Remote & Async Work 8 min

Practical advice for managing a multicultural remote team

Written by Amanda Day
Amanda Day

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If you’re working with a multicultural team, congratulations! This means that you’re lucky enough to have the opportunity to broaden your perspective and learn from different cultures.

Managing a remote team can be tricky enough. Working with team members across diverse cultures comes with its additional unique challenges. Despite your best efforts, you might be unable to understand why a certain team member is acting a certain way, or unintentionally stereotype someone based on their background. 

This is why it’s important to be culturally sensitive while working with team members across multiple cultures and regions. Being aware that people come from diverse backgrounds and thus bring different perspectives is the first step to managing a multicultural workforce. 

Now that you have taken the first step, let’s take a look at best practices for managing a multicultural remote team.

1. Practice clear and inclusive communication

Clear and inclusive communication helps everyone feel heard, understood, and valued, regardless of their background or identity. This means being mindful of the language, tone, and methods that you use to communicate (including nonverbal elements and the channels you choose to interact with your team member).

Of course, we always want to use respectful language when talking to team members. On top of that, try to self-evaluate if you’re using language that brings your team members together. For example, you might have to remind yourself that not everyone’s first language is English, so using simple and easy-to-understand vocabulary is a good way to start. 

Similarly, remember to avoid slang, jargon, and technical terms so people can easily understand the conversation. While it is a fine line to walk, providing sufficient context of the conversation while keeping your message concise can also help you communicate clearly.

Don’t be shy to over communicate – if you’re still unsure what your team member is trying to express, respectfully ask them to explain their point of view in another way. 

Summing up, practice clear and inclusive communication for your multicultural remote team in the below ways:

  • Be aware of the language barrier: Not everyone's first language is English, so use simple and concise language. Avoid using jargon and slang so everyone on the team can follow the conversation.

  • Be mindful of diverse backgrounds: Cultures can vary by region but also according to groups of people who share certain customs and values. Be mindful that your team member can come from a unique culture different from yours, and be respectful of all different backgrounds. Use language that includes all of your team member regardless of their identity and gender.

  • Over communicate: It's fine to not understand a team member from a different culture right off the bat. If you don't understand someone, just ask for clarification.

2. Create space for open dialogue

Team members can communicate freely when they feel safe and heard. They can also feel comfortable expressing their thoughts, opinions, and ideas without fear of judgment.

To create a safe space for open dialogue in a multicultural environment, first assume good intent from your team members. People communicate in diverse ways, so try to be empathetic and understanding of where they are coming from, even if their communication style is different from yours. For example, someone from a low-context culture may naturally be more direct, but this does not necessarily mean that they’re being aggressive. 

Active listening is a prerequisite for open dialogue. Try to be as present as you can in the conversation, and acknowledge other points of view without preconceived judgments. This shows that you value diverse perspectives, and allows your team members to express their thoughts that lead to constructive discussions.

In short, open the floor for open dialogue for your multicultural team by:

  • Assume good intent: People communicate in diverse ways, so try to avoid judgment. Someone may be more direct in their approach but this does not necessarily mean they are aggressive – they might come from a culture where it's natural to be straight to the point.

  • Listen actively: Be present, show genuine interest, and acknowledge other points of view to fully understand your team members. Showing that you are engaged in the conversation will create a space for open dialogues where all team members are comfortable sharing their opinion.

3. Recognize cultural biases – including your own 

Bias is human nature – we all have it. Recognizing cultural biases means acknowledging any preconceived notion, stereotype, or judgment you may hold towards a culture or group.

While working with team members across diverse cultures, you can check your own biases to ensure you’re truly appreciating the value of diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and identities. Instead of limiting your perceptions by cultural stereotypes, you can celebrate diverse cultures and learn from different perspectives that your team members bring. Practice self-evaluation to see if you’re projecting your own culture onto others. Remember, there is no “right way” to communicate, each person comes from different backgrounds that are natural to them. So appreciate the differences as an opportunity to learn new ways to think and work.

Continuously educate yourself to learn and develop cultural awareness. You can also offer company training with team members from different backgrounds to foster cultural understanding in your organization.

On a daily basis, encourage your team members challenge biases in everyday interactions. Question assumptions and reactions, call out discriminatory behaviors, and support your team members to actively seek opportunities to learn from different cultures.

In other words, you can avoid cultural biases through the below ways:

  • Acknowledge personal biases: Assess what habits or preconceived ideas you may have because of your own cultural background. Be careful not to project your own culture onto others.

  • Challenge bias: Question assumptions and reactions, call out discriminatory behaviors, and actively seek opportunities to learn from team members from diverse backgrounds.

  • Celebrate diversity: Everyone brings their unique background and perspective to the table, so appreciate the opportunity to indirectly experience diverse cultures. Share your own culture and embrace different perspectives.

4. Stay flexible 

As humans, our perceptions and values are influenced by the cultures we come from. We can continuously develop as an individual by realizing our views are somewhere on the spectrum of cultural dimensions

By understanding how different cultures compare to one another in key areas, you can gain insight on how to interact more effectively with people from diverse backgrounds. Of course, don’t fall into the trap of stereotyping – every individual is unique. Cultural backgrounds have a significant impact on how we behave, but personal experiences are equally important. 

Staying flexible means maintaining this kind of adaptable and open mindset. You’ll be able to create a strong remote team across cultures by showing you are open to alternative perspectives. For example, consider how your team member naturally communicates with you, and adapt to their style. If a team member tends to be more indirect, deliver your message softly while being clear. 

The good news is, the more you interact with team members from different cultures, the better you'll become at adapting to diverse communication styles. You can develop this kind of flexibility when working with multicultural teams in the below ways: 

  • Be considerate: Give people the time and space to respond and communicate in a way that feels comfortable for them. 

  • Embrace feedback: Some people might feel nervous about receiving feedback from team members, but it's a sign that your team members want to see you improve. Encourage your team to give feedback and educate one another on their cultural backgrounds, so everyone is aware of each individual's style.

  • Work async: When you have a remote team from various cultures, people are likely to be working from different regions. Be aware of time zones when sharing timely information and sync invites.

Managing a multicultural remote team

While understanding the cultural background of your team members is helpful for navigating a multicultural team, it's only one context on how to understand them better. Other factors such as personality, upbringing, and current location can also influence how we work and communicate. Each individual is a unique person, so understand your team members on a personal level while learning about their cultural background as context.

When managing a multicultural team that is remote, an integrated HRIS solution like Remote can help you keep all the information that you need in one place. Hiring remotely also breaks down geographical barriers that allows you to find the best talent in the world to create your multicultural team.

For more tips on how to manage global team and how a global HR partner like Remote can help your remote business grow, check out our Remote Workforce Report.

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