Cultural Differences in Team Members
Increased globalization has led to the diversification of work environments and more than ever, employees are expected to partner with peers from different cultural backgrounds. This has culminated the rise of culturally related conflicts. The sensitivity of the conflicts has had far reaching implications on the performance of the corporations and in severe instances; it has threatened the very wellbeing of the organizations in respective locations. In order to enhance sustainability and ensure that employee practices are harmonic and supportive of each other, it is imperative to reconcile the inherent differences that would keep the conflicts at bay. It is against this background that this paper explains actual scenarios in which culturally related communication issues on a team caused misunderstandings and problems within the team. In addition, it underscores practical measures that were undertaken by the relevant authorities to address them.
In the first scenario, the team comprised of employees from China, Japan, the United States and Canada. At one point, the Japanese lady missed important training sessions that had been organized by the top management from the United States. She did not seek for permission before leaving and did not inform any of her colleagues about her absenteeism for a period of four days. When she came back, the training session was almost over and the management needed to know the reason for her absenteeism. She explained that she was forced to leave immediately because one of her family members had passed on. However, she expressed this while smiling and the message did not go down well with the authorities that were from the United States. They openly expressed their discontent with the reasons she was giving for her absenteeism from duties. Apparently, the European found this cold, inhuman and therefore untrue (Brubaker & Verdok, 1998).
With time, this strained the relationship between the Japanese lady and the top management who began to doubt her degree of dedication to the firm. After a period of two weeks, she was put on probation by the management in order to re evaluate her performance. It was at this stage that the regional management explained to the top management that the lady’s expression was in line with her cultural values. Essentially, LeBaron (2010) indicates that the Japanese consider it inappropriate to inflict any degree of grief and or pain in other individuals. This explained why the lady expressed her ordeal while smiling and but the management thought she was making up the story and therefore decided to take stringent measures against her. After this explanation, the lady was returned on duties and the top management apologized to her.
The second conflict was between two employees; one from France and another from Europe. The two employees shared an office and were expected to carry out most of the duties jointly. After being in the office for a period of one month, the European employee started complaining of a degree of coldness form his partner. In addition, he indicated that the French counterpart was disinterested in his duties and in most instances, he preferred working alone. This had made the European employee frustrated and was having adverse implications on his performance. The employee from French on the other hand considered the relationship normal and affirmed that he was satisfied with the working conditions.
On scrutinizing the scenario, it was found out that the inherent conflicts were culturally inclined. In his review, LeBaron (2003) indicates that the French were naturally accustomed to spacious living and working conditions. This was also reflected in their conversations in which they preferred maintaining some considerable space between them and the individual that they communicate with. The Europeans on the other hand are used to relatively small living and working spaces. Likewise, this is reflected in their communication mannerisms in which they prefer sitting or standing close to other persons during conversations.
In this case, the latter was not comfortable with the French’s habit of creating space. He interpreted this as lack of interest and coldness. Based on these assumptions, he found it difficult to initiate close relations that are essential for enhancing team performance. To counter the scenario, the management was forced to carry out a cultural training in order to educate its workforce about the inherent culturally differences. According to Bibikosa and Kotelnikox (2001), this could also be carried out through information dissemination and sharing with respect to culture.
From the preceding analysis, it is certain that cultural differences are typical of working environments of international organizations. If left to persist, they do not only impact on performance but they also threaten the organizational welfare. The management plays an important role in reconciling these differences in ordered to enhance output. In addition, the employees need to be informed about the differences in order to avoid conflicts that can stem from the misunderstandings. Of great importance would be for them to exercise some degree of tolerance for them to accommodate each other.
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Brubaker, D. & Verdok, T. (1998). Conflict Resolution Training in Another Culture: Some Lessons from Angola. Retrieved 13th June, 2010 from: HYPERLINK “http://www.odihpn.org/report.asp?ID=1100” t “_blank” http://www.odihpn.org/report.asp?ID=1100.
LeBaron, M. (2003). Culture and Conflict. Retrieved 13th June, 2010 from: HYPERLINK “http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/culture_conflict/” http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/culture_conflict/
LeBaron, M. (2010). Transforming Cultural Conflict in an Age of Complexity. Retrieved 13th June 2010 from: HYPERLINK “http://www.berghof-handbook.net/articles/lebaron_hb.pdf” t “_blank” http://www.berghof-handbook.net/articles/lebaron_hb.pdf.