Manage a multicultural workforce

The purpose of this paper is to describe some of the competences necessary to manage a multicultural workforce. Management style changes according to staff and organisation’s culture. In order to develop this paper, most research was done through literature based on multicultural workforce and online articles, studies and other key information. Multicultural managers need to learn how to deal with different cultures workforce.

Some basic knowledge is necessary to develop a multicultural thinking and increase the understanding of another culture. Besides the basic skills, it is also important for the manager to learn about cultures and habits, the way people work and even their religion, as they influence performance and dictate the style of management appropriate to each situation. There is a process of constant learning, not only by the manager but also by the whole organisation, as the global environment of today asks for a multidimensional in order to successfully manage a multicultural workforce.

2. Introduction

The world is moving very fast towards a global economy. Competition between companies has exceeded national boundaries. Today, labour force is easier moved from one country to another. The European Union, for example, transforms Europe into an integrated buying and selling block which will compete as a major economic player. However, people still are the key asset for every company. The workforce of today is better educated and there is a continuous need for improvement and personal development.

The importance of employees’ competences increases generally. The roles of the manager were forced to change in order to adapt to cultural issues. It is essential to understand the differences between economies and mainly between the multicultural workforces. Competences and leadership styles have been transformed. In this paper, we look into what kind of competences underlies successful managerial performance.

3. Competences in managing a multicultural workforce In the global environment, the complexity to specify competences for each job and for each region of the globe, makes it impossible not to rely on core competences in the selection of managers. Management is the same science all over the world. However, the way of managing is what will differ from one place to another. Many researches have been done during the last century to identify the skills of an effective manager and the characteristics of a good multicultural manager (Carlson, cited in Iversen 2000, p. 6). As the importance of managerial competences has increased, global managers are expected to go through a constant process of learning and development.

Nowadays the researchers find out that many different approaches to managerial competences are necessary to be a successful multicultural manager. Competences were the ability to put into non-routine cognitive intelligent actions. We take out 3 important points as competences in managing a multicultural workforce. First, and probably the most important one, is the possession of interaction skills across cultures, followed by learning and communication elements. The factors that influence managerial competences can be observed in Appendix 1.

4. Skills for interactions across cultures Usually the manager in a multinational organization needs to analyze cultural differences between his/her natural culture and the foreign culture. An approach that may be useful is to identify the various dimensions of culture and the cultural differences that could be measured. There are several different types of skills and characteristic essential to successful manage a multicultural workforce. A manager must be able to look at things from diverse perspectives. Different analysis have been conducted in order to find out which main skills are important for a manager of a multicultural workforce group, and provide a framework for competences in managing such workforce. In addition, the researches point out how the various skills and characteristics are linked together.

4.1. Tolerance for Ambiguity Managers need to have tolerance for ambiguity to understand the different aspects from their own culture to another. The higher tolerance level of ambiguity, the higher is the understanding of attitudes and behaviours of other cultures. Therefore we state a hypothesis that: “Tolerance for ambiguity will be a component of competence for managing multicultural workforce” (Chang and Tharenou, n.d, p. 3).

4.2. Cultural Empathy One of the most important factors for successful intercultural interaction is probably the cultural empathy. A manager without cultural empathy will face difficulties to understand other cultures. The sense of ethnocentrism is linked with cultural empathy and it refers to an awareness and understanding of social and cultural differences between the manager and the worker. Cultural empathy gives the manager the ability to understand the different cultures with their working style and behaviour in different situations. Therefore we state a hypothesis that: “cultural empathy will be a component of competence for managing multicultural work groups.” (Chang and Tharenou, n.d, p. 4).

4.3. Cognitive Factors – Cognitive Complexity “Cognitive complexity simply refers to a manager’s ability to rationalise cognitively, given the wide range of cognitive inputs at any given time” (Chang and Tharenou, nd, p.4). A multicultural manager should be competent to understand that different perspectives exist amongst his/her subordinates and to be able to adopt those perspectives. In another words, a manager with a high cognitive complexity has the potential to adopt different cultural perspectives in various situations rather than a manager with a low level of cognitive complexity. Therefore we state a hypothesis that: “cognitive Complexity will be a component of competence for managing multicultural work groups.” (Chang and Tharenou, n.d, p. 4).

4.4. Cognitive Factors – Stereotypes Management The stereotyped style of management is a bit controversial. Some experts say that stereotypes are not necessarily bad whether others argue the oposite. Copeland (2003) for instance analyzed the stereotype as a negative type. Stereotypes are bad because they are so powerfully effective in avoiding differential thinking about people who belong to the stereotyped groups. Chadwick (n.d.) says that each one of us has negative stereotypes of one another but we have positive stereotypes of ourselves. Appendix 2 illustrates Chadwick’s approach in a practical way.

But, it would be better if I think that “I” must change my views of others, if there is something to change. I can not get others to change their view of me except I begin to recognize the possibility of the positive stereotype. Manager’s need to be aware that they hold stereotypes of others and those others hold stereotypes of them. A stereotype can be important for an organization. For instance, in tourism industry a stereotype can be very useful to attract tourists for a special destination or to develop tourism marketing strategies. Therefore we state a hypothesis that: “the management of personal stereotypes of other cultures will be a component of competence for managing multicultural work groups.” (Chang and Tharenou, n.d, p. 4).