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Working with Teams from Different Corporate Cultures

written by: nataliajones•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 8/4/2010

The global work environment makes it necessary to understand how to work with teams from different corporate cultures. This article looks at what that entails and how it can be done effectively.

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    What is Corporate Culture and Why Does it Differ?

    Different Team Cultures Corporate culture is made up of several layers, from the more tangible such as dress codes, work environments, job titles, and descriptions and perks to the less tangible elements such as an attitude toward late-coming or absenteeism and the level of openness in communication channels. These elements are derived largely from human interaction and management styles, but they can also be consciously built into a company's structure by establishing policies to govern certain areas.

    The prevalence of interaction between different teams in the work environment makes it important to understand how to work with teams from different corporate cultures. There are a number of instances that make this skill appropriate. Consider the following:

    • Departments within a single company can develop their own subcultures, and thus the ability to relate to them becomes paramount.
    • Teams from different companies may need to collaborate on a single project; therefore the need to understand various work cultures is, again, important.
    • Teams from multinational companies may need to interact, making it highly plausible that they will have to consult with people from different cultural backgrounds.
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    Tips for Working with Teams from Different Corporate Cultures

    Now that the importance of discovering how to work with teams from different corporate cultures has been established, it is time to look at specific tips that might help.

    Have Clearly Defined Roles

    When each team is clear about the purpose of the project as a whole and comes with a full understanding of where each person will be able to contribute, the collaboration between the teams is improved. When the roles across the teams are murky there can be misunderstanding, hurt feelings, and resentment--which are all counterproductive.

    Highlight the Competence of Different Teams

    There should be a shared respect across the different teams involved. If one team does not understand the level of competence of the other team in the appropriate area then there may be a sense of misplaced superiority. To avoid this it is best to highlight the achievements of all involved and work from a place of mutual respect and understanding.

    Develop the Habit of Listening

    If team members are not encouraged to listen to all contributors they may miss valuable contributions in their eagerness to show off what they know instead. Listening may already be an active part of some cultures while absent in others, but it is important that it is common among all teams.

    Allow Different Teams to Take Turns in the Lead

    Sharing leadership roles across the various teams gives every culture represented a chance to take the spotlight. This reiterates that one way of doing things is not better than another.

    Share Accolades Generously

    When praise is freely yet deservedly given across cultures, the teams are more likely to make the most of their collaboration because they are forced to notice the accomplishments of those on the other side.

    Provide Educational Sessions

    Where cultures are vastly different, especially in the case where teams are going to work with those from another country or even another continent, it is wise to run an educational session on doing business in that country. This avoids any drastic mistakes and ensures the teams start off with a certain level of understanding.

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    It is not always easy to adapt your style to work with different cultures, but it is sometimes necessary for collaborations to flourish.

    Image: Francesco Marino /