Team Dynamics and Performance in Multi-Cultural Working Environments
“Functioning as a successful team requires the integration of many different factors. If any piece of the puzzle is missing, then the groups of people is not likely to function as a true team”
Nowadays, organizations tend to hire employees from varied backgrounds, cultures, and ethnicity. Organizations highlight the need for diversity in the workplace as it brings innovation, different perspectives, and skills to achieve company’s objectives. Employees irrespective of their beliefs need to collaborate to achieve a common goal, will be assigned to common tasks and responsibilities and they will need to build healthy working relationships and create successful teams.
Their diverse personalities, roles and culture in the company, the environment that they work and the relationships they build is what generate team dynamics. Team dynamics are nothing more than the interaction of all these factors in the working environment. Although team dynamics can be beneficial for a company when they increase productivity and performance, however, they can also be catastrophic, leading to conflict, poor decision processes, and mistrust between team members.
How can leaders improve team dynamics that will not hamper team performance?
1. Identify communication patterns.
Effective communication is the key element of successful organizations. In multi-cultural settings, communication differences lead to conflict and imbalance in team dynamics. For instance, employees from collectivist cultures are more passive communicators, contrary to employees from individualist cultures that tend to dominate discussions. It is imperative for a leader to identify such communication patterns and find the proper balance to include everyone in the decision-making process, foster democracy and allow everyone to be actively involved. A leader must ensure that all members are fully engaged and not allow certain employees to dominate or control team discussions. It is vital that all team members feel equal and respected to prevent undesirable team dynamics.
2. Spot Conflicts & Act Immediately
Conflicts or misinterpretations can easily arise in diverse teams due to the cultural differences, opposing positions, power struggles, and performance discrepancies. Conflict in a controlled working environment is not always bad as it can change team members’ perspective and approach and generate meaningful work. However, leaders need to pay close attention to conflict when it becomes destructive and disruptive to team dynamics. For balanced team dynamics, leaders need to proactively intervene and prevent certain conflicts from ever arising by paying attention to team dynamics, body language, identifying tensions and dealing with them quickly. Only if the leader acts immediately can eliminate conflict and defuse it before it impacts on team performance.
3. Organize workshops that increase awareness of team dynamics.
Workshops are great tools to provide cultural awareness and personality differences within team members. The workshops will help team members understand other’s viewpoints, motivations, and help them identify solutions that occur due to misunderstandings. That kind of workshops will not only help individuals to understand, respect and accept each other, but also will assist them to find new ways to work towards organization’s goals.
4. Define group’s mission.
Teams with an obscure focus or direction can easily develop poor dynamics. Teams need to have clear and defined roles. They need to understand their mission and what is expected from them. People need to be regularly updated about where the company sees itself in the upcoming years, what the company wishes to achieve, which are its values and how each of the team members can contribute to this vision. Help people realize, why they are here, what they do, what it is that they get paid for, how they help organizations to succeed.
5. Experiment and reinforce team dynamics.
If something is not working on the expected way, then find new alternative ways to fix it. Experiment, be agile and figure out what works best for your team. Change the meeting structure, allow team members to run the meetings, introduce team building activities, rearrange seating to help everyone to interact with each other and revise the employees’ coffee break so that everyone on a team can take a break at the same time. That would allow people to socialize with their team members and build relationships. Moreover, it will encourage a culture of experimentation where team members will take better decisions, allowing to everyone to ask questions and present ideas.
A successful team divides the work and multiples the success.