4 Strategies to Tackle Multicultural Problems in Teams

In HBR on Teams one article gives us 4 strategies to handle cultural problems in teams. Heres a short summary of the key points.

4 Cultural differences that can cause destructive conflicts

There’s no one right way to tackle multicultural problems. But understanding four barriers to team success can help you begin evaluating possible responses.

  • Direct versus indirect communication
  • Trouble with accents and fluency
  • Differing attitudes toward hierarchy
  • Conflicting decision-making norms



  • Symptoms
    • Conflict arises from decision- making differ- ences
    • Misunderstanding or stonewalling arises from communication differences
  • Strategy: acknowledging cultural gaps openly and working around them

Structural intervention

  • Symptoms
    • The team is affected by emotional tensions relating to fluency issues or prejudice
    • Team members are inhibited by perceived status differences among teammates
  • Strategy: changing the shape of the team by reorganizing to reduce friction

Managerial intervention

  • Symptoms
    • Violations of hierarchy have resulted in loss of face
    • An absence of ground rules is causing conflict
  • Strategy: setting norms early or bringing in a higher-level manager by making final decisions without team involvement


  • Symptoms
    • A team member cannot adjust to the challenge at hand and has become unable to contribute to the project
  • Strategy: voluntary or involuntary removal of a team member when other options have failed


Managing Multicultural Teams by Jeanne Brett, Kristin Behfar, and Mary C. Kern

This blog is a digital memory for me. I store nuggets of information, ideas and resources on these pages so that I can access and share them easily at any time, from everywhere. I always felt a strong passion for continuous improvement and that is why I am now super happy to be a professional Scrum Master. Scrum, Kanban, Agile Project Management, Coaching, Learning and Self Management are my passions and that is also what my blog is about ...

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