Essay, 20 pages (5000 words)

Project management communication and multicultural environment management essay

Guidelines for managersVaratila:LAMK:opinnaytetyon_kansi:lamk_opinnaytetyon_kansi.jpgLAHTI UNIVERSITY OF APPLIED SCIENCESDegree Programme inInternational BusinessBachelor’s ThesisSpring 2013Tung Nguyen ThanhLahti University of Applied SciencesDegree Programme in International BusinessNGUYEN THANH, TUNG: Project management in multicultural environmentGuidelines for project managerBachelor’s Thesis in International Business,?? pages, ?? pages of appendicesSpring 2013ABSTRACTKey words:CONTENTSList of figuresList of tablesIntroduction


Project management, communication and multicultural environment

Purpose and Objectives

The purpose of this thesis is to create a guideline for managers to manage a multicultural team effectively as well as to minimize conflicts in specific projects.To do this three main objectives are established:1. Collect information concerning attitudes of people toward multicultural teams and their superiors.2. Define culture dimensions and its impacts on multicultural team performance.3. Identify the competencies needed for managers to effectively manage a multicultural.


The thesis basically is divided into three main parts concerning background informations, theoretical literature, empirical research and conclusion.FIGURE .Thesis structureChapter 1 gives background information for the thesis and introduces the research methods used during writing process. The purpose and the objectives as well as the limitation and the structure of the thesis are briefly explained in this chapter.The concept of culture is presented in chapter 2. The definition of culture and different dimentions are the main focus in this part, based mainly on the theoretical literature by Hofstede, Trompenaars and Hampden Turner, Edward Hall and House In chapter 3, the concepts of multicultural team and factors that influence team performance will be examined. There will be a brief definition of multicultural team and team effectiveness model, followed by the challenges and strategies to manage a multicultural team.The following chapter, chapter 5 examines conflicts and impacts of cultural dimensions on team conflicts. In addition, individual styles of addressing conflicts are also covered.Chapter 5 presents my analysis of the empirical research which includes an online survey conducted on students who study international business and questionnaire for team managers of KPMG Vietnam. The final chapter, chapter 6 will conclude this thesis with a guideline for development managers’ competencies.

Research methods

Data for this thesis was collected from both primar and secondary sources. Books, articles and intenet are the main sources used for theoretical literatue part.In order to achieve objectives mentioned above; both quanlitative and quantitative methods were used for researching. Questionnaires and interviews are the main tools to collect primary data.The first goal was to collect information concerning their work attitude and assessment towards multicultural team and team managers from students who are studying International Business in Finland. To accomplish this task, I created a comprehensive questionnaire consisting of multiple choice questions, where respondents can circle or tick the most suitable options for thenm. The nature of these questions is mainly quantitative. However, there was also open question at the end of the questionnaire, where respondents can give their own opinions and thoughts.The second part of the research concentrated on gathering opinions and experiences from managers of KPMG Vietnam concerning management of multicultural team. Interview was the most appropriate option to achieve this task because the number of participants in this survey is limited and collection of qualitative information is more efficient this way. A set of predetermined questions was arranged to which respondents gave individual comments.The goal was to interview from ten to 15 managers of KPMG Vietnam in order to incrase the validity of the research.


Limitation of respondentsAlthough the research includes international individuals, some may not be typically representative of their culture. Many people interviewed are international orientated people therefore the factor of culture in the survey may not bring satisfied results.Limitation of timeIn order to give a more reliable result, it is necessary to conduct research on a big scale. After two weeks since the initial day of surveying, 78 people completed the survey. If the survey was uploaded earlier there would be participants and the reliability of the results would have increased.CultureCulture is a complex concept, and there are many definitions of culture. The word culture comes from the Latin root colere which means to inhabit or to cultivate. It can be defined as:”… is the collective programming (thinking, feeling and acting) of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another.” (Hofstede, 2005, p. 4)During the late 1980’s and early 1990s, the term culture was applied in the business world, to refer to the attitudes and behavior of corporations. Over the last twenty years, understanding different cultures has become essential as companies and organizations are more internationally-oriented (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 2010)

