Problems Working In Multi Cultural Teams Commerce Essay

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I am an International student and I am pursuing my Masters in Business Management. I intend to conduct a research on the problems that arises in a multi-cultural team using the theories of Hofstede. The assignment is focused on the readers who are learners, students and in general to all workers who have the opportunity of working in a foreign environment, where they have to work in a group with people from various cultures.

The assignment focuses on the strength and weaknesses of an individual who works in a multi-cultural team and also the opportunities and threats that an employee faces in working with people from different culture. I intend to conduct an analysis using the theories of 'Geert Hofstede' whose theory is based on the National Cultural dimensions between employees from different countries, which apply to the organisational culture and which brings a cultural insight to the readers and the future international workers.

Terms of Reference

There are many theories and approaches that encompasses cross cultural studies. These theories are based on the cultural models such as the concept of time, space, the equal and non equal rights between men and women in various countries and also the social and economical position of an individual in the society that he lives in. There are many popular cultural models from various researchers like Wierzbicka who is known for her works in the field of semantics and pragmatics. She has established Universal Human Concepts and their realisation in the Language (Wierzbicka, 1992), Oksaar (1988), Hofstede (1991), Hall (1989).

In this assignment I intent to use the cross-cultural theories of Hofstede, this was discussed in the class earlier. I think this theory will be more relevant and appropriate because, cultural model of Hofstede is more representative and homogeneous. His comparisons are made between workers in the same sector who belong to the same positions and also among workers who have a similar social status. So the theory is more reliable and the conclusions can be drawn genuinely and can be generalised to all culture and to all Nations.

Any cultural model has to be analysed with caution and with an uncritical reading of the various cultural dimensions so that it doesn't lead to any false conclusions. Hofstede's research approach has a connection to the active prevention measures and his classification system is reliable and is still being applied because he is a renowned and most cited expert. His theories are used to make comparisons of the involved nations or regions and give a statistical view, which gives a diagrammatic representation and clear understanding of his concepts to the target readers.

Overview of the Situation

Hofstede defines culture as 'the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from others' (Hofstede et al., 2010:6). The main attempt of investigating a culture is to find the general trends that prevail amidst a large group of people at a superficial level. This analysis should be carried out baring the different levels of culture in mind. There are various levels like national, regional, ethnic, religious, gender, social, class, economical and organisational level. Based on these levels, the analysis should be conducted cautiously to avoid any miscommunication.

Hofstede model of cultural dimensions is based on four main values. The four main dimensions are as follows:

Power Distance index (PDI): the extent to which the less powerful members of organisation and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed unequally.

Individualism (IDV): the degree to which individuals are integrated into groups.

Masculinity (MAS): refers to the contribution of roles and values between the genders. Te women in feminine countries have the same modest, caring values as the men; in the masculine countries they are somewhat assertive and competitive, but not as much as the men, so that these countries show a gap between men's values and women's values.

Uncertainty Avoidance index (UAI): a society's tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity.

An average European score can be calculated based on these values of the dimensions. The scores are readily available for the 19 European countries based on these values. In this assignment, based on the comparison between United Kingdom and India is presented in this assignment using the Hofstede method of cultural dimensions .The results of this project is used for the awareness of the cultural differences and similarities between Europe and India and this should be sharpened in order to consider them with all the safety measure and data protection. This method will pave way to avoid misunderstanding and to exclude certain dimensions which cannot be transferred due to cultural reasons.

The following bar diagram is a statistical representation of the comparison between the cultural dimensions of India and United Kingdom.


As an International student I got the opportunity to work for an Internship program offered by the University. I was chosen as an intern to work with the University Library. Working in the Language Learning Centre opened up a close contact with students from different country, because my job involved in guiding the student to the various facilities of the Library and help them to access the Library with ease and to renew books and to guide them to the appropriate sections of the Library. I worked with the other permanent staff of the Library and I had to report to work, to the Librarian who is a native.

In this assignment I intend use this work experience to compare the differences in the culture, the strength and weakness of working in a Multi-culture and the new opportunities that it gave me and also to face the barriers and find remedies to establish a good working environment.

Power Distance (PI)

The four levels mentioned in Hofstede's theory are discussed in this assignment. The first level is Power distance. The statistics shows that India scores high on power distance, 77. This clearly indicates that hierarchy is at Top in India. The workers depend on their boss or their supervisors for directions, orders, and for guidance. The workers accept to be submissive and they seem to be accepting un-equal rights. They depend on management guidance and organisational guidance.

This was not found with the United Kingdom. The score being as lower to 33. The workers believe in equal rights and opportunities and they don't seem to be depending on their boss or their supervisors for any directions. This doesn't mean they can work without any guidance, but they don't seem to accept orders or they don't depend on their higher authorities for constant approval or direction or even assistance.

In India addressing the boss with their names is also considered as a taboo. It comes of the cultural and social practice, where an elderly person is not addressed with their names, they use Sir/madam. This prefix by itself creates a hierarchy which eventually reflects in the work. So they give respect to their higher officials and wait for their approval or directions.

