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It's not enough to acknowledge cultural difference, we need to manage and build on these.

Integrating: Empowering participation & resolving conflicts

Teams need to go even further than understanding and communicating across differences – they need to manage and build on differences effectively.

This is where the integrating process comes into play.

Phases in the MBI model - Phase 3: IntegratingAdpated from Lane & Maznevski (2019)

According to Maznevski’s MBI model, integration involves three main skills:

  • Empowering participation
  • Resolving conflicts
  • Combining ideas

In this step, we’ll explore the first two skills.

Empowering participation

As we’ve discussed, one of the key potential benefits of a culturally diverse team is the different perspectives and ideas that team members can contribute

But this potential benefit can only become a realised benefit if team members are willing to express their ideas, and others are willing to thoughtfully listen to those ideas.

Different cultural norms for participation (eg expressing views in private versus publicly) complicate matters. To generate participation, teams can use various strategies:

Icon representing 'Monitor participation': hands in the air Are one or more team members dominating (eg talking more than others, interrupting others)? Do certain team members’ contributions tend to get brushed aside? Remember, language and fluency issues may be behind imbalanced participation and influence.
Icon representing 'Engage every team member': Classroom setting with students speaking to presenter Provide quiet team members an opening to speak by asking them a question so they can express their perspectives in a way they feel comfortable (remember, Decentering, from Step 3.4).
Icon representing 'Set up routines for balanced participation': Clock face Structure interactions to encourage participation. Eg at the beginning of a discussion in a meeting, go around the table and have each person make a 2-minute statement. Assign a facilitator to ensure this happens soeveryone has a chance to provide input before making an important decision.

But more participation can also be accompanied by more conflict.

Resolving conflict

Sometimes, conflict is obvious to all involved. Other times, it can bubble beneath the surface.

By being aware and adjusting to different cultural norms of conflict, everyone can better interpret each other’s words and actions, and avoid frustration with the way team members express (or refuse to express) disagreement.

Your task

How do you manage conflict in teams at work? Reflect on your own approach and compare it to what’s recommended by the MBI model.

Reference

Lane, H., & Maznevski, M. (2019). International Management Behavior: Global and Sustainable Leadership. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 112

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Harnessing Cultural Diversity: Effective Team Leadership in the Workplace

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