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How to Run a Meeting of People From Different Cultures

How do people of different cultures come together and achieve a common goal? How can you bridge cultural divides? Recently Harvard Business Review, published a very interesting article on this very topic. According to Jeanne M. Brett, professor of dispute resolution and negotiations at Kellogg School of Management, "Multicultural meetings can be tricky to lead. People bring their cultural baggage with them wherever they go—and that includes the workplace.” Communication styles vary from culture to culture as do notions of authority and hierarchy, which only heightens the potential for misunderstanding and hard feelings. “If you don’t prepare for cultural differences and anticipate them at the front end, they’re a lot harder to deal with after the fact,” she says.

Experts highlight that it's important to “create protocols and establish norms at the beginning of your meetings" adding that “you want to be clear about what you expect and how meetings will run.” They suggest that "the key to showing cultural sensitivity in the workplace is 'being aware' of the variations that exist among cultures and how those differences play out" adding that " “learning as much as you possibly can about the people and the regions of the world you are collaborating with so that you can adjust your management style in small ways.”

Interestingly, experts say that "one of the biggest cultural differences is the degree to which open debate and disagreement are viewed as a positive. In countries like Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand, saying: ‘I disagree,’ is seen as very aggressive and could lead to a break in the relationship, whereas in France and Russia, it’s seen as a great opportunity to build a relationship,”

To read more about this topic, click here.

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