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How to embrace cross-cultural differences during a project

Julie Lord
 


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Work is increasingly being conducted on a global basis. Nowadays, most project managers have to contend with integrating remote workers into their project team. This presents a unique set of difficulties; from dealing with different time zones to adapting to the different ways people work. One of the most challenging aspects of working with such a team is managing cross-cultural differences, and below we have put together some top tips to help you do so.

  • Break the ice with a little bit of humour – Humour is one of the best ways to get people to open up and relax. Of course, you need to make sure you incorporate humour the right way. Adding a joke to the end of every sentence isn’t going to go down well.

    Also, be mindful that different cultures find different things funny. A lot of people find English humour difficult because of the heavy sarcasm we seem to love. If you notice that your humour does not seem to be going down too well, simply explain it.

  • Don’t ignore those who are quiet – There are a lot of cultures whereby people are more aggressive and vocal in their approach. They have no trouble with expressing themselves during meetings, and this can often lead to them dominating the discussions. You need to ensure there is a balance, as not all cultures are like this.

    Some are more passive and quiet, and they may sit throughout a meeting without saying a word. However, it is critical that you get their input. You do not need to call them out during the meeting.

    Instead, make an effort to seek their opinion away from a larger group. There are many different collaboration tools and technologies available today that give you the ability to capture feedback and comments from those in your team. This will give the quieter team members and equal chance to be heard.

  • Don’t assume that everything you say is understood – It is likely that there are going to be members of your team that are not native English speakers. As much as you try to use shorter words, you should never assume that they are going to understand what you have said. This is why it is important to get your team members to recap the assignments you have given them before you end a meeting or a call.

    This will ensure they have understood everything and, if they haven’t, you can explain again. It also gives them a chance to ask any questions they have.

  • Learn about each other – Last but not least, make an effort to learn about all team members on your team. You will never be able to truly embrace someone else’s culture if you do not ask about it. For example, you can ask why your colleagues get more or less time off work during a certain period, or you can enquire about a public holiday that you are unfamiliar with.

If you follow the four tips that have been mentioned above, you should find it a lot easier to manage cultural differences in your project team. This is something that is increasingly being introduced into project management training courses due to the global nature of work today.

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