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By neena_b Sep 02, 2014 3011 Words
Management of multicultural team
Task –Related selection
While acknowledging the team’s diverse cultural background, leader should not select member solely based on their ethnicity but rather primary for their task related abilities. To maximize team effectiveness, members should be selected to be homogeneous in ability levels (thus facilitating accurate communication) and heterogeneous in attitudes (thus ensuring a wide range of solutions to problem) Recognizing Differences

Teams should not ignore or minimize cultural differences; many barriers to intercultural communication are due to ignorance of cultural differences rather than a rejection of those differences. Teams therefore cannot begin to enhance communication without first recognizing and then understanding and respect cross-cultural differences. Research indicates that “culturally trained leaders, regardless of leadership style achieve higher level of performance and rapport than do non-trained leaders”. To enhance the recognition of differences, team members should first describe each culture present without either interpreting or evaluating it. Before beginning to increase understanding and respect, team members must become aware of their own stereotypes and the ways in which they might inadvertently limit the expectation of fellow team members from other cultures. Once members begin to recognize actual differences that is, once they can differentiate their stereotypes from the actual personalities and behaviour of team members (cultural description) they can begin to understand why members from other cultures think, feel and act the way they do (cultural interpretation). Subsequently, they can ask what members from each culture can contribute and how their contributions complement those of other members (cultural creativity). In this way, creating effective multicultural teams follows the same process as creating cultural synergy. Establishing a Vision or Super ordinate Goal

Members of diverse teams generally have more difficulty agreeing on their purpose and task than do members of homogenous teams. Global alliances often become trouble because partners from different countries do not clearly understand each other’s intent, their purpose, gaols and strategy because they are initially unable to communicate with each other. This misunderstanding happens in part because teams set their overall purpose during the initial stage of team development, the stage during which individual differences tend to dominate and often interfere with team cohesion. To maximize effectiveness, leaders need to help teams agree on their vision or super ordinate goal, goal that transcends individual differences. Super ordinate goals are often defined broadly, thus giving general direction and focus to the team’s subsequent activities. Super ordinate goals that require collaboration and cooperation usually decrease prejudice and increase mutual respect. This is particularly true when team members require the continued support of their colleagues to achieve results important to all cultures, as well as to the overall organization. Equalizing Power

Teams generally produce more and better ideas if all members participate. Cultural dominance (Disproportionate power vested in members of one culture over those from other cultures) is therefore counterproductive because is stifles no dominant team members’ contribution. In multinational teams, leaders must guard against vesting disproportionate power in host-country members, members of the same nationality as the employing organization, members from the most technologically advanced or economically developed countries, or members wit ideologies most consonant with their own. Team leaders should manage the distribution of power according to each member’s ability to contribute to the task, not according to some preconceived gradient of relative cultural superiority. Creating Mutual Respect

Ethnocentrism reflects a “view of things in which in which ones own group is the centre of everything and all others are scaled and rated with reference to it”. Prejudice refers to judging other groups as inferior to one’s own. Equal status, close contact, and cooperative efforts toward a common goal decrease prejudice. The greater the opportunity for interethnic contacts, the less prejudiced and more frequent the development of cross-ethnic acceptance and friendship. For most teams to work effectively, members must respect each other. Team leaders can enhance mutual respect by selecting members of equal ability. Making prior accomplishments and task-related. Giving Feedback

Give the different perspectives present, culturally diverse teams have more trouble than do single – culture teams in agreeing collectively on what constitutes a good or bad idea or decision .Where as single culture teams rapidly develop judgment criteria based on members’ similar values, multicultural teams usually experience difficulty and delay before eventually reaching agreement. To encourage effective functioning, managers should give team members positive feedback on their process and output both as individuals and as a team early in the team’s life. Positive external feedback (give by the team leader or a senior manager who is not on the team) generally aids the team in viewing itself as a team, while additionally serving to teach team members to value its diversity, recognize contributions made by each member, and trust the team’s collective judgment. CHALLENGES IN MANAGING MULTICUTURAL TEAM

1 Losses Due to fault process in culturally diverse team
Diversity makes team functioning more challenging because team members find it more difficult to see, understand and act on situations in similar ways. Diversity makes reaching agreement more difficult. Team members from similar cultures find it easier to communicate clearly with one another and trust one another more readily. In culturally diverse teams, misperception, miscommunication, misinterpretation and misevaluation abound. Because members of multicultural teams more frequently disagree on expectations, the appropriateness of relevant information, and the need for particular decisions, they generally experience higher level of stress than do homogeneous teams. Diversity increases the ambiguity, complexity, and inherent confusion in team processes. Process losses diminish productivity. 2 Attitudinal problems: Dislike and Mistrust

