The Benefits of Cultural Differences in Team Work

Cultural diversity can be an asset in the workplace.
Cultural diversity can be an asset in the workplace. (Image: Patrick Ryan/Lifesize/Getty Images)

An individual’s personality is shaped by not merely education and training but also by life experiences that are inextricably linked to cultural identity. As more and more people of different cultures choose to live, study and work in the United States, it is not uncommon to find heterogeneous teams in the workplace. The cultural diversity of such teams presents several advantages to the perceptive team leader.

Creative Solutions

People from diverse cultures differ in their approaches to solving problems. When a diverse group holds brainstorming sessions, you get a variety of perspectives that contributes to developing a better solution. For example, you may find it easier to convince an elderly Asian client if you take a team member’s suggestion to speak softly, avoid staring directly, and spend a little time asking about the client’s family rather than directly launch into your PowerPoint presentation full of hard facts.

Better Marketing

A team composed of members of different cultures brings a deeper knowledge of prospective product markets. This is an important factor considering the steady increase in purchasing power of Asians, African-Americans and Hispanics all over the U.S. A marketing team that has members of these communities is able to come up with brand promotional and advertising ideas that resonate with the culture and ethos of the particular group. For an organization that markets its products in other countries, this becomes even more significant, because ignorance of cultural symbols can lead to running a promotional campaign that does more damage than good.

Improved Customer Service

On a culturally diverse team, the inputs from team members belonging to a specific community are often valuable in gaining a clearer perspective. This helps overcome misunderstandings that arise due to cultural stereotypes and hamper customer service. An American nurse may find it irritating when entire families of non-American patients visit a relative at the hospital. If a colleague explains that families in the patient's community are extremely close-knit and emotionally dependent on each other, it helps her see the situation differently and interact better.

Happy Employees

Having members from diverse cultures provides a team with an opportunity to celebrate a whole range of festivals and significant occasions. Planning for these brings team members closer and helps enlighten everyone about the rich heritage of various cultures. For the person whose culture is the focus of the celebration, it is an occasion to take pride in his cultural identity. These experiences give employees a sense of being valued members of the team, build mutual understanding, and impart a willingness to participate enthusiastically in team activities.

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