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How to manage a multicultural team effectively


Managing a multicultural team requires patience and careful consideration of your teams’ values, attitudes and experiences. What is a multicultural team? Put simply, these are groups of people, from a variety of different cultures and nationalities interacting together to achieve a common goal.


Think about your values and attitudes. Do you find it easier interacting with individuals from the same culture as you or those from different cultures? It is most probably easier interacting with those from the same culture due to being able to share similar experiences and have intuition on how the individual will most likely act and communicate. However, with globalisation we often find ourselves working with team-members from an array of different cultures and backgrounds.


If you are a manager, perhaps you are finding it challenging managing a culturally diverse team. Take time to understand each employee’s cultural background. Each culture presented within the group is like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle with a manager’s role consisting of fitting these pieces together to achieve a cohesive team.


What are the benefits of having a multicultural team?


Cultural diversity is an ingredient of organisation success. Research has found innovation and creativity rise due to the emergence of cross-cultural teams. The variety of perspectives and viewpoints offered by a culturally diverse team can help increase creativity and avoid groupthink. Interestingly, research has found multicultural teams to dramatically increase employee engagement, creating a more interested and attentive workforce.


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What challenges may you be presented with when managing a multicultural team?


There are a variety of challenges that you may encounter when managing a multicultural team. It is important to take time to consider how your team can overcome their cultural differences to allow for the creation of a more cohesive workforce.


If employees lack cultural intelligence and understanding this may lead to cross-cultural conflict. Research has shown greater task, process, and relationship conflict amongst multi-cultural teams. It is important to consider how this conflict can be resolved in order to relieve tension. Perhaps, you may choose to implement training courses educating colleagues about the importance of cultural diversity to help reduce this conflict. Education is a powerful tool that can help build stronger relationships at work.


Miscommunication can also easily lead to conflict. Language often acts as a barrier between different cultural groups impacting the ability to create a culture of trust. Employees may not feel that they can fully trust a colleague who they are finding difficult to understand. Remote working often proliferates this barrier with individuals losing the ability to see contextual cues such as body language, tone, and gestures.


It is also important to consider how culture can impact communication styles. How does your culture affect your communication? Are you an implicit or explicit communicator? Do you rely heavily on non-verbal cues? Are you an individualist – valuing independence and uniqueness? Or would you view yourself to be a collectivist – valuing group harmony over independence? All these factors can be impactive on your style. Differences in communication styles may lead to misinterpretation. Educate employees on these differences so that self-awareness and social intelligence can be developed.


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Tips on how to manage a multicultural team effectively


Managing a multicultural team requires sensitivity – you need to be considerate of different attitudes, values and beliefs presented within the team. Focus your efforts on the following:


  1. Participate in cross-cultural training courses. These courses will help educate you on cultural diversity.
  2. Build on your cultural intelligence. Do some reading on cultural dimensions and how cultures can impact one’s behaviour and cognition. Build your awareness!
  3. Set a common goal for your team to achieve. This will help to ensure that there is a sense of cohesion.
  4. Understand the cultural gaps that may exist within your team. You may choose to set team building activities to help build any bridges amongst members.
  5. Take time to actively listen to members of your team. Are they struggling with their communication? Are they finding it difficult to understand any cultural nuances?


Managers enable work to be done but they also enable people to thrive. Building a diverse environment will help employees build their cultural intelligence and awareness. Whilst the management of multicultural teams can be challenging, the benefits certainly outweigh the efforts to get there. It is important as a manager to continue to build confidence in your capabilities. Have faith in your abilities and embrace the challenges faced with building and managing a multicultural team.


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