentions and decisions incorrectly. As a result, the difference in individuals’ approaches to work and general views may also lead to miscommunication and inflated expectations of both employees and superiors.
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Notably, negotiating can also be highly driven by the cultural aspects of the participants of the process. According to Nouri, Georgila, and Traum (2017), there are observed differences in negotiation performance across cultures. The first possible reason for these disparities is the fact that cultures may have different goals and tend to priorities different functions, which can be seen in the example of individualistic and collectivistic cultures. The second potential cause of differences is that global populations have varied views on what is safe and efficient, although they may have the same goal of achieving safety and efficiency (Nouri, Georgila, & Traum 2017). Another potential culture-based obstacle to communication is the difference in experience among the members of cross-cultural teams (Imakwuchu & Billy 2018). It is an especially acute issue for individuals that have worked in foreign countries or have not operated in a diverse workplace. As a result, it may be challenging to establish effective communication between employees and employers, as well as among cross-cultural teams; the organization’s authorities should consider this issue.
It is vital to add that organizations’ authorities should have a distinguished leadership style. They should define the teams’ roles clearly, discuss their expectations, provide employees with open channels for communication, and encourage staff members to interact with leaders and each other (Imakwuchu & Billy 2018). Also, leadership personnel should take responsibility for providing cross-cultural team members with a productive atmosphere, resolving conflicts timely, and help workers to overcome possible barriers that can make their tasks or communication challenges. To help cross-cultural teams to negotiate effectively, leaders should encourage individuals to work together, engage in collaborative activities, and express their ideas freely (Imakwuchu & Billy 2018). It is also crucial not to suppress employees’ full contribution and foster positive attitudes towards all cultures.
Some of the most useful skills that companies’ managers should implement while working with diverse employees are active listening and the use of body language. They should learn how to address the concerns members of cross-cultural teams report and understand possible differences in their perceptions, for example, those related to personal space. Such an approach can help leadership staff to build trust and confidence in employees, improve their ability to communicate with superiors, and, consequently, enhance their performance (Imakwuchu & Billy 2018). To summarise, organizations need to be aware of culture-driven perspectives, needs, and views on work tasks, priorities, and communication to establish positive relationships within the company.
Key Issues in Understanding Cultural Differences: Decision Making
Effective approaches to decision-making processes are crucial for the organization’s success and overall performance. Decision-making within a company may also be related to the cultural differences of its staff members. Nouri, Georgila, and Traum (2017) note that this process is culture-specific, meaning that individuals’ choices are guided by their cultural backgrounds. Notably, Ashikali and Groeneveld (2015) report that diversity in the workplace is one of the factors contributing to improved decision-making quality. The reason for it is that, as mentioned above, diversity allows for an enhanced talent pool and creativity among employees. Therefore, organizations’ authority should understand the value of cultural differences among their staff members as use them to benefit companies’ performance.
Notably, one of the most significant challenges from the perspectives of decision-making in cross-cultural teams is that there may be differences between each teams’ and employers’ perspectives on the company’s operations. In addition, there may be a lack of understanding between diverse team members, leading to their inability to make appropriate choices. One of the possible solutions to this problem may be establishing regular training sessions aimed at educating employees on how to approach the decision-making process, as well as analyze and accept alternative viewpoints.
It is crucial to add that companies’ authorities should pay attention to two significant factors that may affect decision-making processes. The first one is communication obstacles that can lead to conflicts within cross-cultural teams. Imakwuchu and Billy (2018) suggest that if a challenging situation occurs, leaders should be ready to respond to it time and, if possible, provide necessary orientation and training. Moreover, they should adopt the approach of cultural conformity and understand the causes that had led to the development of the conflict.
Key Issues in Understanding Cultural Differences: Organisational Relationships
Establishing positive organizational relationships within a company is crucial for many reasons. Seto and Sarros report that leaders building quality relationships with their subordinates can improve the workplace environment significantly and enhance employees’ dedication. Moreover, positive organizational relationships can prevent individuals from leaving the company due to their high level of loyalty. One of the most effective management strategies from this perspective can be to reduce workplace discrimination while providing safety and comfort to the employees.
The primary culture-related challenge companies’ authorities may encounter is that individuals may have different perceptions of the positive workplace environment. As mentioned above, cultural backgrounds affect individuals’ values and beliefs significantly (Hartland 2018). As a result, some individuals may perceive particular workplace relationships as positive, while for others, they can be neutral or even negative. There are several strategies companies may utilize to minimize differences in employees’ perspectives. First, they can establish discussion sessions aimed at enhancing staff members’ awareness about the company’s values and goals, as well as the background of its operations. Second, organizations can collect feedback from their employees to analyze whether they feel safe, comfortable, and respected at their workplace. As a follow-up measure, companies can establish personal meetings with the members of cross-cultural teams to outline possible challenges they may encounter at work.
Another significant issue that should be considered is that it is crucial to ensure appropriate business ethics while managing diversity in the workplace. An ethical approach can be one of the bases of appropriate organizational relationships while managing cross-cultural teams. For instance, Crane et al. report that business malpractice can harm employees and communities significantly. This fact implies that it is vital for employers to provide all people having the same position in the company with equal wages and benefits, address workers’ concerns, and ensure a welcoming environment for them.
Ashikali, T & Groeneveld, S 2015, ‘Diversity management in public organizations and its effect on employees’ affective commitment: the role of transformational leadership and the inclusiveness of the organizational culture’, Review of Public Personnel Administration, vol. 35, no. 2, pp. 146-168.
Crane, A, Matten, D, Glozer, S & Spence, L 2019, Business ethics: managing corporate citizenship and sustainability in the age of globalization, 5th edn, Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom.
Flisak, D & Bjerkhage, T 2015, How culture affects the motivation of employees. Web.
Gierveld, JDJ, Van der Pas, S & Keating, N 2015, ‘Loneliness of older immigrant groups in Canada: effects of ethnic-cultural background’, Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology, vol. 30, no. 3, pp. 251-268.
Hartland, J 2018, ‘What effect does multi-cultural background have on identity?’, Journal of Psychology and Brain Studies, vol. 2, no. 1:2, pp. 1-5.
Imakwuchu & Billy 2018, ‘Cross-cultural team management’, The Business & Management Review, vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 575-580.
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