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Working in a Multicultural Team

Working in a Multicultural Team

Working in a multicultural team can be rewarding, inspiring, and highly productive when everything is going well, and everyone is getting along.

However, it can also be fraught with difficulties, especially when cultural differences are causing unnecessary challenges.

If you’re part of a multicultural team (or you manage one) following our top tips below will help you improve communication, confidence, and collaboration within a culturally diverse team.



1. Not Everyone is the Same

While this sounds obvious (after all we are talking about multicultural teams) it seems that some managers, and also some team members, don’t understand this most essential point which can lead to individuals missing an opportunity to express themselves or firms missing out on an individual’s skills.

For instance, a Western colleague may choose to openly question an order from above if they feel it is imperative that they do so, but a colleague from Asia would hesitate to do the same, especially in front of other co-workers, even if they had a much better proposition.

Understanding how a co-worker’s upbringing and culture may affect their work methods and processes, and then being flexible in your approach to each team member, will ensure that everyone is heard and has the same opportunities.

Tip: Talk to each team member to find out their preferences regarding working methods and be adaptable. Treat everyone fairly, while allowing for differing perspectives and choices to build trust and good working relationships.


2. Understand your Unconscious Bias

We all have some level of unconscious bias.

We might have a natural preference for people with dark hair or prefer those who talk and sound similar to ourselves, but when this unconscious bias affects our dealings with colleagues at work, or impacts our ability to view others without judgement, it can become a real problem.

This is especially true when recruiting new employees, or when working within a multicultural team, as unconscious bias tends to lead us towards making similar decisions – even when it might not be the best choice.

Our unconscious bias also encourages us to make sweeping generalizations and to stereotype people without rational justification.

By understanding our unconscious bias, we can make fully informed decisions without prejudice, opening the doorway to improved work relationships and productive teams.

Tip: an effective way to overcome unconscious bias is by starting to unpick and understand your own biases then work towards re-evaluating any preconceived notions. Unconscious bias training courses can help you do this.


3. Listen and Learn

Good communication is helpful for any team but for a multicultural team, it is essential, and this begins with listening and learning.

Listen to what your colleagues are saying (and how they’re saying it) then use this information to learn more from, and about, them.

By truly listening you can:

• Identify potential problems

Resolve conflict

• Improve understanding

• Build trust

• Promote confidence

• Show respect

• Encourage confidence

Listening to other’s perspectives aids awareness and understanding of your multicultural team and encourages individuals to feel valued and respected.

Tip: develop your listening skills and make sure that everyone has the opportunity to express their views in a comfortable setting. Avoid defensive or negative comments, be friendly and sincere in order to form lasting relationships.



4. Be the Cultural Inspiration

It doesn’t matter if you’re the manager of your multicultural team or not, you can still be the cultural inspiration.

Find out what motivates your colleagues, encourage and facilitate conversation between members who might appreciate it, and make the effort to learn about the particular cultures relevant to your team.

As others begin to notice your enthusiasm and effort they are often inspired to do likewise.

Inspiring a multicultural team might include:

• Researching and discussing cultural differences

Workplace training for diversity and inclusion

• Celebrating culture days/holidays

• Creating opportunities for team building experiences

• Forming mentor groups for additional support networks

Tip: a common goal such as a shared deadline or target is often required to bring people together and inspire them, but this doesn’t always have to be within the workplace. Consider external team building experiences such as, a sport or charity event, as these are on ‘neutral’ territory and can also include colleagues’ families.


Additional advice on working within a multicultural team can be found on our blog page, or if you’d like to discover more about the courses we offer for cultural awareness please contact us or see our dedicated page.