Let’s say you’re part of a team that spans countries, cultures, and time zones. You have the opportunity to work with bright and diverse professionals. Not to mention the different backgrounds and different viewpoints. You could save money and time by outsourcing some tasks to your team members abroad. Isn’t that a great opportunity?
But what if you also have to struggle with communication barriers, misunderstandings, and conflicts? What if you’re struggling to align your expectations, goals, and processes with your team members abroad? Isn’t it wonderful?
This is the reality for many offshore teams in today’s globalized and digital world. International teams can be a blessing or a curse. It strongly depends on how well you manage the cultural differences involved.
In this blog post, we will talk about how cultural differences with offshore teams are likely to impact overall performance and fulfillment.
Ready to learn how to resolve cultural differences? Then read on!
Understanding Culture and Its Influence in Professional Settings
Culture is the way a group of people lives, thinks, and works. But it can also be different for people from different countries and backgrounds. For example, some cultures may like to give feedback straight to the point, while others may prefer to sugarcoat it a bit.
Naturally, many dimensions of culture can affect how people communicate, collaborate, and work together. Some of the most common ones that can impact offshore teams revolve around different communication methods and working styles.
Common Cultural Differences Affecting Offshore Teams
High or low context communication: This refers to how much background information is typically shared and how explicit or implicit messages are.
High-context cultures rely more on non-verbal cues to convey meaning, such as body language, tone of voice, and gestures. They also tend to use more indirect and polite language to avoid confrontation or offense.
On the other hand, low-context cultures tend to use fewer words and rely more on facts in their communication. They also tend to value honesty and feedback over harmony and face-saving.
Giving feedback: How feedback is provided, received, and acted upon is also a common aspect. It also relies on how direct or indirect, positive or negative, public or private it is.
Some cultures prefer a more straightforward and descriptive communication style for providing feedback, which can include pointing out mistakes publicly.
This can be perceived as harsh and rude in cultures that prefer a more indirect and suggestive communication style for providing feedback, where criticism is usually communicated privately rather than openly.
Managing confrontation: This involves how potentially conflicting information or opinions are handled. Notice how open or reserved, assertive or passive, cooperative or competitive people are.
Some cultures are more comfortable with expressing disagreement and debating different perspectives openly. They usually distinguish the idea from the person and are unlikely to take conflict personally.
Other cultures are more reluctant to express disagreement and prefer to avoid or resolve conflict quietly. They usually associate the idea with the person and may take conflict personally.
Working styles: Yes! Working styles should also be considered to further understand the culture. The way work is organized, prioritized, and executed. Sometimes, it’s about how flexible or rigid, individualistic or collectivistic, formal or informal people are.
In this case, some cultures are more focused on planning and following rules and procedures. They tend to value punctuality, accuracy, and quality over speed and quantity.
While other cultures are more adaptable and spontaneous in their work approach. They tend to value speed and quantity over punctuality, accuracy, and quality.
Impact of Cultural Differences on Offshore Teams
Cultural differences can have severe effects on offshore teams. These differences can likely influence communication, collaboration, decision-making, and overall performance. Here are a few examples:
Misinterpretation of messages due to varying communication styles and implicit assumptions.
Sometimes, our well-intentioned feedback gets lost in translation. This can result in challenges regards to giving and receiving further feedback, affecting personal and professional growth.
Offshore teams are all unique individuals, which means the ways of dealing with confrontation can be wildly different. It can lead to potential misunderstandings and conflicts, arising from diverse confrontation management approaches.
Difficulties in aligning work processes and expectations, leading to decreased efficiency and productivity. We’re all striving for success, but things start to crumble when we can’t get on the same page.
7 Practical Strategies to Overcome Cultural Differences with Offshore Team
Be Mindful of Communication Styles: Adapt your communication to suit the preferences of your offshore team members. Use clear, concise, and respectful language, and strive for clarity in your messages.
Embrace Cultural Learning: Show interest in the culture of your offshore team members by learning a few key phrases in their language. This gesture demonstrates respect and fosters a sense of camaraderie.
Avoid Stereotypes and Assumptions: Recognize that cultural diversity extends beyond surface-level stereotypes. Treat each team member as an individual with unique perspectives and experiences.
Implement Anti-Discrimination Policies: Draft a comprehensive anti-discrimination policy that ensures everyone in the team adheres to fair and inclusive practices.
Cross-Cultural Training: Organize training sessions to educate both yourself and your offshore team members about each other’s cultures, expectations, and work styles. This helps bridge the cultural gap and promotes mutual understanding.
Build Trust and Rapport: Engage your offshore team members in team-building exercises and social activities. These initiatives foster trust, encourage collaboration, and create a sense of belonging.
Practice Empathy: Cultivate empathy by understanding the perspective and emotions of your offshore team members. This enables you to address their needs and concerns more effectively.
Cultural differences are inevitable when working with offshore teams. However, it doesn’t have to be detrimental. The differences can be beneficial if managed properly with suitable practices. With 7 practical tips, we shared in this blog, as the team leader, you will able to overcome these cultural differences and enhance your offshore team’s effectiveness and efficiency.
How have you successfully managed cultural differences within your offshore teams? Share your experiences or comments below!
If you are looking for an offshore software development company to help you with your offshore team needs, please contact InApps Technology today. We have the experience, expertise, and resources to help you achieve your business goals.
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Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.