Geert Hofstede

Geert Hofstede is one of the most influential researchers on national and organizational culture. One of the most remarkable studies of Hofstede’s is Value Survey Model (VSM), which contains collection of 33 questions created to assort members of national groups into cultural dimension. At first he found that four separate dimensions could be defined from the survey results: (http://www.geerthofstede.nl/, 2013)The first dimension dealt with is “individualism versus collectivism”. Hofstede believe this dimension is the fundamental distinction between cultures. It is preferred for individuals in individualist society to take care of themselves and their own self-interest. On the other hand, collectivism depicts a preference for a society in which the connection between individuals is much closer. It appeared that individualist countries are wealthier than collectivist countries. (Hofstede, 1983)The second dimension is “power distance”, which indicates the level of inequality in a certain society. In an organisation, the term “power distance” is referred to degree of centralisation of authority. According to the result Hofstede’s research, he found that a country with a high degree of power distance is also a collectivist country. Nevertheless, it is not proved that individualist countries have low degree of power distance. (Hofstede, 1983)The third dimension is uncertainty avoidance (UAI) which measures the degree of uncertainty and ambiguity among people in a society. As a result, in a weak UAI society, people have a natural tendency to be more relaxed and secure. While in a “strong uncertainty avoidance” society, people tend to create security and avoid risk. Religion and history have close connection with uncertainty avoidance. (Hofstede, 1983)The fourth dimension is “masculinity versus femininity”, which the fundamental issue is sex role division in society. The masculinity side of this dimension represents a preference for performance, achievement, and assertiveness. While in more feminine societies, the values like cooperation, modesty, caring for the weak and quality of life are preferred. (Hofstede, 1983)At first there were only four cultural dimensions created by Hofstede, but later in 1987 Michael Bond extended Hofstede’s work and convinced him to adopt the fifth dimension called long term orientation. This dimension represents society’s search for virtue. (http://geert-hofstede.com/, 2013)

Fons Trompenaars

Fons Trompenaars began to be a cultural researcher at the Wharton School of Business where he worked closely with Geert Hofstede. Trompenaars’s research focused on international companies and over thirty thousand people from more than forty countries were involved in his research. Instead of Hofstede’s five dimensions Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner decided to expand them into seven different dimentions of culture. These dimensions are: (http://www.thtconsulting.com, 2013)Universalism vs. Particularism: Rules versus relationships?Universalism is defined as a rule-based society. In universalistic society the same rules are applied to everybody and all situations. General rules, codes, values and standards are prioritized over relationships and particular needs. Universalism looks for similarities in all members of a groupOn the other hand, particularism is relationship-based society. In particularist countries people pay more attention to the obligations of relationships and unique circumstances. Human friendships, achievements and certain situations have higher priority over rules. (Fons Trompenaars, 1997)Individualism vs. Communitarianism: Group vesus individual?This dimension is refered to Hofstede’s cultural dimension individualism versus collectivism and it is defined as orientation to individual or part of a group which shares the same goals and objectives. In the case of universalism and particularism, Trompenaar said that “these dimensions are complementary, not opposing, preferences.” (Fons Trompenaars, 1997)Specificity vs. Diffusion: “How far we get involved”This dimension measures how far people get involved with other’s life space. In specific society, people are willing to share a large public space with others and a small private space they conserve and share with only friends. Specific cultures like Austria, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States show a strong separation between work and private life. While in diffuse countries, people protect both spaces carefully, because entry into private space is essential for entry into public space. China, Spain and Venezuela are examples of diffuse cultures where work and private life are closely connected but intensely protected. (Fons Trompenaars, 1997)Affective vs. Neutral: “Do we display our emotions?”Trompenaars defines this dimension by describing how overtly cultures show their emotions in public. In neutral cultures such as Sweden, Austria, Japan, and India, it is highly inappropriate to express feelings in public, whereas in affective countries like Spain, Russia, and France, it is totally acceptable. He also distinguish cultures that exhibit emotion but separate it from rational reason like Americans, and cultures that exhibit emotion without separating it from reason like Italians and southern European nations. (Fons Trompenaars, 1997)Achievement vs. Ascription: “Do we have to prove ourselves to receive status or is it given to us?”This dimension demonstrates how a culture determines the status of individuals. In achievement oriented cultures, people believe that individuals are evaluated according to what they have accomplished, whereas in abscrition oriented cultures, people believe that individuals are atributed status based on who they are: their age, class, gender, education, et cetera. (Fons Trompenaars, 1997)Sequential time vs. Synchronous time “Do we do things one at a time or several things at once?”Trompenaars defines this dimention by pointing out two ways of managing time. The first way is to manage time sequentially which means people view time as a series of passing events. People of sequential cultures are very strict with time commitment and they hate to replace their schedules by unanticipated events. On the other hand for synchronous cultures, events are interrelated with the past, present and future altogether to shape actions. People in synchronic cultures are less insistent upon punctuality and they are more comfortable with unexpected visitors or events. (Fons Trompenaars, 1997)Internal vs. External control: “Do we control our environment or are we controlled by it?”Trompenaars defines this dimentions as individual’s orientation towards natures. In an internal-directed culture, people often show dominating attitude and tend to be aggressive in order to win the objective. While in external-directed culture, the attitude of people is more flexible and they are willing to compromise and keep peace in order to maintain the relationship. (Fons Trompenaars, 1997)

