Communications and Team Building
As our world embarks upon making the most of technology, via email, teleconferencing, virtual offices and classrooms, it is essential that all cultures become more culturally aware of one another, especially by those leading us. We are interfacing with societies and cultures at an exponential rate. Therefore, being culturally aware means that we must appreciate, accept, and understand the beliefs and values of cultures other than our own.
Understanding other cultures has two notable benefits: 1) it multiplies our access to practices, ideas, and people that can make positive contributions to our own society; and 2) it helps us understand ourselves more deeply. By understanding a range of alternatives, we become aware of our own implicit beliefs – beliefs so deeply imbedded that we routinely take them for granted.  Incorrect assumptions about other cultures could lead into misunderstanding and conflict among any team members.
Conflict within teams of any kind is inevitable, but even more so in multi-cultural teams. Each culture has its own ways of dealing with conflict, and this can actually exacerbate already stressful situations. In spite of this, conflict can actually be productive if it is dealt with effectively and the team can learn from it. On the other hand, if not dealt with properly, conflict can be destructive. Therefore, being prepared to deal with conflict can mean the difference between team success and failure. We present several strategies, such as establishing a proactive decision-making process, team development sessions and third party intermediaries for improving the chances of constructive outcomes to conflict.
As stated previously, different cultures have different ways of handling conflict. There are subcultures within cultures, and different people have different viewpoints on the way situations should be handled. Intercultural disputes within the workplace can have many different causes, including differences in attitudes, beliefs, education levels, upbringing of individuals involved, attitudes, expectations, etc. It should not automatically be assumed that all disputes between people from different cultures are culturally based.
With training and familiarity, it is possible for people to overcome their preconceptions and biases, as long as the parties are willing to make the effort. Each of us has preconceptions and prejudices, and the only way to overcome them is to be willing to meet them head-on and examine their causes. In any team, thus, open communication can help to remove disputes and miss understanding among team members.
Communication is the key to any successful team. For any team member, previous cultural exposure is an important factor influencing communication behavior. People with high confidence in the knowledge of other cultures tend to be more willing to explore cultural topics, which results in a positive communication for understanding each other's needs and helps in positive contribution to the team project for achieving successful results.
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Jones, DeMita; Alsudiri, Turki; Chandiwalla, Farooq; Dowell, Loren; Goodrich, Kevin; and Gohier, Pierre, "Issues in Cross-Cultural Teams" (2003). Engineering and Technology Management Student Projects. 1461.