As long as a globally-operating business employs more than one person, it's inevitable employees will occasionally have a cross-cultural conflict with one another.

If the office manager knows how to successfully mediate employee cross-cultural conflicts, these disagreements can be managed and the business's operations will not suffer. But, if they don't and the employee conflicts are not dealt with promptly and effectively, the conflicts can poison the office atmosphere and even threaten the future of the global business.

Thus, it goes without saying that effective cross-cultural conflict management is one of the most essential skills a global manager can possess.

Here are seven actions managers can take right now to resolve clashes between cultures:

1. Look at both sides

Always examine both sides of the situation to make sure that each has been heard before weighing in. Guard against jumping to any conclusions.

2. Check for understanding

Repeat back what both sides are saying and make sure that it accurately reflects what their position is.

3. Don't misunderstand words

In my experience working in Germany, they may say things like "you must not come to dinner." To an English-speaker, this can sound like you are not allowed to come. But, really what they're saying is that you don't have to join if you don't want to. So, if you hear phrases like this, consider that some words may have different meanings in different cultures.

4. Pause

In meetings, take some time before and after you speak to ensure people have time to think before they talk and have time to process what you are saying.

5. Get help

Consider using a mediator and an interpreter if language skills aren't up to par for some team members.

6. Do your homework

Study up on cultural nuances so that you know expectations and habits. For example, in my experiences, many Japanese like to have printed presentations to follow along as you speak.

7. Know your history

Be sensitive to historical conflicts such as those between Korea and Japan or Palestine and Israel. This way you can avoid accidentally ruffling feathers of members on your team from areas in the world that are in conflict.

It's human nature to confront cultural differences with stereotypes.

But these can lead to distorted expectations about people's behavior and misinterpretations. Instead, look for cultural averages of types of behaviors and values and to put aside your own cultural lens when regarding others' behaviors, values, and beliefs.

Having an open mind will help you quell any cultural clash in the office.

Published on: Jul 6, 2016
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