Edward T.Hall

According to Edward Hall, culture is described by three variables: Time, Context, and Space.


Hall’s theory on time can be related to Trompenaars’ Sequential vs. Synchronous dimension. Cultures are classified based on their attitude toward time. In monochronic cultures, people believe that time is a limited, restricted resource. Communication is direct and quick, work is planned, and execution within the time specified is seen as most important. North American and Northern European are the examples of monochromic cultures. In polychronic cultures, people believe that time is infinite, and life is circular. Time cannot be controlled therefore timescales are less strict and time-based planning seen as less important. The examples of polychromic cultures are Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.


Hall defines this dimension by indentifying the styles of communication within a culture. In high context cultures, both parties take much for granted therefore communication only hints at much of the information. In contrast, in low context cultures such as the USA, communication is straighforward, including background information. As a result, low contex cultures are in greater need for documentation and legal fine print, in which both parties agree on exact conditions. (Hall, 1976)


This dimension refers to the boundary around an individual’s personal territory. For instance, in the Indian culture, one’s personal space is much smaller, both in terms of physical space and in objects perceived to be personal space, than in the USA.

House and Colleagues’ GLOBE Cultural Framework

Robert House, at the University of Pennsylvania, initiated a major research project called Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness to study the impact of culture on leadership and organizational behavior practices. The project team comprised 172 researchers who gathered data from 17,300 respondents in 951 organizations across 62 societies. Following works of Hofstede, Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck, and McClelland, this project conceptualized nine dimensions of culture, shown in Table 1. (House, 2004)Table .The GLOBE project cultural dimensions (House, 2004)

GLOBE cultural dimensions


Power distanceThe extent to which members of a society expect power to be distributed equallyGender egalitarianismThe degree to which societies discourage differences in gender roles and inequalityUncertainty avoidanceThe extent to which societies rely on rules, policies, and procedures to minimize ambiguity and unpredictability of future eventsCollectivism I (institutional collectivism)The degree to which societies encourage and reward collective action and distribution of resourcesCollectivism II (in-group collectivism)The extent to which members of a society express pride, loyalty, and cohesiveness in their relationship with othersFuture orientationThe degree to which members of a society engage in future-oriented behaviors such as planning, preparing for, and investing in the futureAssertivenessThe extent to which members of a society are aggressive, demanding, and confrontational toward each other in their interactionsPerformance orientationThe extent to which societies reward and encourageindividuals for innovation and performance excellenceHumane orientationThe extent to which a society encourages its members to be generous, altruistic, and caring, and to show concern for the welfare of othersMulticultural teamHuman beings have been working together and learning to cooperate since for millions of years. Efficiency and satisfaction are improved by cooperation and working together. In that sense, multicultural team has become a competitive advantage of organizational life in different parts of the world. Multicultural teams can provide all elements for an effective fusion of different project management practices (Binder, 2007). As a result, more and more theory and practice of effective multicultural teams have been developed recently. Maximizing the synergy and potential for high performance that is present in a multicultural team can result in more creative approaches to problem solving and decision making (Michael J. Marquardt, 2001)Multicultural team can be defined as “a collection of individuals with different cultural backgrounds, who are interdependent in their tasks, who share responsibility for outcomes, who see themselves and are seen by others as an intact social entity embedded in one or more larger social systems, and who manage their relationships across organizational boundaries and beyond.” (Claire Halverson, 2008)

