Managing Performance / Setting Goals

Managing Multi-cultural Teams for Better Productivity

Jaya Sinha asked:


Managing across cultures is not an easy task and it has been a challenge for the offshoring companies to  manage across different geographic boundaries and with multi-cultural teams. A culture in itself is defined as a group or community which shares common beliefs and values. A cultural group is understood by the manner in which it behaves. A person can adjust to different cultures at the same time exhibiting different characteristics depending on the birthplace, family background, language, education, religion, profession etc.

 Understanding and managing multi-cultural teams is important to let the organization achieve results and success. Unless every individual in a team with different cultures adapts to a particular organizational environment, the organization cannot move in the right direction and attain profits.

It is culture which presents various challenges, one of them being the barriers to communication. When companies outsource human resources, one of the criteria it looks for is a cultural fit. Often candidates who  are capable of topmost positions are often eliminated on the ground of cultural mismatch as they are unable to justify themselves to be adaptable to a different set of cultural attributes. Few examples make this understanding of culture much more clearer. There are individuals who are understood to be wrong or aggressive when they make eye-contact for a longer time during the process of conversation while Americans find individuals untrustworthy who do not make proper eye-contact with the other person. Then, there are Japanese who bend their head whenever they greet the other person which otherwise is thought be too cordial by individuals of other countries.

If an individual is not able to accomodate himself with the other culture, then he may go into a cultural shock the signs of which are high level of anxiety, isolation and also lack of performance on the job. So, it becomes necessary to manage across the multi-cultural teams not only  to show good performance on the job but also to stay cool, calm and stress-free. In this regard, many IT companies have come out successful as the IT workers worked their way up to breaking the cultural barriers and rising above cultural attributes such as language etc.

A manager of an organization often faces problems dealing an overseas client. Many countries may not have open-form of communication and direct communication while many may have it. A manager may also have trouble understanding the accent and fluency of the other person.

Since, no single-step approach can work towards synergizing multicultural teams, It industry or any other industry per se should adopt the following techniques:     

Acclimatize to the different set of culture: Nothing is better than adjusting to the different cultural climate. You need to accept the opinion of others gladly. This does not mean that you should hamper your work. You should be able to influence the other person too towards one’s own opinion. You need to understand the language, working style, religion and many more things need to be understood and taken up in order to get the work done.  Intervene by structurally changing the team: Now, the structural intervention requires changing the shape of the team. This includes picking up individuals from different teams and assigning them a task to complete. Create an amicable environment: Here, it becomes the profound duty of the manager to create a friendly environment between different individuals having different culture in a group. It all depends upon how one interacts and communicates with the other person having different language, origin etc. Resolve conflicts arising out of cultural differences: If at all conflict arises due to language or accent difference, a manager should try to get the messy situation patched up. Gain insight into the other culture: This requires an ample of hard work and this will also take time to learn about the other culture, language. Often this will require you to gain knowledge of the living and working style.  


Besides the above tips to managing multi-cultural teams, one should maintain that when two or more teams come across, they all need to equally work hard in order to work together.       


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