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Differing cultural norms

The way you work is influenced by your cultural norms. But do you realise how far this can go?

Multicultural team members can have different ideas and expectations about almost every aspect of their work.

These expectations, or cultural norms, are the standards of behaviour a cultural group would see as appropriate: they’re how a person should act.

Cultural norms in the workplace can influence countless things including:

  • requesting help or information
  • asking for permission
  • giving and receiving praise
  • giving and receiving critical feedback
  • speaking in meetings
  • cooperating with group members
  • decision-making
  • initiating and resolving conflict

Case study: Heineken’s multicultural teams

Brewing company Heineken has its headquarters in Amsterdam, and also runs a large operation in Mexico. As a result, Heineken’s head office has many Mexican and Dutch employees.

In her article for Forbes, Erin Meyer spoke to one of Heineken’s Mexican managers about his experience managing Dutch teams.

Carlos Gomez, who had previously lead Mexican teams, described the transition as a struggle:

I will schedule a meeting in order to roll out a new process, and during the meeting my team starts challenging the process…and paying no attention to the fact that they work for me. Sometimes I just watch them astounded…

In this case, cultural norms that emphasise equality clash with norms that emphasise hierarchy and authority.

Your task

Watch the video of Farrah King, Komala Murugiah and the team from StreamShark as they discuss their experiences of working in diverse teams and across cultures.

Do any of their observations resonate with you? Or could you give another example of differing cultural norms in the workplace?

Share your observations in the comments and read about the experiences of other learners.

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Leading Culturally Diverse Teams in the Workplace

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