The office will always be a place of competition, politics and disagreement. Every now and then, you will hear employees complaining about one another. In some cases, office conflicts result to employees suing each other or one employee harassing the other. This even becomes worse in an office with a multicultural setting, when the employees are of different nationalities. People with multicultural differences and backgrounds have different upbringings. Therefore, they might also follow different work ethics and working styles. Placing these people in one office could spell disaster so it is important to ensure that conflict management strategies are in place to avoid small conflicts from escalating.
If you are tasked to supervise an international team of employees, here are some tips that you might want to consider:
• Before hiring any foreign employee, make sure that you are familiar with their cultural backgrounds. You have to understand first what their beliefs and traditions are. You also need to know what the huge differences between their culture and the culture of the local employees are. By then, it will be a lot easier to settle conflicts later on. You might also provide local employees with ideas on how to deal with foreign employees accordingly.
• Set guidelines and rules to be observed in the office. This must include regulations on punctuality, absence, conflict resolution, and many more. This will help prevent any problem from happening right from the start. There must also be corresponding corrective measures or disciplinary actions for those who have violated the rules. Also, make sure that everyone is informed about these rules.
• Orient the new foreign employee about the policies in the office, cultural background of the co-employees and local traditions and customs that must be observed. This will help the new employee to be more aware of the working environment. Sometimes, conflicts happen because they discover things on their own. The best thing to do is to inform them so things won’t come as a shock to them.
• Be aware of cultural differences. Try to be more understanding as much as possible. There are many ways in which people deal with conflicts in the office. For instance, there are those who are used to being upfront and honest. For some people, this might be deemed as being tactless and out of place. There are also those who are not used to facing the problem head on. They might want to resolve the conflict in other ways, so this must be understood as well.
• Speak with the people involved separately at first. Hear both sides of the story before making judgments. You might be surprised to see that the problem simply happened because of translation mistakes or of misunderstanding what the other person said. Facial expression, volume of the voice or hand gestures might have also triggered the fight. For instance, in some cultures, raising the voice is a norm. Some others are used to speaking while someone else is also speaking, but for many cultures, it is impolite. These differences must be taken into account.
• Make sure that you document what happened, and what you have done to resolve the conflict or to mediate. This might be useful for the next possible conflicts that may arise in the office.
There are a lot of ways to deal with issues regarding an international workplace. The best thing to do is to talk and settle the differences before they get worse.