Multicultural team performance

According to Brannen and Salk’s research journal, they concluded that cultural differences do not necessarily have a negative impact on team performance. Conflicts are not caused by differences but organizational context and individual team members’ responses to cultural norms. Team members of an increasingly diverse workforce must actively deal with cultural differences in order to connect cultural borderlines. The work of Brannen and Salk’s highlights the multiplicity of cultural identities, and indicates that organizational context plays a central role in deciding the relative importance of those identities. (Brannen M.Y, 2000)Empirical research on the output of multicultural teams has brought up different results. Many studies have shown that heterogeneous groups achieved better performance than homogenous groups. In contrast, some studies have shown that homogenous teams avoid mistakes caused by miscommunication and the subsequent conflict of more diverse teams. Williams and O’Reilly (1998) reviewed 40 years of diversity research on conflict and communication. In the end, they came to the conclusion that diversity does not have any predictable effects on team performance. A research by Jehn et al (1999) also attempt to illustrate how various types of diversity affect team performance. He created a model that includes three types of diversity discussed in past team research:Informational diversity: differences in backgrounds, work experiences and specialitiesSocial category diversity: differences in gender, race and ethnicityValue diversity: differences in what team members perceive the team’s task and goalsIn the end Jehn et al (1999) found that value diversity becomes more important for team performance over time while social category diversity becomes less significant over time.Three conclusions can be drawn up by combining all the researchs on multicultural teams’ performance. First of all, certain types of diversity affect team process and performance more than other differences. Secondly, team members’ responses to diversity and conflict are the major factors in determining how teams process the task and perform. Thirdly, the type of task the team is responsible for and the level of task interdependence also has particular influences on the success of a multicultural team. Accordingly, the nature of a team’s diversity can be advantageous or disadvantageous depending on the task involved and how the teamwork is managed. (Claire Halverson, 2008)

Factors that influence multiculral team effectiveness

Theoriests have put a lot of effort building up a model that conceptualizes what makes multicultural teams effective. The following model (see figure 1) integrate the comprehensive existing knowledge about teamwork and processes through a usable framework facilitating transfer to practice. The components of the model are societal/institutional factors, organizational factors, team factors, team climate, and team effectiveness criteria. (Claire Halverson, 2008)FIGURE .Multicultural team effectiveness model (Claire Halverson, 2008)

Societal and Institutional Factors

In order to understand multicultural teams, it is crucial to examine culture and how it impacts individual team members. Moreover, other macro-level aspects such as the sector of work (development, education), industry (high technology, manufacturing), may play some role in impacting the nature and effectiveness of multicultural teams in a certain situation. (Claire Halverson, 2008)

Organizational Factors

Team achievement heavily depends upon the resources and authority required to complete the task successfully. Organizational arrangements include systems such as compensation, performance management, and training and development. According to Halverson, structural arrangements help to maintain and improve effectiveness of the teams and organizational culture promotes and encourages teamwork. A reseach on the impact of organizational formalization and centralization on team’s effectiveness by Tata and Prasad (2004) concluded that self-managed teams may be more effective in organizational settings with limited explicit rules, procedures, and polices. Organizational culture is also considered the key determinant of organizational behavior and performance. Within the same national culture, organizational and group cultures may take many different forms (Brannen M.Y, 2000). Organizational culture becomes an important variable to understand team effectiveness. (Claire Halverson, 2008)

Team-level factors

The team-level factors are divided into three subcategories: team design and structure, membership, and team processes.Team design and structure variables include team size, goal, type, and member composition. The size of the team is determined by the nature and complexity of the task to be performed as well as resources available. The quality of a team’s output and dynamics are sensitively linked to a team’s size. According to Gardenswartz and Rowe (2003), team goals are defined to articulate and translate the overall mission. Frustration, lack of timely progress, and unmet or incomplete goals are the consequences of when there was no discussion of the team’s overall goal. This is even more essential for multicultural teams due to the variety in expectations, individual goals, and backgrounds that members bring to the team. Therefore, multicultural teams need to develop collective understanding of their goals and link them to the members’ individual expectations. (Claire Halverson, 2008)Team membership elements include team members’ experiences and skills, cultural background, social identity (issues such as class, race, gender, and ethnicity) and individual aspects of personality and intelligence. (Claire Halverson, 2008)Team processes cover important areas such as communication, problem solving and decision making, conflict management, stages of development, and leadership. All of these processes play major roles in the operation and effectiveness of multicultural teams. (Claire Halverson, 2008)

