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How different cultures work in the same team



Kirjoittanut: Marcos Homar Heinonen - tiimistä SYNTRE.

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I got interested to write about this topic after watching Erin Mayer at the Nordic business forum. She talked about cross-cultural management, intercultural negotiations, and multicultural leadership among other things. Her speech was the best speech from the Nordic Business Forum as it caught my attention and made me reflect. In the beginning, when I first heard about Mayer’s topics, I thought about the basic difficulties that may surface when working in a multicultural environment. But after watching the speech, I can see the possibilities but also the difficulties people from different cultures may face in a team environment.

The idea of diversity in a team is widely accepted and appreciated. In fact, many employers promote it as a way to bring out the best in their employees. However, some people have doubts about the effectiveness of having a diverse team. They argue that variety leads to discord rather than cohesion. On the other hand, supporters of diverse teams point to numerous studies that show how beneficial it is to have a variety of backgrounds on a team.

A diverse team has members with different abilities and perspectives. This type of team is better at producing results than homogeneous groups. For one thing, they’re more likely to identify problems and come up with solutions. Additionally, they’re more likely to make sure that all policies address all issues equally well. Additionally, they’re more likely to create a safe environment for all members. In short, having a diverse team can help everyone on the team be successful.

A diverse team can help with decision-making too. Each member brings a different perspective and experience to these decisions. This leads to better-informed decisions that benefit everyone involved. It’s also safer to make these decisions when people from different backgrounds are making them. This prevents groupthink from derailing important decisions. Plus, it helps everyone feel safe in the workplace.

Another thing to consider is how having a diverse team impacts your employees’ lives outside of work. Diverse teams are often more inclusive- they include people from different racial and social groups in their work. This leads to an environment where everyone feels valued and included. In turn, this creates an employee base that feels comfortable asking for help or seeking out mentors during down times in their lives. Density in a diverse team has many positive consequences for those who are a part of it.

A diverse team brings various skills and ideas to the table every time they meet. It makes better decisions and creates a more inclusive workplace environment. Therefore, you should include as many different types of people as you can in your team structure- as long as you do it responsibly!

People from different cultures communicate in different ways. As an example, people from Finland can have long periods of time between their talking being quiet which is very unusual for a person from the USA. Therefore, we should have an overview of how people around the globe behave in different situations. Otherwise, misunderstanding may lead to people thinking wrongly toward other individuals.

Not speaking your primary language in a multicultural team is also difficult on some occasions. This can cause some misunderstandings as you are not so fluent in expressing what you have to say. This type of problem has raised sometimes inside our multicultural team SYNTRE. Not speaking your primary language can also have huge benefits. As nobody is at his strongest while speaking a second language the strength of certain individuals who would be very dominant in their primary language is not that much in their secondary language creating a more equal environment.

Avoiding stereotyping people is a key factor in a multicultural team. Being aware of cultural differences and stereotyping are differentiated by a very fine line. Thinking that all people from certain regions behave the same way is stereotyping. Cultures shape people’s behavior but they don’t dictate how a person is.

It is important to empathize with your team members to gain trust inside the team. When you emphathize with other people, they are going to do the same with you creating a good atmosphere and psychologically safe environment.

Giving constructive feedback is seen differently in different countries. Constructive feedback is often seen very negatively and rudely in some countries. In other countries, it is seen as a positive outcome for you to improve for next time.

To end this essay here are examples of how both negative and positive feedback are being seen in different countries around the globe. Taken from the article: FOND,9 ways to manage a multicultural team, 17.03.2020.

?? USA

American employees are known for giving explicit positive feedback, using words like “fabulous” and “awesome.” When it comes to negative feedback, they prefer to deliver it in writing.

???????England

British employees tend to be less direct than Americans, both when complimenting or criticizing. They use adverbs like “maybe” and “possibly” to soothe criticism.

??Germany

German employees have a tendency to give negative feedback directly, and are less likely to provide positive feedback in general.

??France

French employees are more likely to give negative or constructive verbal feedback in the workplace. When it comes to positive feedback, their principle is: “No news is good news.”

??Brazil

Brazilian employees are known for their indirect and implicit language. This applies both for positive and negative feedback.

??Argentina

Argentinian employees are considered to be the most direct in giving feedback among all Latin American countries. According to Meyer, neighboring countries have a tendency to perceive this as arrogant behavior and it can cause conflict.

??Nigeria

Nigerian employees are known for having a very direct way of providing feedback, which is very unusual for other African countries.

??Ghana

Like other African countries (except Nigeria), Ghanaian employees tend to avoid direct confrontation. Their way of providing constructive feedback to someone is by telling a mutual friend.

??China

Chinese employees tend to modify their feedback according to where an employee sits within the hierarchy of the company. For example, a businessperson would give softer feedback to a colleague but will strongly criticize a subordinate.

??Japan

Japanese employees are famous for giving the most indirect feedback. They usually skip giving negative feedback at all so the recipient must find the implicit meaning.

??Mexico

Mexican employees are less direct than Americans. When they’re criticizing, they like to make the criticism more comfortable, by adding: “That’s an interesting point, but another interesting point might be…”

??Australia

Australian employees are considered to be the most direct of all Anglo-Saxon countries, providing blunt feedback, both positive and negative. This can sometimes cause conflict with Americans, who sometimes find this style arrogant.

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

 

FOND,9 ways to manage a multicultural team, 17.03.2020.

 

Nordic Business Forum, Erin Mayer, 20.09.2022

 

Managing a cross-cultural team? Here are 10 strategies to do it effectively, All things talent team, 30.10.2019.

 

 

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