The complex work of modern knowledge-intensive industries requires input from a variety of professions and skill sets, more than a lone worker can be expected to master. And since business is rapidly globalising, managers can expect to work with teams whose members represent multiple cultural approaches to interpersonal relationships, work, and structures.
In such a situation, opportunities for misunderstanding and miscommunication abound, but the opportunity for magnifying the productivity of the group into deeper and more robust results is also great. What resources can a manager bring to the orchestrating of work in a multicultural team?
Approaches to Team and Group Work in Different Cultures
North American and Western Europe exemplify cultures in which individuals expect to compete, putting forth their own ideas forcefully in the expectation that others can be persuaded to go along with the one whose idea is most powerfully expressed. Such an approach to work in a group can be expected to generate a great deal of “noise”: conflict, debate and friction. Successful groups working within this paradigm will channel their competition into improving the work itself, but the obvious danger is that the conflict can become interpersonal, with emotional overtones interfering with the task at hand.