Managing a Culturally Diverse Team

 

With communication and travel easier now than ever before, the mobile and global world today is bound to be rich with cultural and demographic diversity in every locality. Different communities operate differently, and having a diverse workforce is a clear advantage to many.

But managing a diverse team can seem to be a bigger challenge than the advantages it offers, and it’d be wise to not underestimate it. In fact, in a diverse team, you’re dealing with folks from different backgrounds and varying age groups. Each individual is likely to have a different way of thinking, and it’s important to understand and embrace their differences to tap into their strengths for an effective and efficient team. Here are a few tips on managing such a team.

#1 – Avoid Stereotypes

Keeping cultural differences in mind is important, but stereotyping is a whole different ball game. There’s a fine line between the two, but although you need to be aware of the cultural differences in your team, stereotyping is a definite “no”. Assuming that people from a certain region would behave a certain way or giving tasks to your team members based on their gender is something you should definitely avoid if you want your team to cooperate. Keep an open mind instead, and get to know the individuals rather than generalising their behaviours.

#2 – Treat everyone fairly

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A large fraction of employees feel their managers have favourites. If you want to tap into the benefits of a culturally diverse team, take the time to get to know every member. Be very careful and make sure no one feels left out, because if your team thinks you prefer one member because their background is similar to yours, they may stop performing.

#3 – Be ready to adapt

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People from different cultures, backgrounds and age-groups think differently and therefore, communicate differently, too. Some people may be direct while some may prefer a more diplomatic way to get their point across. As a team leader, it’s your job to understand everyone’s style of communication and adapt your own style to suit theirs. A difference of communication style shouldn’t get in the way of food work, and it’s your job to ensure this.

#4 – Have an open-door policy

Even if you’re open-minded and ready to address problems in your team, your employees may not know this.

  • Make it clear from day one that you’re ready to listen, and that if anyone wishes to talk, your doors are open.
  • Not everyone is comfortable with expressing their opinions or raising issues in meetings, so you need to ensure that your team is comfortable talking to you.

If they feel that they aren’t being heard, it may create unnecessary conflicts and problems that can easily be avoided if you’re forthcoming towards your team.

#5 – Tackle conflicts tactfully

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When there are cultural differences, there are bound to be conflicts. Adapt your communication style to suit that of your team, but the same necessity doesn’t apply to every member of your team. Communication differences may lead to misunderstandings and conflicts, and tend to lower the effectiveness of your team as a whole.

You need to be alert and know when to step in to resolve any conflicts or misunderstandings, and you must do so while making sure neither party thinks you’re taking sides. You must also set up ground rules and be clear as to what the consequences would be if they are violated.

#6 – Understand your team members individually

Getting to know every member of your team and finding out their strengths and weaknesses is something not to be taken lightly. For progress to be achieved effectively, it is important that you divide it in a way to maximize the efficiency of the team, and that can only be done when you know and understand every person in the team. Meet them outside the workplace and spend time with them in an informal setting to increase comfort levels. It certainly helps.

The challenge of a diverse team can be converted into an opportunity fairly easily if we keep some of these basics in mind. And many may even argue that a diverse team brings with itself advantages we’re unlikely to find anywhere else!

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