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Multicultural Team

5 Tips for Working in a Multicultural Team

Globalisation encourages the exchange of resources and talents across countries and it is not uncommon to see people coming from every corner of the world work in the same company. Conflicts, misunderstandings, to name a few, are foreseeable which may lower workplace morale as a consequence.

However, despite the mentioned side effects, workplace diversity can be an advantageous asset for the company in terms of innovation and market outreach. Workers from a specific country carry the local cultures and values which help broaden the insight of a company. Only if the representatives from each region are being valued, can the company grow in a positive way.

In this article, we will discuss general tips about working in a multicultural team by understanding some strategies to get along with people with different backgrounds and construct an inclusive working environment.

Multicultural Team

1. Respect Without Bias

Variance occurs among every individual, not to mention people born in different contexts. It is crucial to be mentally prepared that foreigners may hold divergent or even contrasting values and habits with you. Be open to every culture as there is no right or wrong in how an individual behaves, as long as those behaviours impose no harm on anyone.

For example, Japanese and German workers differ greatly in workplace communication. Japanese always prefer implying an underlying message in any conversation while Germans like to express both opinions and critics directly. There is no judgement in between but just different behaviours illustrated by people from around the world which reflect their own beliefs and culture. What we need to do is to respect what we want to receive from others.

2. Communicate to understand

Communication is the key to understanding each other’s needs and also managing expectations. It is always a good idea to initiate conversations with others so that we can know more about their working styles, habits or even interests. We can also learn what to anticipate from them—we would not expect French workers who emphasize greatly on work-life balance to work overtime. Most importantly, the cultivation of mutual understanding enables workers to seek the most appropriate working approach for the whole team.  

3. Communicate with effectiveness

Due to language differences, misunderstandings may easily arise during discussions among the team with people from distinct countries. To minimize misinterpretation, an in-person meeting is preferable to texting as any questions or uncertainty can be addressed immediately. Workers will be more motivated to talk in real life as well.

It is also worth noting that the same phrases or words may mean differently in different countries, such as the phrase “fair enough” carries contrasting meanings in Australia and the UK. It can be used to show agreement in Australia while a sign of questioning in the UK. Thus, more attention should be paid to that by rephrasing each other’s speech to clarify any confusion.  

4. Build Relationship

If you find it hard to initiate conversations with colleagues, spend some personal time participating in social activities outside work to build relationships with them. Socializing can not only create common topics that help us mingle with co-workers but also the most direct way to know about one another, including their personalities and the way they think. By getting familiar with each other, people will be more willing to open up themselves and feel belonged to the working team more than pure business connections. 

5. Create an inclusive workplace

An open attitude plays as one of the most important criteria to accommodate workplace diversity. Adding on that, managers may consider making changes in the work setting in order to fulfil the needs of different cultures. For example, modifying the menu in canteens or redesigning the floorplan to include independent rooms for meditation, and prayer.

Conclusion

Workplace harmony deserves a considerable amount of attention, especially when members are multicultural. To summarize, mutual respect and accommodation are the two values we would like to hold in a diverse workplace. Just as in every interpersonal relationship, collective efforts are required. 

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