Team climate

The areas of trust, commitment, cohesion, and efficacy are considered as mediating variables linking the team-level factors and the effectiveness criteria. These elements are the key foundation for collaboration and cooperation. By increasing trust among team members, communication and decision-making processes might be strengthened. (Druskat, 2001)

Team Effectiveness Criteria

Besides productivity and performance, team members’ satisfaction and learning are now considered integral to comprehend the team’s effectiveness. Learning and satisfaction may contribute to strengthening teamwork. Furthermore, team member satisfaction creates positive feedback that boosts the effectiveness of multicultural teams. (Claire Halverson, 2008)


Majority of managers tend to assume that challenges on multicultural teams originate from differing styles of communication. In reality, this is only one of the four categories that can create difficulties to a team’s success. The challenges for multicultural teams are direct versus indirect communication; accents and fluency; attitudes toward hierarchy and authority; and conflicting norms for decision making. (Brett J, Behfar K & Kern M, 2006)

Direct versus indirect communication

The differences between direct and indirect communication may cause serious damage to relationships between team members when projects encounter problems. Communication in Western cultures is usually straighforward and explicit. The meaning of the speech is apparent, and it does not require listeners to know about the context or interpretation from the speaker. On the other hand, for Eastern cultures, meaning is hidden in the way the message is presented. Negotiators in Western cultures directly ask questions about other party’s preferences and priorities. In cultures that indirect communication dominates, negotiators may have to deduce preferences and priorities from changes in the other party’s settlement proposal. Consequently, communication challenges reduce the effectiveness of information sharing, and also create opportunities for interpersonal conflicts. (Brett J, Behfar K & Kern M, 2006)

Accents and fluency

Nowadays even though English is the official language of international business, problems with translation and fluency may cause misunderstandings or frustration. Nonnative speakers’ accents also have impacts on perceptions of status or competence. Most of the time, it is difficult for team members to regconize expertise of nonfluent team members due to their influency of conversation. Interpersonal conflicts can easily appear if teammates are intolerant or impatient with a lack of fluency. Consequently, motivation for nonnative speakers to contribute to the team is also disminished. Eventually, company’s investment in a multicultural team goes to waste. (Brett J, Behfar K & Kern M, 2006)

Attitudes toward hierarchy and authority

Multicultural team manager always assume that the structure of their team is rather flat. In reality, for team members from specific cultures, the position in an organization determines how they are treated. Inappropriate defference for higher-status members may damage team members’ stature and credibility and even create humiliation toward others if most of the team members are from unbiased cultures. As a result of differing cultural norms, team members think they are treated disrespectfully, the whole project group can be dismember. (Brett J, Behfar K & Kern M, 2006)

Conflicting norms for decision making

The factor of culture has a huge impact when it comes to decision making processes especially when decisions should be made quickly or when intensive analysis is required beforehand. American managers like to make decisions rapidly and with rather little analysis by comparison with managers from other countries. (Brett J, Behfar K & Kern M, 2006)


There is no one right answer to solve a particular kind of multicultural problem. Four strategies were summarized by the most successful international managers to deal with above challenges: adaptation (accepting cultural gaps openly and working around them), structural intervention (changing the team structure), managerial intervention (setting norms early or bringing in a higher-level manager), and exit (removing a team member when other options have failed). The most important step is evaluating the situation and condition under which the team is working. (Brett J, Behfar K & Kern M, 2006)


Adaptation will work perfectly if team members are willing to accept their cultural differences and to be responsibile for resolving how to live with them. Adapting is often the best possible approach to a diversity issue, because it wastes less managerial time than other strategies. If team members involve in solving the problem themselves, they will learn more from the process. Team members with this type of attitude can be significant about protecting their own substantive differences while assenting to the processes of others. (Brett J, Behfar K & Kern M, 2006)

Structural intervention

In order to remove some specific sources of conflict in a team, reorganization or reassignments are necessary to reduce interpersonal disharmony. This approach can be especially effective when team members are proud, defensive, or holding on to negative stereotypes of one another. Another structural intervention might be to split the team into smaller working groups of mixed cultures or mixed corporate identities in order to process information more efficiently. (Brett J, Behfar K & Kern M, 2006)

