A Study on Multicultural Team and the Culture Diversity in Multi-
M.JAYANTHI, Research Scholar, Department of Management studies,
Periyar Maniammai University, Vallam, Tanjavur.
PROF. DR. K.V.R. RAJANDRAN, Head, Department of Management Studies,
Periyar Maniammai University, Vallam-Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu - India,
Many companies are building multicultural teams, where members are coming from cross-
national borders and different countries of origin. Therefore facing with challenges that to work
with such teams, utilizing the individual strength, communication and working styles. In today’s
global business environment the multicultural teams have become an essential part of an
organization. An attempt was made to study the impact of the cultural diversity in multicultural
teams. A sampling size of fifty was taken from multicultural teams working in USA, Singapore,
Malaysia, India, Australia, Canada and UAE. A questionnaire was designed and it was sent to the
respondents through emails. Percentage Analysis Technique was used in examining the data that
were collected from the respondents. The result shows that there is a significant impact of
cultural diversity in a multicultural working environment. Presents of multicultural teams have
also changed the styles of working and that has brought big changes in the organizations.
Key words: Multiculturalism, Cultural diversity, Random Sampling Technique, Globalization,
Cross culture training.
Citation : Jayanthi,M. and Rajandran, KVR. (2014). A study on multicultural team and the
culture diversity in multi-national companies. International Journal of Scientific Research,
Vol.3, issue.4. pp.104-106.
Growing number of international corporations, strong forces of global economic competition,
constant flow of cross border business transactions are continuing to a complex business
environment and competition. International companies face global competitors, multiple
countries and governments, different cultures and languages, all heightened demands on
coordination and control of international business activities (Mendenhall, 2004).
Survival became the most important factor in this complex business environment. The factor that
allows companies to survive in such difficult non permanent surroundings is their ability for
effective adaptation to change. This adaptation is often driven by cultural diversity (Salas et.al,
2009). Adapting to cultural diversity in this rapidly modernized world is a demanding process,
since culture is still much slower to change. Mastering the ability to interact with different
cultures is thereby an important device for future business success (Thomas & Ink son 2004).
One way for organizations to cope with this complexity is to establish work groups or teams that
are composed of people differing in relevant dimensions such as culture to match the diversity of
the environment, the organization try to deal with (Gibson, 2004).
2. The concept of culture and cultural diversity
Culture is generally defined as a pattern of deep level values and assumptions concerning
societal functioning, which is shared by an interesting group of people (Adler, 2002). Cultural
values are learned very early life as people are socialized into their respective environments
within particular societies and are very difficult to relearn or change (Hofstede, 2001).
Cultural diversity refers to the representation of people within a social system with explicitly
different group affiliations of cultural meaning, that is, “they collectively share certain norms,
values or traditions that are different from those of other groups” (Cox, 1993). Often the term
cultural diversity is applied to ethnic or national diversity in work groups as well (Watson, 1993).
The basic theoretical assumption of diversity research asserts that diversity with respect to the
group composition influences group processes and that these processes in turn affect group
performance (Williams, 1998). Diversity research has established that diversity offers both a
great opportunity for companies as well as major challenges (Adler, 2002). Diverse work groups
experience strong conflicts (Pelled, 1999), communication between group members becomes
more difficult (Caldwell, 1992), the willingness to cooperate with fellow group members
diminishes (Thomas, 1999) and group cohesion decreases (Harrison, 2002). All these process
losses often result in higher turnover and absenteeism rates (O’Reilly, 1989) and lower the work
satisfaction (Tsui, 1992).
While on the other side, it is agreed that multicultural work groups produce ideas, solutions and
decisions of higher quality (Wagner, 2001). Culturally diverse work groups produce more
perspectives, problem solutions and decision alternatives than does non diverse group (Watson
The population was chosen based on respondents who had experience in the working
multicultural team. To reach out more suitable participants, samples from various countries
including India, USA, Australia, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Canada and UAE were taken for the
study. The research questions were formulated and drawn from previous presented theories and
conclusions about multicultural teams (See Anne Susann, 2006). An e-mail questionnaire has
been created and sent to the participants. A sample of 50 was chosen for the analysis form the
4. Data Analysis
The selected variables for the analysis were, to find out do cultural diversity has influences on
multicultural team, the benefits of being in a multicultural team, causes of problems in
multicultural team, stage at which problem arises, does cross cultural training needs for working
in a multicultural team and key skills required for, to be included in a multicultural team.
Percentage Analysis Technique was used in examining the data that were collected from the
RQ.1 Influences of Cultural diversity
The question to the multicultural teamwork opinions included whether the respondents feel,
cultural diversity do have any influence in the multicultural working team. It was observed from
the analysis that cultural diversity has influence in the multicultural working team.
