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07 December 2023

How Working in a Multicultural Team Enriched My Career

In today’s globalised world, businesses are no longer subjected to the geographical borders that used to once confine their operations. The workplace has transformed into a melting pot of cultures, languages, experiences, and perspectives.

I have first-hand experience of this with my hybrid and remote-based team. The ethnic diversity in my office is beautifully echoed in the array of first languages overheard – sometimes in the hallways, and sometimes in the background of virtual meetings.

From South Africa to Brazil, I often greet my colleagues with the phrases they have taught me. Boardroom (or virtual team) meetings and breaks by the watercooler are now the commonplace for various cultures to interact with each other. Despite its obvious and occasional challenges, there are several perks that come with working in a multicultural team.

In this post, I want to share why I believe that multicultural diversity at work is a definite plus for the development of your interpersonal skills and your career advancement – here’s six things my experience has taught me:

  • Be Open to Different Perspectives

    Being part of a culturally diverse team teaches you how to be considerate of different ways of thinking. Team Meetings are now a creative clash of ideas and opinions, where different viewpoints are explored. It’s a fascinating thing to witness – how someone’s cultural and geographical background can allow for a completely different perspective. Appreciating these perspectives is what allows for tailored approach to communicating with colleagues, clients, and business partners, serving to enrich these professional relationships.

  • Appreciate Cultural Intelligence

    Cultural intelligence is a person’s ability to function well in situations characterised by different cultural backgrounds. Tending to be more creative and innovative, people with higher cultural intelligence make better decisions in intercultural situations. Displaying impressive social skills, they are also adept at interacting with colleagues, contributing to business meetings, effectively negotiating, and building rapport with clients. Being part of a diverse team has exposed me to different customs, new habits, and more imaginative ways of thinking. Emulating my culturally intelligent counterparts, I have become attuned to cultural nuances that help me better relate to others.

  • Carefully Weigh Word Choices

    Taking a moment to consider the words we choose to communicate with can have a remarkable impact on how a dialogue takes place, i.e., will it crash and burn, or will it flourish? Excellent written and oral communication skills, coupled with tact, is one of the more critical contributing factors to the successful completion of a project or task. In a multicultural team, you are surrounded by various styles of communication – the key to thriving in this space is being open to others’ attitudes, opinions, and contributions. By valuing all the different voices that coexist in my team, I have learned to adopt a more empathetic approach in the way I communicate.

  • Listen More and Embrace Adaptability

    Communication problems may arise. This happens because some cultures favour hierarchy and formality whereas others appreciate something more equal and transparent. Asian cultures, for instance, are polite and deferential, but Europeans and Americans lean toward a more direct approach. Being part of a multicultural team has taught me to pay attention to each person’s unique identity and how this impacts the way they connect and communicate with others. When it comes to overcoming obstacles and resolving conflict, active listening is imperative. When we endeavour to listen to understand instead of listening to respond, it helps to gain a greater level of comprehension over any situation.

  • Champion Inclusivity and Cultural Awareness

    Being surrounded by people from all walks of life can truly open one’s eyes to how different attitudes and beliefs are each perceived. Thanks to the varied cultural backgrounds, rich histories, and individual experiences in my team, I have learned to have greater awareness and compassion in my day-to-day. Having gained a new perspective myself, I have become a champion for inclusivity and raising cultural awareness.

  • Intentionally Practice Different Languages

    With little effort, I have learned a variety of phrases, idioms and greetings in French, Portuguese, Afrikaans, English, Polish and Chinese. By intentionally attempting to speak their language, I have been able to bond with my colleagues from all over the world. Working in a well-managed multicultural team has greatly enhanced my communication skills and has been an incredibly rewarding experience.

Embracing the dynamic journey of working in a multicultural team has truly enriched my life and expanded my horizons. My team is a constant source of learning and growth. Through navigating different communication styles, I’ve come to appreciate the power of words and the art of being adaptable to bridge cultural gaps. Embracing their diverse perspectives has shaped my approach to problem solving, both professionally and beyond the confines of the workplace. The chance to delve into various languages has added a colourful layer to our interactions, fostering camaraderie and broadening my linguistic repertoire. Cultivating cultural awareness is not just a skill; it’s the path you take to contribute to a more empathetic, inclusive, and connected world.

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