Members of culturally diverse teams express higher level of mistrust than do their more homogenous counterparts. Team members often find themselves more attracted to people from their own culture than to people from other culture. Mistrust, another problem in multicultural teams, results primary from inadvertent cross-cultural misinterpretation rather than actual dislike. 3 Perceptual Problems: Stereotyping

Team members often inappropriately stereotype colleagues from other cultures rather than accurately seeing and assessing their skills and potential contributions from accomplishing a particular task for instance, team members generally talk more to colleagues from higher status cultures than those from lower status cultures. They assume, usually subconsciously, that national stereotypes apply to individual team members.

4 Communication Problems: Inaccuracy, Misunderstanding, and Inefficiency Diversity causes problems by disrupting communication. When all members do not fluently speak the team’s language, communication is slowed down. In linguistically diverse group, some members must speak a foreign language or use an interpreter. Both diminish communication speed and increase the chances for errors. Team members from diverse cultures often disagree over the meaning of important issues, such as the cause of particular events, how to determine admissible evidence, how to assess the relevance of specific information, and the possible conclusions that can be drawn. On many teams, disagreement remains implicit and, therefore, hidden, members assume they interpret things similarly when in fact the opposite is true. RECOMMENDATION

1 Flexibility is the key to working in a multicultural environment; the work environment always demands flexibility on your part, but in a multicultural environment the adaptation becomes all the more important. The flexibility that is so important in dealing with anything that does not confirm to our own beliefs ensures your co-workers feel you are not judging them by religion or race, in a work environment, and as humans, their personal qualities and the value of their work matters, never the colour of their skin.

2. Develop understanding for different cultures and values and respect those differences. There are religious practices, some people do not eat a certain type of meat based on religious beliefs, some do not eat meat at all and some try everything. As a team member you have to learn to not look down on anyone who does not confirm to your beliefs and it never hurts to go out of the way to accommodate others at times, if its Easter festival for your Hindu colleague, or Eid celebrations for a Muslim colleague, you can win them over by covering for them while they join their families for the day and you can convey your sincerity that way too.

2 Do not overkill with sweeping generalizations. Quite often when you are dealing with people, you come to know that the stereotypes are very fallible. Look around you in the same culture as you have and you will not find everyone confirming to your views so do not expect all Africans or all European co-workers to be similar. Use the stereotypes but only to get a vague idea of what a person might be like, the rest you still have to get to know through observation and interaction.

3 Regardless of the religion, ethnic or cultural background of a person, everyone has to be treated ‘fairly’. People should always be chosen for specific tasks and in lead roles for their capabilities alone. If, for instance, an Asian, or an African is the suitable choice for the team lead over a predominantly European workforce, fairness demands that the person gets the task he deserves. It is the task of the management and the individuals in the team to make sure they do not treat their new team leader with less respect than they would give to another European. The easier way in terms of maintaining the status quo is thought to be giving the lead to the next best person for the job when a minority representative qualifies for a team lead; this however means your work environment is already racially charged.

4 Do not impose your own set of values on others; it is the easiest way to lose respect in a multicultural environment because values usually are what you grow up with and every individual has the intrinsic need to defend them. Be ready to take constructive feedback instead.

5 Remember that differences of culture or values should not be reason for communication gaps. This point relates to the preceding one as well, since it means you have to make an effort to find ways to set others at ease around you. If you have someone on the team who has ideas but cannot communicate them it is up to you to make sure the team do not suffer because of it. Learn to listen well and give others the confidence to be able to communicate with you by showing respect.  Give people the chance to communicate their views, share your own, and as with any discussion, it is important to let the other person know you are listening and thinking over their views too. Be open minded in accepting logic never-ever tell people their views are ‘wrong’. There are many more diplomatic words in use that can save face for the other person as well as let logic rule the discussion. If you can be that courteous and can show respect you are building bridges without losing anything.

6 Win friends. Whatever culture you belong to, the idea is to be sincere towards your fellow workers. If you win their trust, you usually win friends too who will usually in turn try to accommodate you as much as possible. Remember, friendship and respect is common to all cultures.

7 Find out what motivates the individuals in your team and you can solve half the problems in your workplace through intelligent use of that knowledge while raising them above the normal day to day though processes. If I am motivated towards a goal, and if I think it is achievable, I will feel I have stakes in the whole project, its then those things really start to fall in place.

