A study conducted by National Center of Public Policy and Higher Education projected an increase in the American workforce from 18 percent to a 37 percent by the year 2020. The census conducted in 2015 indicated that majority of population comprised of Millennials, and 44.2 percent of this population ethnically identifies themselves with races other than ‘white’. Moreover, US population also saw a rise in children (below the age of 5), belonging to minority ethnic groups. With changing population dynamics, it is necessary for employers to consider modifying their workplace according to the diverse workforce entering the job market.
In addition to changing population, advanced technology has allowed business to operate in foreign countries to reduce cost. This has led to a merger of many cultures, as people across borders are working together in many companies. Hence, it’s necessary that you are prepared to deal with the challenges that come along with a diverse team.
Working across cultures employees develop expectation from each other, this is where the problem begins. People belonging to a low-context culture are straightforward and logical in business, whereas people belonging to a high-context culture are not quite straightforward and rely on body language for communication.
This difference in working style causes conflict. You might have notices that people belonging to the Middle East might use time generously and not be direct when it comes to communication. On the other hand, people in US are more candid and logical. All this can create barriers in communication which can aggravate a conflict.
In some cultures, leaders are developed keeping age, hierarchy, experience, and designation in mind, whereas in some cultures leaders are people who produce results and bring change.
Both the leadership styles have their pros and cons, but people who have been accustomed to a specific leadership style, they find it hard to navigate in a diverse team.
Managers spend considerable amount of time in meetings; they are time consuming and set a pace for the team’s work. This might seem like a generalized opinion, but different cultures approach meeting differently.
In Japan, meetings are used as a public announcement of a decision. Ideas and alternative are discussed in small groups to avoid time wasted in conflicts. The Dutch use their meetings to highlight shortcomings of ideas and projects. In Mexico meetings are used as a relationship-building technique. Lastly, in US meetings are an open forum for employees to discuss all possible ideas and make a decision.
When working across culture, resistance might be experienced by employees not familiar to different meeting styles.
Multi-cultured team might hit an impasse, if they are unaware of how a decision will be made. Some employees may consider informal chats as a great way to develop trust in team, whereas others might consider it a waste of time. Furthermore, each employ will have a different approach to research, some will keep it detailed to show their due diligence, while others will keep it concise and factual.
In hierarchal cultures, the leader holds the ultimate veto power and can make a decision without consulting with the team. On the other hand, in some cultures, decisions are made after taking the input of entire teams. Difference in decision making process can impact the team’s cohesiveness and create conflict.
Problems occur when there is lack of communication within a multi-culture team.
Are you a diverse organization dealing with cultural conflicts?
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