The ever-changing world has made it possible for different people across several cultures to work in the same organisation. This has increased the importance of being conscious of diverse cultural values when working in a team with different cultural backgrounds or leading a culturally diverse group. It is pertinent to note that people from different ethnic background hold dissimilar values which must be adjusted to realign with the goals of the team. However, this is a gradual process that is attainable through conscious efforts of the team members to respond to others taking into cognizance their differences.
According to Azzopardi and McNeill (2016), conscious response in team increases performance, foster collaboration and reduces misunderstanding among team members with different beliefs and values. In this view, Curtis et al. (2020) and Kurtis and Ullah (2019), stated that the ability to be aware and conscious of different cultural background among team members is the key factor in managing business teams for more productivity and competitiveness. This suggests that both team leaders and members' consciousness in their response to cultural issues determine the performance of the team.
Enveloping conscious response to a culturally diverse team is cultural competence which is not simply learnt in the classroom. Instead, just as it is the case with most diversity issues in the workplace, cultural competence necessitates one to examine his own opinions, thoughts, ideas, and feelings, then work on developing his own cross-cultural skills necessary for excelling in the team or such culturally diverse workplace. The diversity in the-present-day’s workplace implies that a team member must be more sensitive to the cultures of others in the team, and in the same way, people from other cultures must reciprocate similar sensitivity.
Some of the important skills worthy to be learnt include learning how to communicate clearly so as to avoid being misunderstood. Many conflicts arise in teams due to miscommunication and misunderstanding. Team members, who are of different cultural backgrounds, often have dissimilar styles of verbal and non-verbal communication (Shonk, 2020). For instance, in some cultures, a bow instead of a handshake is used to exchange greetings. In other cultures, to maintain direct eye contact while exchange greetings may be considered impolite, meanwhile in other cultures it signifies honesty and trust.
In verbal communication, some cultures may regard a direct statement to a superior as disrespectful while other cultures may consider it a sign of efficiency and expediency. Therefore, the bottom-line remains a conscious response to issues while working in a culturally diverse team. It is recommended that team members of culturally diverse teams should spend time to do more research and findings about the cultures of those who comprise the team. This according to Anam (2020) is useful having awareness and understanding about the verbal and physical communication cues that vary from one’s own culture.
One cannot effectively function in a culturally diverse team except he or she possesses a reasonable level of cultural awareness. As a result, there can be reinforcement in the strength of the team and team members are more likely to build skills that enhance their chances of becoming global professionals.
Azzopardi, C. & McNeill, T. (2016) From Cultural competence to cultural consciousness: Transitioning to a critical approach to working across differences in social work. Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work 25(4) 282-299. https://doi.org/10.1080/15313204.2016.1206494
Curtis, E., Jones, R., Tipene-Leach, D., Walker, C., Loring, B., Paine, S. & Reid, P. (2019) Why cultural safety rather than cultural competency is required to achieve health equity: a literature review and recommended definition. International Journal of Equity in Health 18 (1), 1-18 https://doi.org/10.1186/s12939-019-1082-3
Kurtisi, H. & Ullah, A. (2019). How does cultural diversity affect the management of warehouse staff? Specifically, what processes are available to balance diversity and integrate human resources. (Unpublished undergraduate dissertation). Jönköping University. https://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1323940/FULLTEXT01.pdf
Shonk. K. (2020). How to resolve cultural conflict: Overcoming cultural barriers at the negotiation table. Harvard Programme on Negotiation, Daily Blog. https://www.pon.harvard.edu/daily/conflict-resolution/a-cross-cultural-negotiation-example-how-to-overcome-cultural-barriers/
Mr. James Terkura Ihum is working at Skyline University Nigeria as a Lecturer II in the Department of Economics