Reflective Report Finding out about things has always been one of my greatest assets. As a child, I have been known to be curious, always asking questions, discovering things during play, and going off to explore the “great beyond” with the purpose of coming home with something new in my arsenal of new discoveries. As I was doing this study on the impact of cultural differences on team performance, I felt the same way as when I was a child running off to discover something new, although this time, it was something I know would affect my life and my future career as a professional.
It was not play time anymore. I started the endeavour by researching online, freely reading through internet articles about multicultural teams and when I had a feel of how it should go, I began searching for scholarly articles in our online database. I was overwhelmed at how many people were interested in studying cultural differences and yes, their surnames told me they came from various cultures as well. There was a wealth of topics on organizational development that attracted me, tempting me to shift to another topic, but then I get to read an article or two about my own topic, and I get all excited all over again about my topic choice.
Initially, I selected 9 articles that seemed to be related to my topic basing from their titles. Upon reading each articles and taking down notes, I realized some of them were not directly related to my topic, so I was able to get down to the six articles for this research.
Reading through all the articles altogether was tremendous, not to mention time-consuming! It is only now that I realized that something I thought was an everyday, trivial thing as coming from another culture was actually a big deal when it comes to team performance in reality. I again remember my own experiences meeting foreigners and how I first felt. I was shy, calculating their reactions, observing their features and movements, and assuming their thoughts of me all at the same time. The same experience, I surmise, happens when natives of a foreign land meet me since I looked very different from them and spoke with a different tone and accent.
I was thankful I knew English even if I was not that fluent. It was a very helpful tool for me to be able to reach out to them, since it was a common language we knew, even if some of them were not fluent in it themselves. I was totally floored with the research of Hofstede (1983), Trompenaars (1993) & the GLOBE research by House et al.
(2004). These large-scaled studies spanned a great number of subjects from different countries. And they did not stop there! There were a lot of follow-up researches on their initial work! I was amazed at such dedication to research, only to read how significant their body of work was in business. Most of the articles I read mentioned their contributions and I can honestly say their work has enriched my understanding of cultural dimensions and how these affect cross-cultural relations and communication. The article of Suwannarat & Mumi (2012) on cultural diversity’s effect on the team performance of international joint ventures was the study closest to my own topic, but it went on to gather data from real people instead of being limited to studying the literature.
Their study exposed me to the positive as well as negative effects of cultural diversity on a team’s performance, zeroing in on the variables of conflict, social integration, effective communication and creativity. It also taught me that both divergent and convergent processes in multicultural teams brought about both negative and positive effects, and a wise and efficient team leader is essential to teams because he oversees that positive effects prevail over negative ones. Congden et al’s (2009) article comparing German and American workers was another interesting study on cross-cultural communication and multicultural team performance.
I was impressed that the subjects were all working students striving to survive in environments not familiar to them, but still maintaining professional ties with their colleagues even if they were from different cultures from them. For me, it sparked the idea that actually working with people I may not be comfortable working with because they are vastly different from me is a strong possibility I have to face in my future, so in the mean time, I need to learn to get along with various kinds of personalities and perspectives and adapt to them.
A virtual team working together without face-to-face contact is another new concept I learned from writing this paper. I found out it is already being done for many years, but the study of Chang et al (2011) was the only one I know that reported how it actually works and how multicultural groups manage.
I learned that although they maintain a virtual working relationship, they still need to adapt to each other well, communicate effectively and maintain trust in each other. These factors are very important for the team to perform well together. Vadivelu & Klein’s (2011) significant work on the influence of national and organizational culture on the use of performance improvement interventions was an eye opener for me. Being very limited in knowledge of performance enhancing interventions and strategies, their study exposed me to a myriad of activities organizations do for the sake of the professional and personal development of their workers, and that these should be customized to suit their cultures.
It is still a case of “different strokes for different folks”, and the human relations department should be able to design interventions which suit their teams the best to ensure that they respond well to these. Comu et al (2011) add the factor of linguistic diversity to the already overwhelming concept of cultural diversity in organizations. While it is true that multicultural groups may struggle with differences in backgrounds and values, it should not be forgotten that since communication is a major part of how they relate to each other, their linguistic differences should also be looked into.
The evolving forms of groups working towards shared goals may most likely involve members who do not share a common language and this may serve as a constraint in the achievement of their success. Language plays a huge role in understanding each other, and it does not stop at knowledge of English or any common language, but goes further into common interpretation of texts, tone, pronunciation, etc.
Finally, the article of Nafei (2013) taught me the importance of developing cultural intelligence for better employee job performance. If workers understand each other’s cultures better, then it is more likely that they get along better and resolve conflicts easier rather than dwell in them. Organizing my notes into a chart helped me digest the overwhelming information that was crammed in me in just a short period of time.
I can say that I have learned so much from doing this research, and like the child I was, I come home with loads of information that I proudly add to my knowledge arsenal. All these will come handy when I venture into the real world, rub elbows with people of all colours and blend well into the rainbow of personalities and perspectives that I shall meet while giving my own contribution to society.