5 Strategies for Managing a Multicultural Team

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The rapid process of globalization is connecting more people around the world, with many of them coming from a wide spectrum of cultures.

In many cases, religion turns out to be the line of demarcation for multicultural teams, and many of these individuals turn to technology to complement the daily lives of the faithful.

An example of this is Muslim Pro, a tool to address the needs of a growing number of Muslims all around the world.

Due to the rapidly changing workplace that today’s managers need to account for, some strategies are necessary for sustaining an effective and healthy multicultural team.

Approach Differences with an Open Mind

Before anything else, it is important to come into everything with a mind that is open to the unique manifestations of each person’s culture.

Colleagues in the workplace can come from anywhere around the world in the wake of globalization, so it would be rude to express shock at how other team members’ practices may differ from one’s own.

Furthermore, this responsibility is doubled for those in a position to manage the people in their team.

Not only must they be the first to have an open mind, but they serve as an example for everyone.

This establishes the environment in which the team will work in the long run, and it will be up to team management to decide how the group will be working through their differences.

Find Middle Ground in Conversation

When managing a multicultural team, it is much more likely that there are bilingual or even multilingual people present.

Mandarin and Spanish are just as prevalent around the world as English when taking global population statistics into account, with Hindi becoming more and more common as well.

It is not unlikely to have colleagues who are native to these languages.

Supportive bosses may even want to explore resources like the Muslim Pro app to learn more about their multilingual team members’ backgrounds.

Because of this, it is a good idea to establish early on which language is most common to the whole group so that everyone can speak it by default for work.

In some cases, designating a second common language to the group may be welcome as well.

When native speakers use their preferred language, what they mean can be explained to everyone else later on.

In addition, everyone should be mindful of what they talk about outside of work.

As much as possible, the team should be considerate regarding conversation topics that everyone can relate to and should avoid matters that may make some feel uncomfortable or left out.

Understand Varying Communication Styles

Although this sounds similar to a conversation, this tip has more to do with understanding how people express themselves and handle their work.

Some cultures prefer dealing with problems before moving on to other tasks, while others can address these matters simultaneously.

In terms of communication, some cultures are blunt, while others are more indirect and euphemistic.

In the end, there is no single right way to approach managing a diverse group of people, so it is better to adjust as much as possible to how each person communicates.

This may sound like a lot of effort, but it will translate into greater productivity in the long term. 

Try to Accommodate Cultural Necessities

For practicality and safety, the workplace today may have people working remotely from different parts of the world.

While there is likely no way to get everyone synchronized perfectly, the best way to go is to consult with everyone in the team on what hours are viable for them.

A good compromise is to set a specific time only for meetings rather than total working hours.

In addition, there should be a reasonable degree of leniency for those with religious or cultural practices that they need to observe.

For working onsite, it would be ideal to have a room or facility for prayer and reflection to accommodate colleagues who need it.

If this is not possible, perhaps there can be special spaces set aside instead.

What matters is that there is an effort made to look after everyone’s needs.

Always Practice Empathy, Honesty, and Patience

Having an open mind is a good way to start, but sustaining a working environment that continues to welcome the differences of a multicultural team takes a lot more.

There will be times that maintaining these strategies can be difficult and exhausting, and even meetings may take more time when some members need more time to speak their thoughts.

However, these are the moments that call for the most patience, and the effort these people exert to contribute to the team must be recognized as well.

It takes empathy to recognize this effort and to try grasping their contexts and circumstances. Lastly, culture should not be a reason to be dishonest with feedback.

If a colleague is falling short or committing a mistake consistently, they deserve to know how they can improve in the same way as anyone else.

Diversity is becoming a norm in various workplaces, and many companies are doing their best to train their people in managing multicultural teams.

Outside of work, it is not a bad idea to foster friendships and learn about different cultures from colleagues.

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