Individualism Vs Collectivism (IDV)

The next level is Individualism. This means how an individual stands up for himself and feels his responsibility as an individual rather than relating himself to a larger group in a society, as collectivism. India with the score of 48 clearly shows that there are less scope for individualism at work place. At work place, the people are very sceptical to take charge, or see themselves responsible for a particular work; conscious about the outcome come of the work they feel scared to take responsibility.

In my experience both as a student and as a part-time worker in UK, found that most Indian students never address themselves with the first person 'I', they tend to use

'we'. This collectivism gives them a secure boundary at work, when things go wrong, it's a group to be blamed but not an individual.

Native students in their assignments and also when expressing their views about a particular topic, always tend to use self-image as 'I', they express their views by stating that 'I personally feel this shows the importance they give for their self image and individuality. This answers the score of 89 for individualism in United Kingdom, where people work in a group but prefer individualism rather than being in a state of collectivist.

Masculinity Vs Feminity (MAS)

Gender difference at work is felt in all the countries. In workplace Masculinity/ Feminity is driven by competition, trying to prove the gender power based on the achievements and success at work. This system continues throughout the organisational behaviour.

India score 56 in this cultural dimension and is easily recognised as a masculine society, where patriarchal society is the rule. Even United Kingdom is nearly equal to the masculine level, but India is bit more in the level in terms of visual display of power and the success at work. The religious influence plays a vital role in this level, as India is known for their religious beliefs and their worship of deities and other religious philosophies. This has a strong influence in the people's mind and these religious metaphors are inhibited in the Masculine displays in society, which reigns at work place also.

There are various factors that also determine the masculinity at work place. The dress code plays a vital role. In India and few other Asian countries women are expected to be fully wrapped in their attire and also wear dresses that are appropriate and doesn't reveal any skin to other men at work place. This constraint in the traditional outfit doesn't allow them to perform certain physical work at the workplace, where they ultimately depend on their male counterparts to perform the task.

The women are brought up in a way, where they are conscious about their appearance and their dress code; this is a greater barrier in performing various tasks at work. Some religions in India expect certain dress codes for women like headscarves or turbans. Certain ideas about appropriate social behaviour and sexual behaviour at work place or in public, work ethics all these forms a basic criteria in the difference in the dimensions between India and United Kingdom.

Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI)

The next dimension is the Uncertainty avoidance, which deals with the way that the society deals with the fact that, the future can't be controlled or predicted all the time accurately. They pose the question, whether an individual should try and control the future or just let it to happen. This brings in an amount of ambiguity which causes anxiety. Different culture handles this anxiety in different ways. The UIA score reveals the different steps taken by India and United Kingdom to face such ambiguous situation; it shows the extent to which the member in an organisation or at a workplace gets anxious or threatened by the unforeseen future.

India scores 40 in this level, which is medium low preference for avoiding uncertainty. Whereas, United Kingdom scores 35.The score of India can be justified, because in India the human mind is ready to accept imperfection. Things don't need to be planned in prior or has to be executed in perfection. India known for its tradition and patience easily has tolerance to face unexpected change in the situation. They view it as a positive aspect and welcome it as a breakthrough for monotony. People do not generally feel driven or do they have any compulsion to take any initiative to recover the actions. They just settle into the comfortable roles that they are given at the work place. They tend to follow the routines at work without questioning the changes. Rules are maintained often and one tries to circumvent it just try trying innovative methods to 'by pass' those rules or the system. Te word used often is to adjust which means a wide range of things. Many a time, people at work try to turn a blind eye when someone tries to break or tress pass the rules. They try a unique or a convenient solution to solve a problem by tress passing the rules. This aspect is the reason for more misery and also a great reason for this attitude of empowering the unpredictable future amidst the people of the country as a whole.


These four level of dimensions based on Hofstede's theory Cleary shows the strengths and weakness in working in a Multi-cultural environment, of a Country compared to the other country. Whatever, maybe the dimensions, working in a Multi-cultural environment gives loads of opportunities in spite of the threats that are generally faced? These opportunities are greater compared to the disadvantages.

So, when an individual gets attuned to these differences and focuses on solving those barriers, that's when the opportunities are focused. There are many advantages of working in a Multi-Cultural environment.

One of the most important advantages of a multicultural workforce is the differences in the perspectives on issues or challenges. A 1999 "Fortune" study supported the notion that more diverse companies were performing better. People from different backgrounds bring their own unique cultural experiences to the situations they face

In their companies and this broader perspective of viewpoints tends to allow for a better ultimate resolution. Apart from that, employees with diverse backgrounds will provide the company in a broader and wider coverage in a global marketplace. For example, a company that operates in different countries can better provide the needs in various markets if it has employees all over the globe. The ability to accurately use the native language of the client, overcome cultural barriers and communication filters and know what consumers want are advantages of employees that can relate to global customers. These are the major advantages which can motivate an individual working in a multi-cultural work place to overcome all the barriers and utilise the opportunities.


1). Cross cultural teams enable employees to understand cultural differences and overcome the challenges faced by them.

2). Employees should be trained about various form of verbal and non verbal communication

3). When people are working with counterparts from different countries they should have the thorough knowledge of the other culture.