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Working in a Multicultural Team; Conflicts & Solutions

Communicating and coordinating across cultures can be challenging but even with differences in upbringing, language, or time zones, it is becoming increasingly more common. Using these differences and cultivating multicultural teams offers more creativity and innovation. Though the benefits of working in a well-managed multicultural team are incredibly rewarding, a team that is not as balanced may have trouble with miscommunication, dips in productivity, and team efficiency.

What causes conflict in multicultural teams?

Mismanaged Goals.

If members of a team do not share the same end goal, it can cause hindrances to productivity and team performance. A team must understand why they were brought together and recognize what their contributions bring to the overall objective. This way, there is an understanding of priorities to ensure the goals that need to be met, work for everyone on the team.

Procedures & Responsibilities

Different cultures hold different understandings regarding professional relationships, responsibilities, and leadership.

Having an unclear understanding of organizational structures such as the hierarchy of team members, overlapping or collaborative roles, and accountability can cause conflict. Providing guidance to give a more structured understanding of the roles and responsibilities within the team would ease much confusion that may be brought on by unclear priorities or job assignments.

Poor Leadership

All great teams will have members with a variety of skill sets and personality types. This allows the team a wider scope for creativity and innovation. Though with varied personalities and skill sets, leaders must be capable of adapting to the varying needs of their team.

This is especially necessary when managing multicultural teams; there is a greater level of understanding that a leader of a multicultural team must have especially when it comes to picking up cultural nuances. Poor leadership will always have negative impacts on a team’s overall performance.


Multicultural teams need to be able to understand the framework through which to communicate with each other, especially if the team is working virtually.

It is important that each team member reevaluate their own communication styles, and for them to acknowledge that they may have to adapt to new and different ways of communicating. Communication is said to be the key to successful collaboration.

A strong team will understand and practice different styles of communication to transfer or share information in the best manner possible for their team. For multicultural teams working virtually, it is best to offer technical support to ensure the team is more connected.

Cultural Competence

More than differing styles of communication, multicultural teams need to be aware of the cultural differences that surround them. Differences in the way various cultures treat time or rewards can have an impact in the performance of a team. What is considered a ‘waste of time’ or a ‘priority’? What will motivate various team members to stay on track? What does the team see as ‘success’?

The more adaptable a multicultural team is to new or differing cultures, the easier it should be for a team to establish their own ‘team culture’ with answers to these important questions.

Understanding these conflicts and learning ways to adapt solutions can help many understand how to get the best out of a multicultural team. If you work in a diverse environment or if your workplace requires cross-cultural communication training, let's connect!


Mona Lou International (MLI) offers customized consulting, training, and development services to help your business thrive in the new global arena. MLI empowers businesses to seize opportunities to create more prosperous cross-cultural business relations and partnerships.

We would be happy to assist.

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