Managerial intervention

Managerial intervention refers to active participation of manager or team leader in dealing with the challenges. Managerial intervention is necessary when emotions or behaviors of team members are distracted or disrupted, or when there is challenge with considerable and measureable consequences such as human resources, financial or relationship. (Kristin Behfar, 2006)


Leaving the team is the last option for managing challenges when neither adaptation nor managerial and structural interventions is effective. Unsatisfied team members often just skip out of the rest of the project if the the conflict remains unresolved. When the nature project is huge and complicated for instance producing products or services, the exit of one or more members was a strategy of last resort. Team members either voluntarily leave or a formal request from team managers is the final solution. Exit was likely when emotions were overwhelming and too much face had been lost on both sides to save the situation. (Brett J, Behfar K & Kern M, 2006)Conflict

Definition of conflict

“Conflict on teams is defined here to mean a struggle, or state of disharmony or antagonism, or hostile behaviors, resulting from contradictory interests, needs, or beliefs, or mutually exclusive desires” (Claire Halverson, 2008)Conflict is a natural part of social existence and appears to be a reality for people working together. In a multicultural team, disputes are inevitable and often based on fundamentally different needs, interests, perceptions, or cultural norms. Conflicts in work teams can come from confusion about roles, poorly run meetings, private agendas, and conflicting personalities. (Levi, 2001)There are two measured types of conflicts which can be defined as task conflict (resource distribution, procedures, facts, etc.) and relationship or emotional conflicts (e.g., feelings, preferences, values, style). (De Drue & Weingart, 2003)

Impacts of cultural dimensions on team conflict

According to Cheung and Chuah research, there are thirteen sources of conflict in a project, as shown in the left side column of the table (see table 1). The right-side column comprise cultural dimensions which may have negative influences on team conflict. For instance, the conflict based on scheduling may potentially arise on a project if team members from both polychronic and monochronic cultures. (Cheung and Chuah, 1999)A multicultural team appear to face more sources of conflict than a mono-cultural team, because value systems on the team are divergent. Therefore the multi-cultural project manager must comprehend conflict management thoroughly, and be able to control the conflicts effectively in order to improve the team’s performance.Table .Sources of conflict (Cheung and Chuah, 1999)

Sources of project conflict

Cultural dimensions which may influence level of conflict

Scheduling: timing, sequencing, duration and feasibility of projectSequential time vs. synchronous time (Hall, Trompenaars)Internal vs. external control (Trompenaars)Managerial and administrative procedures: reporting relationships, responsibilities, project scope, plan of executionPower Distance (Hofstede)Uncertainty Avoidance (Hofstede)Universalism vs. Particularism (Hofstede)Communication: poor communication flow between manager and team membersAffective vs. neutral (Trompenaars)Context (Hall)Goal or priority definition: Project goals, priorities and missions are not clearly definedMasculinity vs. Femininity (Hofstede)Long term vs. short term orientation (Hofstede)Individualism vs. collectivism (Hofstede, Trompenaars)Resource allocation: competition for limited resourcesIndividualism vs. Communitarianism (Hofstede, Trompenaars)Reward structure/performance appraisal or measurement: inappropriate reward and performance appraisal structureAchieved vs. ascribed status (Trompenaars)Long term vs. short term orientation (Hofstede)Specificity vs. diffusion (Trompenaars)Personality and interpersonal relations: ego-centred, personality differences or those caused by prejudice or stereotyping.Individualism vs. Communitarianism (Hofstede, Trompenaars)Specificity vs. diffusion (Trompenaars)Costs: lack of cost control authority, or dispute over allocation of fundsPower Distance (Hofstede)Technical opinion: disagreement over technical issues and performance specificationUncertainty Avoidance (Hofstede)Politics: problems of territorial power or hidden agendasPower Distance (Hofstede)Leadership: poor input or direction from senior managerUncertainty Avoidance (Hofstede)Ambiguous roles/structure: overlappingassignments or roles particularly in matrix organisationsPower Distance (Hofstede)Universalism vs. Particularism (Trompenaars)Unresolved prior conflict: disagreements stemming from prior unresolved conflicts.Divergent perspectives are the consequences of disagreements on cultural norms. Approaches to power distance between managers and employees, individualism versus collectivism, the management of time, and even the dynamics of interpersonal space or habits of eye contact should be appreciated when starting to resolve a conflict with people from different cultural background. Considering time and personal space issues, simple distress with divergent norms can result in high level of tension and eventually conflicts. If universalist and particularist values strongly present in a multicultural team, members may disagree severely over following a rule or procedures. Conflict can develope from misinterpreted nonverbal gestures or tone of voice. A wrong assumption can draw an unexpectedly negative reaction, leading to unexposed hostility or open argument. Generally, in a multicultural context, the chances for conflicts over values of cultural dimension increase. (Claire Halverson, 2008)

