Strengthening Multicultural Relationships

If there was any doubt before, the pandemic confirmed our reliance on one another. Given the interdependent world we live in, items that we used daily were suddenly out of reach. Perhaps most of us were not even aware that a range of products, from groceries to electronics, were produced and shipped from all around the world.

While we trust multiple regions to meet our needs and wants on a daily basis, we still struggle assimilating cultures when it comes to meeting work demands.

Building trust in a cross-cultural team is the essential characteristic to ensure a successful team dynamic. Organizations are adopting new techniques to help turn these challenges into positive triumphs.

How to build trust in a multicultural team:

  1. Understand the cross-cultural makeup of your team. Take the time upfront to understand the different cultures, language differences and fault lines of your team members. Addressing these differences from the start will create an opportunity for employees to get acquainted with one another, and even find commonality between their differences.
  1. Set clear values and stick to them. Identifying organizational values will ensure consistency amongst your teams and eliminate any misunderstandings of what the organization stands for. Leaders must be willing to walk the talk and commit to promote a culture where organizational values are embraced by all.
  1. When conflict arises, address it immediately. It is common for conflict to arise; after all, it is how solutions are identified. How conflict is handled is what matters. Taking swift action to resolve conflict will prevent misunderstandings from spiraling. Focusing on leveraging diversity will not only minimize challenges but create opportunities for new innovations to address arising conflicts.

Trust is fundamental, but more is required to sustain a multicultural team’s potential. By implementing a few practices, organizations can better leverage the strengths of their employees.

Tips on how to manage a multicultural team:

  1. Organize cross-cultural training. Provide tools and resources for employees to acquaint themselves to new cultures. Updated and recurring training opportunities will help employees better integrate their differences among each other.
  2. Avoid stereotypes. We are often unaware of our subconscious biases that prevent us from learning new ways of doing things. Being cognizant of and avoiding stereotypes can help us expand our perspectives and create new opportunities for learning.
  3. Practice empathy. Demonstrating empathy during a time of learning is a great way to build connection. It’s also an indication to our colleagues that we respect their cultures and the differences in our ways of existing, which can ultimately lead to forming long-term relationships.

By utilizing these tips on building trust and managing cross-cultural teams, organizations can be better equipped to bridge cultural gaps. Identifying and understanding each other’s differences will enable teams to focus on leveraging their strengths to pinpointing solutions and innovations instead.

Ozlem is a senior management official currently working for the Director of the Office of Communications at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). She’s been employed at the IRS for 16 years, possessing a wide range of experience from the Collections, Engagement & Retention Office and the Strategy and Organizational Improvement Office to name a few.

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