Conflicts in Intercultural Teams and the Role of the Team Leader

Term Paper, 2016

12 Pages, Grade: 2,0


Table of Content

1. Introduction

2. Culture

3. Hofstede´s Cultural Dimensions
3.1. Power Distance
3.2. Individualism vs. Collectivism
3.3. Masculinity vs. Femininity
3.4. Uncertainty Avoidance
3.5. Long-Term Orientation vs. Short-Term Orientation

4. Intercultural Teams
4.1. Advantages of Intercultural Teams
4.2. Disadvantages of Intercultural Teams
4.3. Critical Success Factors of an Intercultural Team
4.4. The role of the team leader

5. Resumé

List of Cited Literature

1. Introduction

Due to globalisation companies nowadays find themselves in an international working environment. This is the fact considering business relationships with external partners, but the internationalization can also be found within the companies. The working environment is not only characterized though a higher complexity but also through international and intercultural teams.

On the one hand, this circumstance holds many potentials from which a company can benefit. On the other hand, it can also be challenging though, as management can also be confronted with problems arising from a clash of cultures in multinational teams. The potential for conflict can lie in the different understandings of morals and values, but also in communication problems. In order to meet these challenges, intercultural competencies have become an important skill for team leaders in companies that operate internationally.

This term paper aims to point out where the challenges of intercultural teams lie and how these can be met accordingly. The problem is going to be approached by using the management’s perspective. Firstly, there will be explained how culture can be defined. Next to that, possible cultural differences will be explained by making use of Hofstede´s Five Cultural Dimensions. Through this there shall be outlined where potential fields of conflict can lie between different cultures. Hereafter, the term paper is going to point out, where the benefits of an intercultural team lie, in order to generate a better understanding of the necessity to develop appropriate management competencies. Next to that, potential fields of conflict will be explained that exist in an intercultural team and that ought to be prevented. Therefore the critical success factors of an intercultural team will be outlined with special focus on the role of the team leader of an intercultural team.

2. Culture

According to Hofstede, culture can be described as a “software of the mind”1, that every individual has learned in his life.2 Cultural values are already manifested in the childhood of every person and influence their way of thinking. “Not only activities supposed to refine the mind are included, but also the ordinary and menial things in life: greeting, eating, showing or not showing feelings, keeping a certain physical distance from others, making love, and maintaining body hygiene.”3 The once adapted cultural ways of thinking and acting are not manifested forever. “As soon as certain patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting have established themselves within a person´s mind, he or she must unlearn these patterns before being able to learn something different, and unlearning is more difficult than learning for the first time.”4 As to this, it is not impossible to build teams with members from different cultural backgrounds as the adaptation to other beliefs and points of views is not impossible.

3. Hofstede´s Cultural Dimensions

In the 1960/1970s the Dutch social psychologist Geert Hofstede undertook a large research project in 64 countries with 116,000 employees of IBM. Through this research project he identified four cultural dimensions: power distance, individualism vs. collectivism, masculinity vs. femininity and uncertainty avoidance. In 1988 Hofstede added a fifth dimension, the long term orientation vs. short term orientation, due to the increasing economical relevance of Asian countries.5 This fifth dimension is especially designed for Asian cultures.6

Hofstede´s idea bases on the assumption that culture is influenced by the values and norms of the collective, as well as of every individual and requires a specific management for every culture.7

3.1. Power Distance

The dimension power distance describes the different ways of dealing with inequalities within a culture. Here Hofstede differentiates with the two opposing outcomes high power distance versus low power distance. The power distance does not only refer to the organisational structure within companies in different countries. It can also be regarded in many more aspects in the culture. Therefore it can also be found in the upbringing of children or in a political system.

Cultures with a low power distance attempt to keep inequalities between their individuals as low as possible. The usage of power is being regarded as a matter of the law and shall be reasonable. In terms of the work related relationship, employees want to be included in decision making process for example.