Individual styles of addressing conflicts

In multicultural environements, work teams are influenced by diverse cultural perceptions, practices, and personalities. Therefore, different styles of dealing with conflict will positively or negatively affect personal and group dynamics. A widely used system for classifying conflict styles is Thomas’ (1976) matrix which covers 5 conflict management methods: avoiding, accommodating, competing, compromising, and collaborating. These five styles of handling conflict are described in terms of needs (see Fig. 3)FIGURE .Conflict management methods (Thomas, 1976)Individuals approach different conflict situations with varying styles. For example, in a more formal conflict at work a person may be more coercive, while he or she may be more accommodating with friends. It can be useful for individuals to assess their own preferences and styles in addressing conflict to see what pros and cons arise when applying their particular style. Pros and cons of these five methods are explained in Table 3Table .Pros and Cons of five conflict management methods





CompetitionIndividual pursues their own concerns at the other person’s expense- Resolves problems quickly- Sacrifice relationshipAccommodationIndividual neglectstheir own concerns to satisfy concerns of other person- Preserve relationship- Keep the peace- Build up resentmentAvoidingIndividual does not pursue their own concerns or those of other person-Easily averting conflicts in short run- Reduce tension-Cannot resolve problem completelyCompromisingIndividual pursue acceptable solution which satisfies both parties-Harmonize the conflict from both sides-Meet some needs of each party, but not allCollaborationIndividual attempts to work with theother person to find solution which fully satisfies the concerns of both parties- Meet everyone’s needs- Improve learning and relationships-Require a lot of time and effort to achieve

Approaches to conflict resolution

John Ungerleider proposed four main approaches to conflict resolution offering different perspectives and interventions relevant to a wide variety of conflict situations: negotiation, third-party mediation, systematic conflict transformation and peacebuilding. (Claire Halverson, 2008)


Principles for intercultural negotiations that apply to communication in multicultural teams include:Be flexible, get aquainted with the other culture, and use approaches that will create better condition for communication, avoid what may be irritating.Be careful not to get stuck in stereotypical judgements and assignment of characteristicsBe aware of language barriers, check understanding frequently, go slow, and ask questions.Be careful about attributing meaning to nonverbal behavior; nonverbal communication is significant and may even contradict verbal input.Be aware that mistrust can breakdown communication and communication is essential(Claire Halverson, 2008)


In a multicultural team, sometimes it is necessary for a neutral third-party to mediate an argument between team members with culturally diverging norms for dealing with conflict. The mission of the mediator is to interpret, buffer, and coordinate contradictory linguistic or nonverbal messages and negotiating styles to avoid losing self-respect and honor of adversaries and keep communication continuing. A mediator working across cultures should comprehend relevant cultural behaviors, norms, and wisdom that can be beneficial in transforming a conflict. In traditional societies, a social leader or elder will be selected as a mediator. (Claire Halverson, 2008)

Conflict Transformation and peacebuilding

Conflict transformation includes situational analysis and strategic interventions which assesses the sources and dynamics of a conflict and attempts to transform the structures and relationships that sustain conflict system. Conlfict transformation helps conversations or problem-solving processes between members of groups in conflict develop in a more positive tendency. Four basic steps of transforming conflicts are: acknowledgement, reconciliation, evnvision and strategize, and sustaining. All team members that are affected by the conflict should acknowledge that there is a problem and commit to working together to deal with the conflict. The major reasons the conflict should be defined and reconciled collectively by the team members. The team should agree on a common vision for what they can do together and how they can do it. Finally managers determine what the team needs in order to maintain their ability to continue to work mutually to eliminate the causes of the conflict, and to build peace. (Claire Halverson, 2008)Analysis of empirical researchConclusion

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