Part 5: Cultural challenges in a global virtual team

What does culture mean? Culture can be explained as a way of life that also plays an important role in working with global virtual teams. Culture is the way of life of a group of people i.e. the way you do things.

Some of the most important challenges for culturally diverse teams are:

  1. The “relationship” between each other is before the actual tasks in the team.
  2. Communication is a key factor: experiments show that 7% of the meaning of Communication are contained in words, 38% in tone, volume and meaning. While 55% are contained in body language and context.
  3. Trust is an essential part of a successful team. Effective Communication helps them to understand each other.
  4. Clear objectives take precedence over personal team goals.
  5. Improving the knowledge and skills of the team.

In addition to all the above, there are three other cultural differences that could be a challenge for working with virtual global teams:

The culture of origin
The uniqueness of the country plays an important role. Does the country concentrate on intelligent work or hard work? This means whether it is more focused on physical or mental work. This should definitely be taken into account when it comes to where a virtual global team comes into being. 

The personal culture
The culture that the individual brings with him from his personal background, his family, his surroundings, etc.

Corporate culture
Corporate culture also plays an important role in defining how the team will work together.

An example can be seen in the table below:

Culture of originCorporate culture
Religious backgroundTop-down approach
Political backgroundManagers are consulted before a decision is taken.
Gender equalityGender equality control
Risk capacityNo risks to be taken in the project.
Language skillsCompany language

Conclusion:

The difference in such values can create misunderstandings and conflicts between team members. Therefore, there should definitely be an emphasis on finding a balance to overcome these differences and boundaries. 

In addition to solving the problems, it will also help to create synergies and improve cooperation with the underlying issues. The diversity and virtual elements of virtual teams can increase ambiguity and complexity as misinterpretation, misjudgement and miscommunication are much greater.

Normally, virtual teams are slow at first, but when effectively managed, they can also perform very well compared to a “normally” assembled team. The success of the team is measured by the management of diversity.

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