Cultural differences don’t stop when you log on to Slack. Differences in communication, decision-making, leadership, time management, and trust-building can bring a multi-cultural remote team to a standstill in a hurry. And yes, these standstills can affect a company’s bottom line!
Luckily, companies can prevent these conflicts before they happen. The first step to starting a cross cultural training program is simply acknowledging that the problem exists in the first place!
First, Talk About It
Many companies are scared to even mention cultural conflicts out of fear of judgement or backlash. But it’d be insane to pretend that different cultures don’t have different ways of communicating or building trust. If you have a multi-cultural team, it’s important that you acknowledge the possibility of cultural conflict so workers are at least aware of it. Usually, people don’t even know that cultural differences are the cause of workplace conflicts. It’s easy to think someone is rude or lazy, but simple name-calling completely ignores the very real and very valid reasons behind certain professional habits and decisions.
Keep Communication Brief and Direct
Have you ever wondered why Americans are so direct when it comes to giving directions or asking for things? It’s because they’re from a country that was built by immigrants! When people have to work together without speaking the same language, they learn to be direct very quickly.
Try adopting the American communication model on your remote team. Get your team comfortable with giving clear step-by-step directions, and openly but respectfully asking for things when they’re needed.
Develop a Standard Method of Giving Feedback
Giving feedback is one of the biggest points of conflict between members of international teams. And you better believe that these can conflicts get nasty.
Let’s take a look at a quick profile of two countries, The United States and France.
- Americans are low context speakers, not very confrontational, and are terrified of giving negative feedback.
- The French are higher context speakers, they’re much more confrontational, and are unafraid of giving negative feedback.
Is it at all surprising that people from these countries often have a hard time working together?
Part of the process of building a multi-cultural team should involve standardizing the feedback model. Allow your entire team to contribute to this discussion, and have them approve a standard communication and feedback model. This will ensure that everyone’s comfortable with the model and feels personally invested in it.
Find a Way To Build Trust
In countries like the United States, Denmark, and the Netherlands, the job makes the relationship. Americans can be dropped right in to a new workplace and get down to business without needing to develop deep personal relationships with their coworkers.
However, in countries like China, Brazil, Mexico, France, and India, the relationship makes the job. These cultures build trust through socializing. Work relationships are personal relationships; they can’t just be thrown into a room with others and immediately be expected to trust them!
Remote workplaces definitely have a tougher time building deep relationships, but it’s not impossible. Some ideas include: creating hobby groups in Slack (like a group for parents, cat owners, or Premier League fans), and scheduling virtual happy hours. In addition, you can always take advantage of global events like the Olympics or World Cup.
Verbalize Now has spent two years helping Brazilian tech professionals master the English language. Now we’re ready to help the world communicate! Contact us to find out more about our cross cultural training programs— you’ll be amazed by how much your team’s productivity increases once they learn how to navigate cultural conflicts in the workplace!