In today’s day and age, globalization has dominated the workforce. Especially as a product of the pandemic, work settings have changed extensively and online communication venues like Zoom have made global communication and teamwork more accessible. Thus, It is important for professionals to be able to function and communicate effectively as a member of a team of individuals from diverse backgrounds. However, there are a few challenges involved in establishing and maintaining effective communication on cross-cultural teams. Amongst these are accounting for cultural differences in team intimacy, potential insecurities and barriers to team intimacy, and establishing effective communication. Learning to grapple with these challenges as this Plus3 program progresses has taught me a plethora of new perspectives about global business. The chief amongst which has been in establishing the importance of team bonding and breaking the ice before effective teamwork can be achieved.
One of the most difficult aspects of working in a global team is starting dialogue. The most important thing is to break the ice and find common ground, but it takes a desire to connect and a willingness to leave one’s comfort zone from all parties to achieve this goal. I think one of the greatest challenges of my team has been to break this barrier, especially in a virtual setting. We have been able to take measures like turning our cameras on, using gestures and facial expressions to encourage each other, and reciprocating dialogue to facilitate conversation.
However, we are still trying to create a comfortable workspace, and we have a long way to go. Oftentimes, we fall prey to silent zoom breakout rooms and unproductive sessions. Luckily, little activities aimed at helping us get to know each other more have been very effective in helping ease any discomfort and awkwardness in our work sessions. In particular, I noticed that at the end of our personal presentations, we were able to find a more engaging and fun conversation about our favorite books and tv shows. The work session following this get to know each other activity was much more pleasant and productive. Thus, I’ve concluded that activities like these designed to help members get to know each other are absolutely essential to make a work group productive.
This is especially true for cross cultural teams because every country has different preferences for the extent to which they know their team before they get to work. As we saw in class, Americans prefer a more direct approach to teamwork, and don’t require the same amount of team intimacy before jumping into projects and tasks. I suspect this sentiment is encouraged by the American education system’s extensive assignment of random group projects with a lack of administrative effort to encourage team bonding. Students are paired and expected to churn out results instantaneously. On the other hand, in many other cultures, team intimacy and understanding is the preference for many people before they can develop the trust necessary for them to start doing work. This is very true in countries like Brazil and Columbia from which many of our teammates come. Accounting for this cultural difference in preference for team intimacy is crucial for developing a productive team.
Simply catering towards the American cultural preference would leave our Brazilian and Columbian counterparts feeling alienated and uncomfortable sharing their ideas and opinions. On the other hand, it takes informing the American teammates of the value of developing team bonds to justify the delay of the projects as they feel a drive to jump right into the task at hand. Through class lectures and team bonding success stories like the personal presentation anecdote, I feel that we have been able to effectively walk this line as a team. This has yielded us a more comfortable work environment when we meet on zoom calls and collaborate in breakout rooms. Beyond being productive in active online video call break out rooms, we also have figured out how to communicate effectively on whatsapp.
Whatsapp has become a less daunting way for members of my team to communicate with each other. It is a much less confrontational move to send an online message than communicate face to face and can be a good way for members to begin getting comfortable sharing any risky opinions or ideas. Given this result, this online communication venue has been crucial for my team to develop as the sort of open, low risk communication that it facilitates characterizes an effective diverse team.
It is an essential component of working as a team of individuals from diverse backgrounds to be able to hear and acknowledge every member’s concerns, ideas, special expertise, and perspective. In contrast, one of the challenges with working with new people is warming up to them and feeling comfortable enough to share these crucial facets of their personality and understanding of the world. In this way, the establishment of a new team does not lead easily to its utilization. This is especially true with cross-cultural teams in which the perception of extensive differences can lead to feelings of alienation and insecurity with sharing one’s thoughts and ideas. Luckily, the way that this situation is remedied is through mutual interest and curiosity in each other. This facilitates a strong desire to make it work and learn more about each member, which helps to overcome the individuals’ gravitation towards feelings of shyness and insecurity.
In essence, this has led me to conclude that the most important factor for one to be successful in a global workforce is a personal openness and curiosity. As long as one is willing to put themselves out there in hopes of breaking personal barriers and generating feelings of intimacy then one can be successful in a diverse workplace. Personally, I am an off and on outgoing person. Especially in online settings, I feel the temptation often to just turn off my camera and microphone and fade into the background of the call. However, as aforementioned, this is not conducive to building a productive team. Thus, one must have the personal initiative to be open and combat personal drives towards insecurity and discomfort. Along the same vein of reasoning, they must have curiosity with openness to learn about their team so that they can be respectful of cultural differences within their team in such cases like the preferences for team intimacy that I discussed earlier. In total, these factors amount to the ideal candidate for a global career.
Given that conclusion, it is a standard that I hope to hold myself to as we progress through this Plus3 Program. However, as we reach the halfway point of this program, I feel confident that my team has made huge progress towards feeling comfortable, and I’m happy with the diverse range of ideas and perspectives that we’ve been able to share and consider. I think we are all adopting this personal initiative a little more and more after each session. Thus, our final solution will be strong and close to each of our hearts as it will consider everything each individual is passionate about. This type of composite solution is what I would feel most proud and satisfied presenting to Senior Concierge, so I consequently cannot wait for everything to come together!