Language. Conversation. Relationships. Three Common Challenges in Culturally Diverse Teams

Mixed group in business meetingIn my experience leading, and working with clients who lead, culturally diverse teams I’ve noticed certain challenges that we all seem to share in common.

Three of the challenges that I encounter and hear about most frequently relate to language, conversations, and relationships.

Challenges in culturally diverse teams

  • Language: For myself and my clients, our language of business is English, and we work with many colleagues who count English as their second, third or fourth language. Variations in fluency and confidence, in speaking and understanding the English language, always pops to the top of the list when I ask about the challenges of working across cultures. If English is your first language, and you recognize these challenges in your own work, you may find some helpful tips in this blog post: The English Language Advantage.
  • Conversation: Even when everyone in a team shares a high fluency in the English language, cultural differences in the ways that we typically engage in conversations with colleagues pose new challenges. How do you start a conversation with someone that you don’t yet know well? What topics are considered appropriate and which are off-limits? The way that U.S. Americans typically engage in “small talk” can be especially challenging for colleagues from outside the U.S. to comprehend and engage in themselves. If this challenge sounds familiar to you, some of the ideas in this blog post, Making “small talk” in the U.S. Workplace, may provide some inspiration.
  • Relationships: Establishing and maintaining productive professional relationships is a key to success in any team, and there is probably no time more important than those first days after a new member joins the team. When the new team member is arriving from a different country and culture, a conscious effort to welcome them and help them initiate relationships with their colleagues is often a key factor in their future success and the success of the team. If you are preparing to welcome new colleagues to your team soon, I hope you will find some useful tips in this post: Welcome to the U.S. Here’s Your Desk!

Enjoy, and please share your own challenges and solutions in the comment section below. We would love to learn from you!




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