Managing a culturally diverse workplace. How leadership and management can facilitate effective working within diverse settings

Essay, 2019

13 Pages, Grade: A

Difrine Madara (Author)


Table of Contents


Leading a Culturally Diverse Organisation

Challenges Associated With Cultural Differences

Communication in a Culturally Diverse Organisation

Change management

Motivation and performance improvement

Emotional intelligence




In contemporary organisations, leaders are tasked with the creation of sustainable settings for productive exchange and interactions among people from diverse backgrounds. The workplace has become a place where cultures, ethnicities and different races interact to share their experiences and work towards the attainment of a common organisational goal (Guillaume, Dawson, Otaye-Ebede and West, 2017). When this diversity is harnessed effectively, it can act as a catalyst for creativity and innovation in the organisation and a pathway for greater effectiveness and organisational learning. However, when diversity is misunderstood, it could lead to a significant negative effect on the values, performance, and relationships at the workplace thus adversely impact on the overall organisation effectiveness (Kannan, Harvey, and Petersen, 2016). This essay is, thus, designed to explore how leadership and management can facilitate effective working within diverse settings and improve the ability of diverse teams and global organisations to realise a shared vision. This essay also offers critical analysis on topics, such as cultural identity, change management in the contemporary world, relationships within diverse workplaces, and emotional intelligence.

The rest of the paper is divided into various sections discussing distinct topics in relation to people management in a culturally diverse organisation. In the first section, the author critically examined various issues to consider while leading a culturally diverse organisation. The second section evaluates various challenges associated with cultural differences with an organisation. The third section highlights how managers and employees can communicate effectively in a culturally diverse organisation. The fourth section examines how change can be managed and implemented in this organisation. The fifth section critically analyse how motivation is linked to performance improvement in a diverse organisation. The sixth section presents the value of emotional intelligence in managing a diverse organisation. The last section is the conclusion that summarises the findings from various sections.

Leading a Culturally Diverse Organisation

Cultural diversity is an important asset to the modern organisation. Effective management of cultural diversity can greatly impact the organisation performance, employee commitment and customer relationships (Guest, 2017). Though a leader can easily build strong company culture by simply perpetuating a culture of sameness through hiring people who look, act, and think alike, however, people from different cultural backgrounds provide different perspectives and understanding of an idea which can lead to greater innovation and creativity within the organisation. To take advantage of cultural diversity benefits, organisation leaders must prioritise diversity and inclusion as core components of the business strategy (Nishii, Khattab, Shemla and Paluch, 2018). This can be done through establishment of teams made up of members from different cultures or ethnicities. The recruitment and promotion processes within the organisation should also ensure equal opportunities for people of all cultures. In some cases, leadership development programs such as coaching, mentorships, seminars and delegation of duties should be designed to target members of minority ethnic groups within the organisation. This is done to ensure that diverse voices and concerns are captured during the organizational decision making processes.

As a leader, one must ensure that cultural inclusion is one of the primary elements of HR strategy. CEO, the board of directors and managers of the local subsidiary must acknowledge that there are huge business advantages to be gained from having a more diverse workforce (Kannan, Harvey, and Petersen, 2016). In the current case where the subsidiary has employed more than 40 percent of employees from ten different national cultures, it is evident that the management understands the value of diversity; however, there is a need to involve more people with diverse cultural backgrounds in decision-making levels of the organisation. To make cultural diversity and inclusion part of the organisation culture, the managers at the local subsidiary must consider specifically focusing on the leadership team then facilitating a top-down approach so that it trickles through the entire organisation. This can begin by having a diverse board and leaders of functional departments coming from different cultures. In this case, board members and departmental leaders would be viewed as role models and mentors. Guillaume, Dawson, Otaye-Ebede and West (2017) indicated that when the leadership team is too homogenous, people from different cultural backgrounds could feel less motivated to work towards achieving the organisational goals. Diversity within the leadership group makes it easier for the organisation members to connect with them and thus they can realign their personal development goals with those of the company.

Transformational leadership is one of the success factors that contribute to effectiveness of management of cultural diversity in an organisation. Basically, a transformational leader refers to a leader who is able to harness a diverse mix of capabilities for the greater good of the organisation (Arena and Uhl-Bien, 2018). For a transformational leader to harness the unique skills and knowledge of people from different cultures and ethnicities, he or she must invest in building a learning and development organisation that focuses on the improvement of individual skills through training opportunities, such as short courses and seminars, building team cohesion, and encouraging diversity at task team and strategic levels (Nishii, Khattab, Shemla, and Paluch, 2018). A transformational leader also encourages a strong diverse culture through vision, passion, and integrity and inspiring teams and organisation members to excel during difficult times. Adaptation and strong connection among employees also assist in conflict management, facilitating communication and teamwork and motivate talents. In a nutshell, the leadership group must consider diversity and inclusion as an important success factor within the entire corporate strategy. They must, therefore, be able to adapt and connect with the entire workforce to maximise the benefits of diversity.

