The CEO occupation comes with worries: Handling a multi-cultural workforce

The CEO occupation comes with worries that only seem to have multiplied over time. The stress and strain on an average day is not the only problem. The fact that there is often a multi-cultural work force to deal with is an additional issue gaining prominence. And unfortunately, it effects all management jobs, not just the CEO.

CEO occupation comes with worries Handling a multi-cultural workforce

“Globalization 3.0 — the thing that gives it its unique character — is individuals and small groups globalizing. … it is shrinking and flattening the world and in how it is empowering individuals. … Globalization 3.0 is not only going to be driven more by individuals but also by a much more diverse — non-Western, nonwhite — group of individuals. In Globalization 3.0, you are going to see every color of the human rainbow take part.”
– Thomas Friedman, New York Times columnist.

Globalization of the economy has led to a dramatic increase in the number of culturally diverse work teams in companies worldwide. With this new multicultural make-up, differences are observed in areas like communication styles, time management, managerial style and a plethora of other cross cultural differences.

Even when the team members share the same background and speak the same language, management is always challenging. When you have people of different cultures in your team, it seems a virtual minefield to a manager.

CEOs of big companies or even managers of diverse teams often observe that team members struggle to understand people from different backgrounds, leading to tension, hostility, and poor communication which serve in destabilizing the team’s performance.

Yet, the possible advantages that diversity brings in terms of different perspectives, ideas and information and a higher level of creativity makes it imperative to reconcile these differences. The important question for managers is ‘What is the best strategy to ensure the integration of culturally diverse teams?’.

The best way forward is for the manager to lead by example. For example, if you are leading a team having ethnicities like Indian, Chinese or American, the primary task of the manager is to increase his own knowledge of the varied cultures by understanding 1) their thinking and communication patterns; 2) their traditions and values; 3) decision making processes; 4) key motivators.

It is key to also be updated on the cultural environment of the cultures that are part of your team; understanding the current regional issues, current world relations, rules of social engagements and the sensitive issues that effect people in your team from certain cultures.

It is also the manager’s responsibility to understand how different cultures manage and resolve conflict; especially in variation to how your own culture’s norms and behaviors differ.

In order to integrate the team and its diverse perspectives and beliefs, it is important to first identify and communicate the differences, then finding ways to resolve the different perspectives without imposing single-culture-based approaches on multicultural situations.

What are the ways to make the CEO occupation easier? How can managers and CEOs effectively manage diversity in teams and companies?

  1. Create a secure communication environment within the organization and the team. Encourage open and supportive communication, where team members are able to say what they think, and where members use language that is considerate of others’ feelings.
  2. Develop multicultural proficiency through cross-cultural training. Providing communication-training programs such as language skills, communication styles, and team-building exercises. Conduct town halls and team discussions to learn about employee preferences in terms of work styles, feedback mechanisms and working schedules and conditions. Actively seek feedback/input from different culture groups to improve the workplace atmosphere.
  3. Create a singular workplace culture.  Foster a workplace culture wherein all employees belong to one group: an organizational team. Promote workplace outings with team-building activities. Rather than segmenting employees into smaller groups that emphasize differences, unify the workforce using commonalities. Rewarding the team for attaining organizational goals.

Culturally diverse teams with proper management can increase organizational flexibility, improve recruitment and retention, and better connect products and services with end customer.



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