Diversity and Team Management. Problem or Solution?

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Embrace Diversity

I have travelled more than an average person around the world, have met with people of different ethnicities, have met with people who speak languages such as Russian, English, Italian, Urdu, Kazakh, Uzbek, etc., and have worked with people of not my nationality. It is a relatively easy task for me to communicate with people from other cultures as I have lived in four different countries (Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Azerbaijan) in my childhood. When you become used to shifting to different places at such a young age, it becomes a need to change your location of residence. You develop that need to communicate with different people, and move to a different place. However, communication can become quite difficult, especially in a culturally diverse workplace, if you have lived in one place your whole life.

An Example Portraying Diversity  

Diverse teams usually suffer because it may be difficult to relate, trust or comprehend people from different backgrounds (Klein, 2007). In the following video, for example, it shows the difficulty that a culturally diverse team has to face when trying to communicate for a meeting.

Building the multicultural team:

(LearningCom, 2009)

Here we can see that there have been numerous misunderstandings between the leader of the marketing team and the rest of the subordinates. He failed to recognise the differences in their cultures and the differences in their professionalism. It is quite apparent that different countries have different styles of being professional (Pita, et al., 1999). We can see that the Asian woman needed more instructions and not just the team leader saying “I asked you to prepare something for the meeting”. Also, the Middle Eastern man thought that there was a more important event that he had to attend to and therefore, he thought that he would not work in this team for long because his personal needs were not met. This video has made it quite apparent that because of the major cultural differences between these individuals, there has been a significant detrimental effect on their productivity because every individual had a different way to perceive instructions.

Advantages and Challenges of a Diverse Team

The following video will show you the challenges and the advantages of working in diverse teams and how team leaders need to be in order to handle these teams.

Multi-cultural team management:

(CommLab India, 2010)

This video highlights the fact that leaders need to familiarise with four points which are, adapting to the team members’ characteristics, physically intervening into shaping the team appropriately, creating sets and rules beforehand in order for the team members to understand clearly what they have to and what they do not have to do, and identifying potential areas of conflict that may arise between different cultures (CommLab India, 2010). If some countries have a large difference in the way males and females are portrayed in the society, it would be wise for the team leaders to assign teams carefully. Even though overcoming some challenges may be a difficult task, the advantages of diverse teams can be noteworthy as well. For example, a culturally diverse team may be more tolerant towards each other, be more innovative, be more flexible etc.

Differences in Personalities in Different Cultures

According to Hans Eysenck, there are four defined personality types which are stable extraverts (talkative, carefree), unstable extraverts (impulsive, restless), stable introverts (calm, thoughtful) and unstable introverts (anxious, moody), and it can be quite apparent that some cultures depict one or more of these traits in their behaviours (Mullins, 2013). This makes it obvious that working with different cultures means that the leader has to be effective in their communication and empathise/sympathise with each individual so that the team members have a feeling of belonging to the team. This is because the team members will understand that their bosses have appreciated their differences. This can directly affect the productivity of these team members if they do not feel that they belong.

Conclusion: Which Type of Management Styles to adopt? Let us focus on McGregor’s Theory X and Y styles of management. We all know that ‘X’ style of management is for lazy individuals who need to be forced to work as their motivation levels are physiological and security needs but ‘Y’ style of management is for innovative, creative and responsible individuals who want to achieve their goals (Mullins, 2013). Effective communication may be the key to achieving high productivity among diverse teams. And not only that, a different style of management needs to be adopted for different team members. Some members need to be directed and given comprehensive instructions to in order to show results, but others just need a tiny nudge and they are good to go!

References

CommLab India, (2010). Multi-Cultural Team Management

Klein, K., (2007). Culturally Diverse Teams that Work.: University of California.

LearningCom, (2009). Building the Multicultural Team. s.l.: Learning Communications.

Mullins, L. J., (2013). Management and Organisational Behaviour. 10th ed.:Pearson.

Pita, D. A., Fung, H.-G. & Isberg, S., (1999). Ethical issues across cultures: Managing the Differing Perspective of China and the USA. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 16(3), pp. 240-256.

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