8 Create a sense of awareness in your workplace about the diversity of your team and about the workplace problems such as racism, etc. You and your colleagues should know about the signs of things starting to go wrong. Unless you educate yourself about a problem, there is a huge chance that you will not have thought on the matter before you make a mistake, or come into contact with anyone who commits racist acts, or passes racist comments which go unchecked.

9 Never think ethnic jokes or insults to be trivial; what may look like an insignificant little comment to you can be detrimental to another person’s peace of mind. A bad joke can make or break the cohesion of your team so be sure that your work environment is free or racial or religious or even sexual bias, if someone violates the policies on those matters, it is a very serious offense and it should be dealt as such so the message goes out to the offender as well as the person targeted.

10 Some people do need special attention. Treating everyone the same way does not always constitute a fair behaviour, humans are diverse, and so are our cultures and our capabilities. If you are talking to a person with minimal English skills, which do not negatively affect his work, the same way you would talk to someone whose native language is English, you are being unfair to the non native speaker. Give those who need space, more room to manoeuvre, give them special attention and use their capabilities by making sure they understand the goals completely instead of falling to prey to a false sense of fairness. And of course, always-always, back your oral communication about the project with written communication that can be looked at if someone does not understand perfectly or forgets a point. That holds for all teams.

11 Mere words are not enough; you may say a lot about how you understand different cultures or how you respect them, but your deeds and your decision making is your best spokesperson. What you do and how you behave shows your actual views. If you say everyone in the team is equal in your eyes and yet you end up ridiculing another’s culture you are practically showing your words meant nothing. Very few people can judge the intentions behind your comment so even if you did not mean to insult a culture the point remains; make it a habit to weigh your words before you speak in a multicultural environment, very little is needed to spark corrosive hatred amongst people when it comes to racial comments or disrespectful statements about another’s religion or values.

12  Periodical work environment reviews can be helpful in finding out what problems, if any, people are facing in your office regarding how they are treated because of their race, religion or culture. These candid reviews or questionnaires can help the management gauge where they stand in forming a positive and diverse work environment. Based on the views of different people in the office, you can then implement ways to solve the problems faced. And let’s face it, some people will be troublemakers all the way but the management will at least have the chance to find out how they can tackle that person and when held in the balance, if the team should try to integrate him or should he be sent packing to raise the team again. A real ‘team’ will always be bigger than the individual because there is so much more potential to excel.

13 Don’t let personality or cultural clashes ruin your work environment. Multinational NGOs, or those hiring multicultural teams, often have problems with one cultural group at loggerheads with another cultural group or even an individual. The idea is to install the spirit in your team to stick together irrespective and above considerations of cultural differences. Cohesion comes from association, mutual respect plus the sharing of good and bad times together, so make sure you are a part of a cohesive whole. If you are a project manager, your team needs you to lift it and share time together, if you are just a member of a diverse and multicultural team, be sure to still try and develop a relationship with your fellow workers. Remember that not all cultures enjoy the same type of food. There will be members who are prohibited in their religion to drink alcohol, make sure they have a drink they would rather have instead when you toast success, just showing your desire to accommodate the other members in the team does a lot to break the ice. After that, it is up to you to make sure it never gets that cold in your workplace again.

How do you as a manager, manage multi-cultural teams? Many successful managers use four-point strategies to tackle problems related to multicultural team management. They are: Adaption, where open acknowledgement of cultural gaps makes working around it easier Physical intervention that involves altering the shape of the team Administrative involvement of top level managers to set rules and regulations early in the project Exit where a team member is asked to leave if other options have failed The most commonly used methods to deal with multi-cultural teams are: Identifying conflicting areas of interest and practices for each culture Coordinating cross-culture training sessions to train team members on various cultures and the style of the region Generating trust and motivating each team member on the same level, removing hostility and promoting respect and faith amongst multicultural employees of the team Arranging language classes for non-English speaking employees and vice-versa Introducing team-building and role-play activities as ice-breakers and encouraging friendly gatherings and discussions outside working hours Upholding the goal of different people coming together on the project is to work towards completing a project leading to the organization’s and an individual’s success Despite the challenges, there are advantages too, such as:

People from different cultures bring with them an array of creative and innovative experiences and ideas Multi-cultural teams have the advantage of 24-hour work rotations Offices across various geographical locations offers employees a chance to work globally offering a different perspective The multi-cultural team has the potential to address various business issues through diverse problem solving techniques All said and done, working with a cross-cultural team is significantly challenging as the manager must develop strategies to cope not only with differences but also motivate the team to be productive and efficient.

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