The likelihood of working in a multinational environment continues to increase as globalization extends its reach across numerous industries. Whether working for a small business or large corporation, it’s not uncommon these days in America to be exposed to more than one culture. Diverse international backgrounds and experiences can create a unique, even effective and flourishing workplace if certain steps are taken to ensure cultural differences are understood and respected.
Combining a group of individuals of differing cultures and expecting them to immediately perform as a cohesive team does not always work. This is clearly an issue for multinational companies. Generally, people from a particular country tend to share deeply ingrained cultural norms which are distinct from other countries. This combined with language barriers, communication style and organizational differences all affect a company’s performance.
Here are some specific business behaviors and expectation differences which may impact how a multinational organization works together and where conflicts may arise:
These are only a few of the challenges that can arise in a multinational organization. Since we assist the recruiting and hiring efforts of a great deal of German owned companies with US subsidiaries, we thought it would be worthwhile to use our familiarity with these two business cultures to demonstrate the case in point. This chart shows some of the contrasting values, expectations and beliefs:
As you can imagine, merging two such opposing approaches and ideals is bound to present a distinctive set of problems. And again, the above examples only begin to scratch the surface on contrasting worldwide views, beliefs and behaviors. As expected, when you bring people together, there are always going to be challenges to overcome whether it’s conflicting personalities or cultural differences.
Despite the apparent pitfalls that arise in a nationally diverse work environment, organizations can benefit significantly from the cultural differences between people. Tapping into a wider range of perspectives and approaches can lead to unique innovation, more creative problem-solving, and unthought-of business solutions all resulting in greater organizational success.
Part 2 of this article will take a deeper look into the advantages of a multinational workforce as well as provide insight and tips on overcoming some of the difficulties highlighted in this article.