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MULTICULTURAL MANAGEMENT



Kirjoittanut: Nicolas Mamassis - tiimistä Exchange.

Esseen tyyppi: Akateeminen essee / 3 esseepistettä.
Esseen arvioitu lukuaika on 7 minuuttia.

BY NICOLAS MAMASSIS & YANN MOSER

Executive summary

According to statistics conducted by Argon-RH, within 10 years, all companies will be confronted with cultural diversity. We are all familiar with the difficulties of classical management, i.e. team management. Added to this is the multitude of nationalities, which in turn implies a plurality of cultures. Culture means difference. And difference does not make the task of the multicultural manager any easier; on the contrary, it can lead to divergence. Studies have also shown that diverse teams are potentially more productive and successful than homogeneous teams, provided that all members can discover what their colleagues can contribute.

In this article we will show you what multicultural management is and what you need to consider making it work. We will also try to share with you that we have learned from our five months in a multicultural team in Tampere, Finland.

 

Situation Nicolas & Yann

Having started our exchange semester in Tampere, Finland at the beginning of January, we joined the second-year international learning team, Flip Solutions. Indeed, there have been some changes since the last exchanges in 2019, 100% English speaking teams have been added to the initially English only Proakatemia program. Both of us had already met this team via videoconference during our remote “learning journey” last year.

When we joined this team, we knew that it would be a learning experience because of the number of different nationalities in the team. Both of us had very little experience of multicultural management at the time. Yann had some knowledge of international team management related to football and Nicolas…

During these 5 months of exchange, the subject of multicultural differences came up a few times during our dialogue sessions (Pajas), we studied the differences linked to work, the differences that can be encountered during negotiations, etc. But for us, one element that was also different in Finland was the “hierarchy” that the different learning teams in the Team Academy may have. Each team, company is made up of different people, but all have a business leader who has responsibilities towards the team and the Team Academy community. In the team we joined, but not only, but the role of the leader is also essential to move the team forward. You can then clearly identify a hierarchy among the members, which is not the case in our team in Switzerland.

A hierarchy means a leader and a leader means responsibility. Being the leader for us of a team formed on a Belbin criterion or being a leader of a randomly composed team with an international culture is quite different.

As we can see now, there are three main aspects that can create misunderstandings in international teams. The notion of time, punctuality for example, the notion of hierarchy, the status of the team leader and finally the notion of team, group and company.

What is very interesting for us is to understand how to adapt, how to understand others, but above all how long does it take to manage a multicultural team?

 

INTERCULTURAL MANAGEMENT

 

Intercultural management aims to facilitate collaboration between people from different cultures. Indeed, in intercultural teams, one can sometimes find differences in behavior, perceptions and values that are influenced by culture.

Intercultural management is no different from other types of management, except that it considers all cultural differences to make the most of them. To do this, it requires a great deal of intercultural intelligence on the part of the manager. Indeed, one must be aware of one’s own culture and its impact on one’s way of being and working, but also of the impact of other people’s cultures on these same points. To do this, we need to develop our cultural intelligence. But what is cultural intelligence ?

Developing intercultural intelligence

Intercultural intelligence is a skill that enables a person to adapt to cultural differences. It allows one to better understand them to take advantage of them. This competence is very important for good intercultural management.

Intercultural intelligence is based on the analysis of key differences, to enable the person who masters it to adapt to his or her interlocutor to facilitate communication and exchanges with him or her. It also helps to avoid many misunderstandings linked to cultural clashes. It is the first step towards good multicultural management.

 

As mentioned in the introduction, cultures can differ in many ways. We can distinguish between high and low context cultures, individualistic and collectivistic cultures, those that favour hierarchy, rules or relationships, universalist and particularist cultures, those with high or low risk aversion, monochronous or polychronous cultures, and finally those with internal or external control. We will now present these differences that you may notice between different cultures.

 

Firstly, we have the context of a culture. This encompasses all the events, facts and phenomena that have taken place within a group. A culture with a strong context means that it has had many of these events, facts and phenomena in common. Conversely, a low context culture will have less or no such common ground. Context can be identified at different scales. For example, a country or a single group of people. By identifying the strength of the context that unites the group you are dealing with, you can adapt your communication accordingly. Low-context cultures focus on the individual, on enforcement, on fairness and on direct communication. High-context cultures, on the other hand, put the team at the center. They are relationship-oriented, flexible in rules and use indirect communication. Within a low-context country, however, we may come across high-context groups, such as a family (which will therefore have a lot of common history), and vice versa for high-context countries.

