Multicultural Teams

Topics: Culture, Problem solving, Management Pages: 5 (1342 words) Published: February 13, 2011


The increasing number of multinational companies, the expand global market place and the diversity of the customers across cultures require new points of view. More and more companies use multicultural teams to develop new products or business solutions. Multicultural teams are task oriented groups of people from different cultures. Well managed multicultural teams thanks to the different point of views of their team members can superior national teams in the number of possible alternatives and solutions. But diversity is a “double- edged sword”: means positive dynamics and problems caused by cultural clashes. Managing these teams became a main subject of human resource management studies.

Advantages of diversity

Same- culture teams are homogeneous. Team members have the same point of view. People raised up in the same culture have certain beliefs, value things the same way. On the other hand multinational teams can offer multiple points of view. The participants have different backgrounds and experiences. They come from countries with diverse political and legal systems, social structures and religions. People from different cultures have different perceptions. They see the world differently and that is why they find diverse details important. Because of the different basic values they evaluate things differently. Members from different cultures sense and tolerate risk and uncertainty differently. The participants of the work have diverse information sources, extra- team connections. The diversity of the workforce can improve the team performance through the variety of alternative perspectives and knowledge.

Multinational teams can be more creative and innovative than the national teams. They can define the problems better and can create a wider scale of ideas and better solutions to a problem. Multinational companies operating on the global market place have to count with the diversity of their customers. When it comes to develop a new product or service it can be very useful to have a culturally mixed team working on it. The multicultural work can provide new ideas and new business solutions.

But all these advantages do not come naturally. Multicultural teams can work effectively only in an environment where the different perspectives are accepted and the new ideas are welcomed by the team members and leaders.


To reach high team performance participants need to overcome the barriers caused by cultural differences that can detain the effective work. According to Behfar at al. (2006a) there are the following challenges that the multicultural teams have to confront:

Direct versus indirect communication and confrontation
People from different cultures communicate differently. The direct, explicit communication of the western cultures can seem harsh for eastern team member. The direct way how western team members can express their expectations and disagreement can be embarrassing for others. Norms for problem solving and decision making

People differ in the way of problem solving. Some of them need longer time for analyze a problem, some of them concentrate on the numbers or others on other variables. To overcome the differences it is important that team members decide the structure and the process of decision making. Time, urgency and pace

Not all the cultures have the same concept of time. The biggest challenge to set realistic timelines. Team members have to consider that some of them need more for effective work some of them need strict schedule and for some the deadline can mean something “flexible”. Differences in work norms and behaviors

The way how people separate their personal and business life can differ. These difference cause personal tension if a member feels that the others are less committed to the team. Violations of respect and hierarchy

When participants are both from low and high power...

References: Behfar, K., Kern, M., Brett, J. (2006a): Managing challenges in multicultural teams, in: Chen, Y.-R. (Ed.) National Cultures and Groups. Research on Managing Groups and teams Vol.9 pp. 233-262.
Brett, J., Behfar, K. Kern, M. (2006b): Managing multicultural teams, Harvard Business Review; Nov2006, Vol.84, pp.84-91
Cramton, C. D. (2002): Finding common ground in dispersed collaboration, Organizational Dynamics Vol.30, pp.356-367.
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