Overcoming Challenges in a Multicultural Virtual Team

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When working in a multicultural virtual team, there are many challenges that you will most likely come across. Some of the problems that multi-cultural virtual teams experience include: time delays in replies, lack of synergy among cross-cultural team members, communications breakdowns, unresolved conflicts among members, limited hours allowed to be worked and different holidays. Multicultural teams often generate frustrating management dilemmas. Cultural differences alone can create substantial obstacles to effective teamwork. But these may be subtle and difficult to recognize until significant damage has already been done. The challenge in managing multicultural teams effectively is to recognize underlying cultural causes of conflict, and to intervene in ways that both get the team back on track and empower its members to deal with future challenges themselves. The good news is that cultural challenges are manageable if managers and team members choose the right strategy and avoid imposing single culture based approaches on multicultural situations. People tend to assume that challenges on multicultural teams arise from differing styles of communication. But this is only one of the four categories that, according to research, can create barriers to a team’s ultimate success. These categories are direct versus indirect communication; trouble with accents and fluency; differing attitudes toward hierarchy and authority; and conflict norms for decision making. (Brett 2006)

Communication in Western cultures is typically direct and explicit. The meaning on the surface and a listener doesn’t have to know much about the context or the speaker to interpret it. This is not true in many other cultures, where meaning in imbedded in the way the message is presented. For example, Western negotiators get crucial information about the other parties’ preferences and priorities by asking direct question,...
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