 

Secondly, we can distinguish between individualistic and collectivistic cultures. In collectivist cultures, people prioritize collaboration, they are very family oriented and generally share the same values within a group. Individualistic cultures emphasize personal rather than collective achievements. Personal goals are more likely to be discussed and decisions are made by individuals more often than by groups. There is a strong spirit of competition. (Hofstede, Hofstede, & Minkov, 2010)

Knowing how to identify the individualistic or collectivistic thinking of the people in your team is a necessity for practicing multicultural management.

 

In terms of organizational preferences, there are also two major preferences. Low-context cultures, such as Europe, North America and Australia will be more likely to have low hierarchical distance, or egalitarian systems. High context cultures such as India, China and Japan are more likely to have a hierarchical structure. In countries with high hierarchical distance, it may be marked by the clothes worn, respect for superiors and excellent social behavior. In countries with a smaller hierarchical distance, people will tend to try to minimize hierarchical gaps, such as using first names, having open communication, flatter structures and a more casual style of dress. (Kolovou, 2017)

The important thing with these cultural differences is to identify what type of culture you are in and adapt to it so that you do not unintentionally disrespect other employees.

 

Universalism and particularism. This dimension opposes relations to rules. This dimension was theorized by Fons Trompenaars. Particularist cultures prioritize personal needs, are open to negotiation and generally offer possibilities to adapt rules. Trusting relationships are important and they take time to build them. Universalist cultures prioritize regulations, consistency, and fairness. Rules are sacred. Discussions are shorter and go straight to the point. Switzerland is an example of a universalist country, characterized by the right to vote.

 

Then comes risk aversion. It is very context- and country-dependent. Countries with a rich history such as Greece, Egypt and Japan are very resistant to uncertainty. They will tend to avoid these situations as much as possible. Bureaucracy is generally rather heavy and formalities are the norm. Commercial arguments must be proven. Tolerance of foreigners is lower but can be included if recommended by other employees. Recruitment of relatives is very common. This is due to their rich history and the difficulties they may have faced in the past.

Younger countries are more open to change and generally handle uncertainty better, for example. They are also more tolerant of foreign opinions, have a rather light bureaucracy. They have a rather liberal and open culture.

It will be very interesting to try to identify the relationship to change in the company in which you work to be in line with it and not to rush things for example.

 

The relationship to time in different cultures can also be a disturbing difference. There are two types of culture. The so-called monochronous cultures have a linear perception of time. For example, it is possible to “waste time”. Efficiency is an important concept and schedules are usually very precise and tight. Planning is done in advance, agendas are prepared, discussions are concise and calls to action are used.

Polychronic cultures have a more cyclical perception of time. Meetings and time spent are less important. Several projects can be launched at the same time and arguments are more often brought about through a story.

 

Finally, a distinction can be made between cultures with internal control and cultures with external control. The locus of control represents the extent to which a person believes he or she can influence events that affect him or her. Internal locus of control cultures focuses on the actions that people can take. Fate does not matter and people are optimistic by nature. The possibility of changing a situation is central to their thinking. In cultures with external control, the belief in fate and luck is much stronger. They are generally more pessimistic and expectant rather than active. The countries with the most recent history are the ones most likely to have an internal control culture.

 

Being aware of these main cultural differences allows everyone to analyze the culture of the group in question, to adapt to it. The manager’s task is therefore to ensure that each member of the team or group is also aware of these differences so that each can understand the others to improve collaboration and thus ultimately the results. This requires a certain openness of mind which can be cultivated, for example, through professional stays abroad or discussions in the company.

Our stay in Finland

As soon as we arrived, we were quickly surprised by the different hierarchies that the different teams could compose. It is true that in our Swiss team we prefer a flat hierarchy, so there is little or no leadership.

During our exchange, we were not in a leadership position either, but we could have done more cultural intelligence development before coming, so that we would have had the necessary tools to optimize our impact in a new cultural environment and even more so in a multicultural team like the one we joined.

We mainly observed individualistic and collectivist differences, depending on the culture or origin, people will tend to keep a certain distance in the relationship even in a learning team like the Team Academy.

 

To conclude, multicultural management requires some qualities such as knowing how to adapt one’s way of communicating, creating a team spirit, being able to listen to manage conflicts and being curious.

 

References

Babin, N. (2019, March). Manager en environnement multiculturel.

Davis, D. S. (2019, November). Le leadership inclusif.

Hofstede, G., Hofstede, G. J., & Minkov, M. (2010). Cultures and Organizations. McGraw-Hill USA.

Jlidi, Y. (2019, January). Penser et intégrer la diversité en entreprise.

Kolovou, T. (2017, August). Penser et intégrer la diversité en entreprise.

Licata, L., & Heine, A. (2012). Introduction à la psychologie interculturelle. de Boeck.

Meier, O. (2016). Management Interculturel. Dunod.

Pairraud, J.-M. (2017, December). Communiquer en environnement multiculturel.

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