Cross cultural teams often generate frustrating management dilemmas. Cultural difference can create obstacle to effective teamwork. These may be subtle and difficult to recognize until significant damage has already been done. Authors of this article; interviews managers and members of multicultural teams from all over the world.
These interviews, combined with their deep research on dispute resolution and teamwork, led them to conclude that the wrong kind of managerial intervention may sideline valuable members who should be participating or, create resistance, resulting in poor team performance.
Types of Cross Cultural Teams
Cross cultural teams comprise members coming from more than one culture Multicultural teams can be divided into three types:
- Token Teams: Teams in which only one member is from another culture. For example, a group of Japanese retailers and a British attorney, who are looking into the benefits and shortcomings of setting-up operations in Bermuda.
- Bi-cultural Teams: Bicultural teams have members from two cultures. For example, would be a team of four Mexicans and four Canadians who have formed a team to investigate the possibility of investing in Russia.
- Multicultural Teams: Multicultural teams have members from three or more cultures, For example, is a group of three American, three German, three Urugayans, and Chinese manager who are looking after mining operations in Chile.
Benefits of Cross Cultural Teams
- Facilitate the building of interpersonal relationships.
- Foster mutual understanding and respect.
- Help understand where cross culture difference lie.
- Provide solutions, guidelines and techniques to help the team building process.
Challenges of Cross Cultural Teams
- Direct versus indirect communication: Communication in written cultures is typically direct and explicit. This is not true in many other cultures, where meaning is embedded in the way the message is presented.
- Differing attitudes toward hierarchy and authority: A challenge inherent in multicultural teamwork is that by design, teams, teams have a rather flat structure. But team members from some cultures, in which people are treated differently according to their status in an organization, are uncomfortable on flat teams. If they defer to higher-status team members, their behaviour will be seen as appropriate when most of the team comes from a hierarchical culture, but they may damage their stature and credibility.