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Cross-Cultural Perspective Helps Teamwork

In this era of globalization, many companies are expanding into numerous countries and cultures. But they should not take a “one size fits all” approach to their business and management styles. As the authors of a new article on Culture and Psychology in Perspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, point out, people in different cultures think about work in different ways. Being aware of the cultural environment that their coworkers come from may help people work together better.

For example, people have different expectations about teamwork. “In the United States, people use a lot of sports metaphors. Elsewhere, that just isn’t a common metaphor.” In Latin America, for example, many people talk about the work team as a family. “If you just use those two contrasts and think about what you might expect from your family versus what you might expect from your sports team, you start to see the differences.” Families are involved in all parts of your life, and are expected to celebrate with you socially. “Your involvement in your sports team is more limited. Less caretaking, more competitive.”

Another example is in the realm of leadership. Many people assume that charismatic leadership is a great asset —using a strong personality to inspire loyalty in others. But that’s not going to work for everyone, psychological research says. “The very same behaviors that are deemed desirable from a leader in one culture might be viewed as interference or micromanagement in other settings.”

This  research raises the main question – in modern society we should start questioning assumptions more often. “Particularly in a work setting, organizations, teams, and individuals may have different values and preferences.” We should become more aware that cultures can vary a lot within countries, especially as large numbers of people continue to migrate between countries.

effective teamwork

effective teamwork

This is why it’s essential for any company to provide intercultural training not only when branching out into new markets but also when aiming to manage the multicultural environment within the company and help their employees to reach better understanding within the teams.

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