Contrary to cultures with a low power distance, inequality is a factor that is expected and striven for in cultures with a high power distance. It can even go so far, that power is classed above what is right and does not even require legitimacy. In the understanding of these cultures, hierarchies are regarded as something naturally given through the inequalities between the people. In the working environment, employees from cultures with high power distance rather expect to receive instructions from their manager than to act freely. “Managers in high power distance societies tend to believe in giving subordinates detailed instructions with little room for interpretation. Subordinates are supposed to respect the authority and superiority of upper management.”8

3.2. Individualism vs. Collectivism

Another of Hofstede´s dimensions is the differentiation between individualism and collectivism within a culture.

Individualism can be understood as the fact that people strive for their own interest rather than for the interests of the society.9 In an individualistic culture, individuals make decisions based on what they regard is best.10

On the contrary people in collective cultures usually belong to a group and keep the sake of the group in mind when making decisions.11 Also, loyalty plays an important part in collectivism.12

In the context of the dimensions individualism and collectivism, Hofstede also brings the aspects autonomy and variety into play. In individualistic societies employees are rather not dependent on the guidance of their supervisor and can unfold own ideas in a wide range of self-autonomy. On the opposite, collective cultures usually do not enable the same amount of freedom in decision making and independence. With that creativity is repressed and does not allow yield of innovation.13

Apart from autonomy, variety is also not consented in collective cultures. Instead, conformity and uniformity can be found.14

3.3. Masculinity vs. Femininity

According to Hofstede there can also be made a differentiation between cultures that can be characterized as rather masculine or feminine.

A culture that is regarded as masculine puts aspects such as performance forth and honours achievements through acknowledgement and gratification.15 It is expected from the people to strive for their goals and to be competitive.

In feminine cultures, the focus does not lie on individual achievements and the aim at success.16 Here, the overall situation is regarded and with that the sharing of wealth with people that are not as privileged as others.17

In the organizational context, there can be observed that organizations with a feminine culture are not regarded as competitive as those with a masculine culture.18 Also there can be found, that organizations with a feminine culture tend not to make distinctions between men and women when filling the same vacant position.19

3.4. Uncertainty Avoidance

With uncertainty avoidance Hofstede defines a dimension that describes the capability of dealing with a situation that is uncertain.

There can be distinguished between low uncertainty and high uncertainty avoidance. Adapting these characteristics to a cultures, there can be stated that cultures with low uncertainty avoidance tend to be more willing to take risks in order to achieve their commitments. In matters of the workplace, members of this culture like working in an environment that allows flexibility.20


1 Vgl. Hofstede, G. (2011), S. 5

2 Vgl. Hofstede, G. (2011), S.5

3 Vgl Hofstede, G. (2011), S. 5

4 Vgl. Hofstede, G. (2011), S. 4 f.

5 Vgl. Holtbrügge, D., Puck, J.F. (2008), S. 37

6 Vgl. Holtbrügge, D., Puck, J.F. (2008), S. 37

7 Vgl. Holtbrügge, D., Puck, J.F. (2008), S. 37

8 Vgl. Vance, C.M. (2011), S. 51 f.

9 Vgl. Vance, C.M. (2011), S. 52

10 Vgl. Vance, C.M. (2011), S. 52

11 Vgl. Vance, C.M. (2011), S. 52

12 Vgl. Vance, C.M. (2011), S. 52

13 Vgl. Vance, C.M. (2011), S. 53

14 Vgl. Vance, C.M. (2011), S. 53

15 Vgl. Vance, C.M. (2011), S. 53

16 Vgl. Vance, C.M. (2011), S. 53

17 Vgl. Vance, C.M. (2011), S. 53

18 Vgl. Vance, C.M. (2011), S. 53

19 Vgl. Vance, C.M. (2011), S. 53

20 Vgl. Vance, C.M. (2011), S. 50

Excerpt out of 12 pages


Conflicts in Intercultural Teams and the Role of the Team Leader
University of applied sciences, Bremen
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Interkulturelle Kompetenzen, Konflikte Teams
Quote paper
Patrick Hilbrecht (Author), 2016, Conflicts in Intercultural Teams and the Role of the Team Leader, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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