Multicultural teams offer a variety of advantages to large companies, including a deep knowledge of different product markets, culturally sensitive customer service and innovative ideas from different cultural experiences. However, where many people from different cultures, have different traditions, complex communication styles and a variety of beliefs and values, issues may arise and workplaces may breakdown.
- Communication – Western cultures tend to speak directly, whereas in many other cultures, this is considered impolite and aggressive. This misunderstanding can cause friction and imbalances between leaders and team members.
- Accents and fluency – Where non-native speakers struggle to tie words together in a fluent and concise way, other team members tend not to value or listen to their opinion as much as they would if their colleague was a native speaker
- Hierarchy and authority – A differing structure of flat and hierarchical authority composition, often leads to a breakdown in respect between colleagues.
- Decision making – Different speeds and styles of decisions making, such as thinking instinctively vs analytically, create conflicts where some peoples decision will be undervalued.
By dealing with these challenges, there were four corresponding solutions to solve these issues: adaptation through changing the shape or makeup of the team; managerial intervention, by setting norms early or bringing in a higher-level manager; structural intervention, by changing the shape or makeup of the manager; and exit, by removing a team member when all other options have failed
Through early intervention and setting out structures and norms, teams and managers can then engage with everyone on the team, and find challenges that stem from culture.