Diversity is increasing within organizations at an astronomical rate. Organizations are increasingly operating in multicultural contexts, building strategic alliances, exporting work, and facilitating mergers and acquisitions inside and outside their primary domain of work. Concurrently, organizations are implementing work groups with greater frequency to integrate the knowledge of workers across broad geographic locations and cultural contexts. However, disagreement exists regarding whether a diverse cultural composition of groups leads to positive or negative group outcomes.
On one side, cultural diversity in groups and teams becomes most advantageous when the organization wants to expand its perspective, tactics, strategy, or approach. Diversity can become an advantage in attempting to reposition the organization, reposition a strategy, create a new idea, develop a new marketing plan, or assess emerging trends from a new perspective. If diversity is well managed, with the emphasis on management, it can increase creativity, flexibility, and problem-solving skills, especially for complex problems, improve effectiveness in working with culturally distinct clients, and improve understanding of the dynamics and communication patterns within the organization. The ability to operate more flexibly and to stay open to new ideas is a necessity for the management of the culturally diverse workplace. In fact, managers in this environment need to focus on the multiple perspectives and avoid groupthink.
On the other side of the debate, diversity frequently causes problems in convergent processes, at times when the organization needs employees to think or act in similar ways. Diversity renders communication and integration more difficult. People from different cultures fail to understand each other; they do not work in the same way or at the same pace. The potential for increased ambiguity, complexity, and confusion becomes highest when the organization requires direction and clarity, or in other words, convergence. Diversity causes problems when managers and employees overgeneralize organizational practices and process from one culture to different countries and cultures. It causes problems when a culturally diverse group must reach an agreement, whether this is formal or informal, and increases complexity and difficulty in developing companywide policies and procedures. Finally, cultural diversity might incite intergroup bias leading to negative group outcomes.
Joseph DiStefano and Martha Maznevski, looking at the performance of multinational teams, have noticed that these teams usually fall into one of three performance categories: the destroyers, the equalizers, and the creators. Destroyer teams were categorized as such because their members were observed to mistrust each other—they guarded information jealously and took every opportunity to attack other members of the team. Equalizer teams were observed as suppressing differences and, in turn, suppressing differences in ideas and perspectives. This category resembles what Alfred Adler calls ignoring cultural differences in teams.
Finally, creator teams were found to perform at high levels. In these teams, differences were explicitly recognized and accepted, even nurtured, and their implications were incorporated into every facet of the group’s processes. These teams seemed to develop a constantly shifting dynamic that incorporates innovation and cooperation structures. These teams were observed creating value by bringing highly successful products to market in record time, achieving quantum leaps in cost savings in highly competitive industries, inventing new types of alliances with global suppliers and clients, and moving successfully into territory that others have been unable to conquer. The key to this high performance was not in the membership of the teams but in the interaction processes, i.e., how they understood, incorporated, and leveraged these differences. Creator teams interacted according to three principles of mapping, bridging, and integrating.
Models of effective multicultural teamwork have moved away from merely conceptualizing teamwork at the level of behaviors and processes in favor of understanding teamwork at a cognitive level. Indeed, Lynne Millward-Purvis suggests a model of team effectiveness based on shared mental models and meta-cognition. In this model, the authors suggest that for a team to self-regulate, it must have a sound knowledge of itself (its role, goals, strengths, and weaknesses) and be able to reflect upon, review its knowledge and practices, and subsequently refine or correct these. This is essential for the team to be adaptable and flexible in changing circumstances. This process not only requires a shared mental model of the team and its task, but cognitions at a meta-cognitive level in the self-regulatory sense as well as a sense of team motivation.
In this model, two important aspects of team motivation are identified: identity and potency. The identity of the individual is affected by whether the individual is proud to be part of the team such that self-concept and esteem will be related to team success. Potency on the other hand, the authors explain, refers to the collective beliefs that the team can succeed and be effective.
Other models for effectiveness in multicultural teams focus on leadership and social interaction. For a multinational team to be effective, a clear sense of direction must be established at the beginning of a conceptualization phase. After an initial period of euphoria over the internationalism of the project, there is a drop in team morale; communication problems and different styles of working and decision making, leading to culture shock. If the project leader does not succeed in building up trust in the early phases of the project, thereby holding the team together by a common goal, there is a risk that the project will never get off the ground. Especially at the beginning of international projects, it is important to give priority to trust-building measures and team development. For these purposes, social events may be organized and can be more effective than any other sort of social interaction.
- Taylor Cox, “The Multicultural Organizations,” Academy of Management Executive (v.5/2, 1991);
- Patricia Nemetz and Sandra Christensen, “The Challenge of Cultural Diversity: Harnessing a Diversity of Views to Understand Multiculturalism,” Academy of Management Review (1996);
- Sonja A. Sackmann, ed., Cultural Complexity in Organizations (Sage, 1997);
- Susan C. Schneider and Jean-Louis Barsoux, Managing Across Cultures (Prentice Hall, 1999);
- David C. Thomas and David C. Thomas, CrossCultural Management: Essential Concepts (Sage, 2008).
This example Multicultural Work Groups And Teams Essay is published for educational and informational purposes only. If you need a custom essay or research paper on this topic please use our writing services. EssayEmpire.com offers reliable custom essay writing services that can help you to receive high grades and impress your professors with the quality of each essay or research paper you hand in.