Challenges Associated With Cultural Differences

As the business becomes increasingly internationalised with multicultural teams, the manager will obviously face the challenge of how to communicate effectively and minimise misunderstandings, which could be detrimental to the progress of the subsidiary. In doing so, the manager must be aware of various challenges associated with cultural differences in a company (Shore, Cleveland, and Sanchez, 2018). For this subsidiary to be successful with its diverse workgroup, it must recognise challenges that come with cultural differences and strive to maximise on its benefits. Though organisations with heterogeneous cultures people better than those with homogenous cultures in terms of individual effectiveness, the productivity of the group, creativity, decision making and group cohesion (Nishii, Khattab, Shemla and Paluch, 2018), one must also acknowledge that heterogeneity could lead to disagreements from racial and cultural perspectives. Therefore, a leader must always focus on maximising gains from diverse values and behaviours, such as creativity and problem solving while minimising the effect of cultural problems, such as intergroup biases that can lead to negative group outcomes.

Subsidiary leadership must understand that there will be differences in cultural values due to many nationalities in the organisation. Using Geert Hofstede's theory on cultural dimensions, the subsidiary must evaluate cultural values of different nationalities based on their perceptions regarding power distance, individualism versus collectivism, masculinity versus femininity, uncertainty avoidance and long-term versus short-term orientation (Dinh et al., 2014). For example, in a diverse organisation, there can people who focus on individuals and those whose emphasis is on collective success. In individualist cultures, the employee would be more interested in personal success while in collective cultures the employee will be more interested in the greater good of the team or entire organisation. For example, with employees from the Western world such as France tending to be more individualists, the subsidiary leadership must ensure that tasks are designed in a manner that would not only promote organisational success but also attainment of personal goals. For the subsidiary to remain effective and competitive, leaders should engage their employees on the issue of diversity so that the adverse effects associated with challenges, such as communication contexts across cultures can be minimised. If the manager does not address the issue of communication in diverse workgroups then cross-cultural misunderstandings are inevitable thus resulting in a bad reputation for the organisation. Thus, the subsidiary must develop cross-cultural management strategies that encompass understanding communication styles across culture and employing appropriate motivations.

Communication in a Culturally Diverse Organisation

As the company expands to new countries, cross-cultural communication challenges become more magnified. The management notices that people from diverse backgrounds interpreted languages, signs and other forms of communication differently. This would significantly affect the way they converse, make decisions and approach conflicts within the organisation. Since communication is the most important tool that the management can use to convey messages and guide employees in achieving organisational goals, effectiveness of cross-cultural communication is necessary to complete various tasks successfully. According to Dinh et al (2014) ineffective communication can result in confusion of business and customer needs, the decline in employee morale and division among employees. Despite the fact that many organisations take communication challenges for granted, a disconnected workforce could have an indelible effect on their success. Therefore, this subsidiary must strive to minimise the effects of poor communication within a culturally diverse workgroup.

Creation of cultural awareness is one way of enhancing effectiveness of communication in a diverse organisation. Successful organisations should create cultural awareness that inspires employees to respect one another. Managers and employees should build a mutual understanding intended to promote new ideas, different perspectives, and collaboration that acknowledge the value of all cultures in the organisation (Guest, 2017). As the workplace becomes more diverse, employers and employees must learn to communicate differently to the past. Some issues that the management must rethink in the contemporary workplace include scheduling of office parties and other food-related celebrations. Failure to consider these issues could put employees in embarrassing situations, which could be counterproductive to the goals of the subsidiary. Besides, it is important to understand that communication style in most Western cultures is direct with obvious meanings. In several non-Western cultures, people tend to be more discrete in the manner in which they present their message. Some cultures communicate more calmly and act decisively while others are good listeners and amiable (Vidyarthi, Anand, and Liden, 2014). These differences could lead to confusion within the workplace, especially in face-to-face interaction circumstances. To avoid conflicts originating from these situations, the management must emphasize training on communication with each other and oversee how employees are reviewing their own practices in relation to others.

Foreign workers who do not speak the native language or English pose even bigger challenges as their inability to communicate effectively could even have lethal implications on safety standards. Trichas, Schyns, Lord, and Hall (2017) indicated that on-site training to minimise the impact of language barriers and improve safety conditions is one of the ways of addressing the issue of language barriers. Another language barrier challenge arises from trouble associated with accents and fluency. Some of the employees would have trouble relaying their message across due to language limitations. This can sometimes lead to frustrations and interpersonal conflicts within the team (Dinh et al., 2014). Other communication challenges that must be considered include employees’ different attitudes towards hierarchy and authority and the conflicting norms for decision making.

To conclude, management must understand cultural differences so that they can be able to develop a communication style that is able to avoid the need to resolve cross-cultural misunderstandings. To do so, the management should be able to seamlessly interlink communication style within the subsidiary with a high-level emotional intelligence. The management should also develop a framework of request and feedback to help in developing the organisation’s cross-cultural communication capabilities.


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Managing a culturally diverse workplace. How leadership and management can facilitate effective working within diverse settings
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Difrine Madara (Author), 2019, Managing a culturally diverse workplace. How leadership and management can facilitate effective working within diverse settings, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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