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The global business environment is growing to be very competitive and dynamic in nature. Because of this development, many organizations are finding the need to synchronize their practices globally to develop enormous virtual teams in the competitive business environment. However, these virtual teams do not miss their fair share of challenges, and most often; many leaders fail to manage these challenges properly.
Cultural barriers is one of the challenge virtual teams face in the global environment and considering the need to effectively synchronize the functioning of functional teams, prudent strategies ought to be adopted by management to ensure virtual teams work in harmony (Malhotra 2001, p. 110).
This study seeks to explore some of the major leadership practices managers can adopt to transcend cross-cultural barriers observed in virtual teams and the dynamics of implementing such practices.
Challenges Posed By Cross-Cultural Teams
Managers often understand the need to manage cross-cultural teams in virtual organizations because cross-cultural barriers pose a number of challenges to the working of any organization. Cross-cultural barriers often affect the flow of information in the organization because of language barriers and therefore information can be interpreted in the wrong manner (across various environments a virtual organization operates).
Cross-cultural barriers are also an impediment to the development of synergy in the organization because teams are likely to be uncoordinated (Heracleous 2003, p. 81). Specific tasks can therefore not be carried out in an efficient manner. Such impediments to synergy development can be manifested through the development of animosity and intolerance to employee views and therefore, it is quite difficult to coordinate the functions of various virtual teams (Heracleous 2003, p. 81).
Cross-cultural dynamics are also an impediment to the implementation of policies in the organization because different employees are bound to interpret or support policies in different ways. For instance, employees who hail from the Islamic world interpret banking and insurance laws in different ways when compared to the way employees from the Western world do.
Employees from the Islamic world are likely to approve certain policies if they are in alignment with Islamic moral philosophies but those from Western circles are bound to disapprove them. Some of the best practices identified in overcoming cultural barriers involve the following:
Rotating Virtual Teams
Research studies show that the most ineffective managers keep specific virtual teams in one environment for long (Heracleous 2003, p. 81). The best way managers can therefore transcend cross-cultural barriers is putting members out in the community. In other words, virtual teams should not be cooped up in one environment for long.
When employees are kept in one environment for long, they are bound to fight unfamiliar elements in their environment. It may therefore be hard for them to know what is going on in their external surroundings, and more especially, what cultural dynamics team members in other environments have.
Creating awareness of cultural dynamics in a virtual environment is an effective strategy that a manager can use as a leadership trait to overcome cultural barriers in an organization (Venter 2002, p. 6). Some organizations actually fail to sensitize their employees on the cultural dynamics which need to be understood in the virtual environment.
It is therefore important to note that cultural dynamics is an important factor to understand when employees operate in a virtual environment. The cultural dynamics to be understood are to be undertaken through making employees aware of the dynamics and existence of cultural differences.
When employees are well versed with employee cultural dynamics, then they are likely to tolerate the dynamics of employee culture which manifest in the organization.
Awareness can be created through organizing training sessions and seminars where employees are trained on the dynamics of cultural differences in the employees while through seminars, employees can be sensitized on the importance of accommodating cultural differences among themselves.
Implementing the Strategies
The Considerations for developing leadership practices to prevent cross-cultural clashes are enormous, because employee dynamics are also extensive in nature. However, it is important to note that financial implications of implementing practices meant to prevent cross-cultural barriers are the biggest factor to consider when implementing the said strategies.
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This is true because rotating virtual teams in different environments involves huge relocation perks and other similar costs. Also, the number of employees and the extensiveness of cultural variables are important factors to consider when implementing strategies to transcend cross-cultural issues in a virtual environment.
This is important to note because if cultural variations are minimal, then an organization’s leadership need not be aggressive in its strategies. However, if the number of employees is quite enormous, an organization’s leadership team needs to be quite aggressive in implementing the strategies.
The practices identified in this study are cross-cultural in nature because they are applicable to transcending cultural barriers across various geographical regions. In other words, they are not specific to any cultural group.
The strategies identified during the implementation process of these virtual teams are also specific to cross-cultural teams because of the same fact that they are not specific to any cultural group. These practices are guaranteed to work in any dynamic multicultural setting.
Heracleous, L. (2003) Strategy and Organization: Realizing Strategic Management. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Malhotra, Y. (2001) Knowledge Management and Business Model Innovation. New York: Idea Group Inc (IGI).
Venter, K. (2002) Common Careers Different Experiences: Women Managers in Hong Kong and Britain. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.