Chart 4.1 reveals that seventy four percentage of the respondent believe that cultural diversity
has influences on multicultural working team. Twenty six percentages were answered that it does
not have influences. The higher percentage shows that cultural diversity has influences on team
work. This finding of the research was inline with the previous study that “culture affects our
perception”, “culture affects our verbal and nonverbal language”, “and “The culture affects our
identity” (Cooper, Thomas and Simonds, 2007).
RQ.2 Benefits of Multicultural Team
In answering what advantages people notice from being members of multicultural teams, their
answers did over all match with the arguments presented earlier by the scholars specially Adler’s
model. From the opinion it is clear that the respondents highly recognize numerous potentials
and advantages of having various cultures in a team.
The chart 4.2 shows that many of the respondents (34) believe that the different skills from
nationally diverse people are a major advantage, which gives learning opportunity and
knowledge sharing. Additional advantages listed by the respondents were the multicultural team
members are having better capabilities (22), different views on problems and creativity (22).
These advantages are evident from the literature as team members with diverse backgrounds tend
to have complementary capabilities, which results a superior mixed team. These responses
underline the diversity of skills in a heterogeneous team and proven by Lazear Model (1996).
RQ.3 Causes of problems in a Multicultural Team
The respondents were posed with another question that what were the causes of problems while
working with multicultural team members. The respondents had reported that miscommunication
(29) was the major barrier to be in a multicultural team. They further added that behavior, slang,
accent and pronunciation were the problems while communicating with each other. It also points
out that intercultural communication often leads to miscommunication (Lane, 1999).
Chart 4.3 explains other problems raised due to unawareness of culture (32), attitudes and
perception issues (35). It is very clear after careful analysis that most of the respondents ensured
that lack of knowledge and understanding of the different culture causes problem in a group.
This finding is inline with previous literature that a major challenge for multicultural
management is the different cultural beliefs, practices and traditions that are embraced by various
segments of employees (Edwer, 2010). A lack of culturally appropriate communication can
create animosity and division between employees, leading to internal challenges that will hinder
overall performance (Devine, 2007).
RQ.4. Stages of project sensitive to problem
The next question to the respondents was: what stage of group work they saw as the most critical
one. Chart4.4 shows that the majority (70%) of the respondents felt that beginning stage of the
work was a stage where problems persisted. 30% percentage of the respondents felt that middle
stage was also sensitive to the problem.
The majority of the respondent’s state, “The Beginning” of the project is accordance with the
framework of Tuckman’s model (1965). From Tuckman’s model it is apparent that all stages
have some challenges for teams, but especially in the storming stage.
RQ.5. Need of training
To answer another question: do they need any training before to be a part of a multicultural team
revealed that training would be most helpful to them to see the team in a right direction and can
coordinate in work.
The Chart 4.5 shows that the majority (62%) of respondents agreed that training is most
important to work with culturally diverse groups where as few (38%) were disagreeing. The
majority shows that one of the tools for connecting the cultural difference was cross cultural
training. Training knowledge of corporate etiquette can improve the skills of future team
members and prepare them for the diverse issues in multicultural team. This finding is
accordance with the Mendenhall Model (1987).
RQ.6 Key skills required
Respondents have been asked to elaborate on actions that help team members in preventing and
solving problems that appear in a multicultural team work. After analysis of the answers it is
found that, better communication capabilities, respect, value and tolerance towards other’s
culture, open-mindedness to accept other’s culture and views, flexibility to accept the changes
taken place, continuous learning attitude, culture awareness and positive approach towards the
problems are the key skills required for a person to be in a multicultural team. The better the
language skills are, the easier will the adjustment process be, since language has a very strong
effect on expatriate adjustment (Puck et al., 2008). Trends indicate that multicultural
management strategies will become more common based on a central language, technological
enhancement of communication and establishing new traditions based on a combination of
cultural values designed to reduce conflict and increase collaborations (Selmer, 2012).
Model for Effective functional group: (Source: Bachmann A.S, 2006)
A: Better communication capabilities B: Learning attitude C: Respect and acceptance for
others culture D: Open mindedness E: Flexibility
This research finding shows the factors influencing multicultural team work and the contribution
is to suggest, cultural diversity does have an impact on multicultural team work. A multicultural
environmental study regarding benefits and causes of problems was in line with previous study,
“diversity offers both a great opportunity for the companies and as well as major challenges”
(Adler, 2002). The findings reveal that the beginning stage of the project is more sensitive to the
problems. A multicultural group which has certain qualities like better communication
capabilities, open mindedness, flexibility, and cultural awareness will be able to establish a
working atmosphere of mutual respect and acceptance. This sort of group has greater access to
its multicultural resources and therefore a greater chance to utilize their potential for the effective
functioning. One of the findings of the research implies that proper cross cultural training is
required for the team to perform in better way in multicultural environment.
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