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Managing Multicultural Teams

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Louisa Jeutter

on 14 October 2013

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Transcript of Managing Multicultural Teams

Managing Multicultural Teams
The Challenges
4 categories
not only differing styles of communications
How to deal with it?
managing multicultural teams is hard
especially when manager is asked for help
cultural differences create problems in teamwork

Multicultural teams
Direct versus indirect communication
communication in Western cultures direct and explicit
other cultures: meaning is embedded in the way message is presented
result: non-Westerner can understand, Westerner can't understand
example: Japanese "yes" means "I am listening"
differences can cause serious damage to relationships
can embarrass non-Westerner
reduces information sharing and creates interpersonal conflicts
Trouble with accents and fluency
international business language: English
accents, lack of fluency and problems with translations or usage lead to misunderstanding and deep frustration
difficulty to express what they think
example: native speaker take the lead although all members are on the same level
experts are not recognized
nonnative speakers less motivated to contribute
also: language differences can have good impact on teams and resolve tensions
Differing attitudes toward hierarchy and authority
teams have flat structure
team members from cultures, in which people are treated differently according to their status, can't handle the situation
damage of stature and credibility, even humiliation
example: question instead of statement out of respect -> seems like you don't know what you're talking about
team members believe they've treated disrepectfully as a result of differing cultural norms -> project can blow up
Conflicting norms for decision making
enormous differences in decision making
how quickly should decisions be made?
how much analysis is required?
US managers like quick decisions with little analysis
example: Koreans like to rediscuss points
solution: adjust and respect another approach of decision making
Four Strategies
Structural intervention
Managerial intervention
removing team member when other options have failed
change from professional to personal differences
Managerial intervention
setting norms early / bringing in a higher level manager
acknowledge problems up-front
prevention of future problems
Structural intervention
Changing the shape of the team
removing source of conflict
good opportunity for subgroups
risk -> mediator necessary
Acknowledging cultural gaps, work around them
no changes in group necessary
less managerial time than other strategies
participation in problem-solving-process
Identifying the Right Strategy
adaption / structural intervention / managerial intervention / exit

minimal input from management
American / French Project
Problems that occured:
blame and toxic communication
->complete breakdown
different approaches to work
-> double workloads
lack of trust and responsibility
absent leadership

American / French Project
Two day workshop for team members:
team cultural analysis
intercultural competence training
American / French Project
awareness of cultural strengths and challenges
development of procedures to face the challenges
rebuilt trust in success
respect and responsibility restored
Relevant Models
Hofstede, Trompenaars & Hampden Turner,
Shalom Schwartz Value Survey (SVS)
Direct vs. Indirect Communication
Trouble with accents and fluency
Different attitudes towards hierarchy and authority
Conflicting norms for decision making
Universalism v. Particularism
neutral v. emotional
"When the American manager quoted above discovered that several flaws in the system would significantly disrupt company operations, she pointed this out in an email to her American boss and the Japanese team members."
"Her Japanese colleagues were embarrassed [..] The American manager was isolated not just socially but also physically."
Intellectual autonomy
"He was not interested in the Japanese consultants' feedback and felt that because they weren't as,fluent as he was, they weren't intelligent enough and, therefore, could add no value."
"Non-fluent team members may well be the
most expert on the team, but their difficulty
communicating knowledge makes it hard for the
team to recognize and utilize their expertise"
Power Distance/
"ln Mexican culture, you're always supposed to be humble. [...] I think
that actually worked against me, because the Americans thought I really didn't know what I was talking about. So it made me feel like they thought I was wavering on my answer."
"lt should have been their own lower-level people, not the U. S. team members, who came to them with a problem."
Sequential time v.
Synchronous time

"On the first day,we agreed on three points, and on the second day,the U. S.-
Spanish side wanted to start with point four. But the Korean side wanted to go back and re-discuss points
one through three."
(1: The Geert Hofstede Centre 2013)
(2: The Geert Hofstede Centre 2013)
(3: The Geert Hofstede Centre 2013)
The Geert Hofstede Centre, 2013, Image 1-3 (WWW)
Available from: http://geert-hofstede.com/united-states.html [Accessed: 13th Oct 2013]
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