Having a multicultural team can help a company grow internationally, but it might come with some challenges. Overcoming these challenges might require time and creative management, and it will be absolutely worth it.
A multilingual team will, most likely, work unified under a single language. Team members might be at different proficiency levels. This might greatly hinder the exchange of ideas.
On the other hand, in Western culture, communication tends to be more direct than in Eastern cultures, where less frontal approaches are seen as more polite. This might cause misunderstandings or unintentional offense.
Team members from different cultures might expect different decision-making processes and leadership styles.
In countries such as Indonesia, Russia, China or Brazil, company structures are markedly hierarchical: Hierarchies are constantly reaffirmed and decisions are made top-down.
But, in Nordic societies, the decision-making process is egalitarian and consensual. Decisions are discussed on what literally, figuratively, or in both senses are round tables. Since decisions are the product of lengthy negotiation, they might be harder to revert than in hierarchical top-down structures.
This difference, along with the communicative differences, might cause friction.
Some team members might expect their managers to have the last word, while others might expect to work in a horizontal structure and have their voices considered at every step of the decision-making process.
Multicultural professionals who are informed about their home country’s culture, trends, and market, can be of great help to shape a business’ global identity. An international staff can also provide culturally sensitive customer service.
An ideal multicultural team includes professionals that are adaptable, flexible, open-minded and goal driven.
For this kind of teams to work, its members might have to engage in what’s called “positive dismissal”, that is: They might have to overlook cultural differences as irrelevant details, and seek commonalities. Intelligent, culturally informed management can help workers unite under one of these commonalities: Their shared goals.
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