Stages of Group Development
Tuckman’s five-stage model of group development can be employed to understand the possible experiences that the multicultural group may undergo. These stages include forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning (Nelson & Quick, 2013). In the forming phase, team members are less informed about their duties and responsibilities. As a result, they highly depend on their leaders to address questions related to the team’s objectives and purposes, including external relationships (Nelson & Quick, 2013). One suggestion for improving the team at this stage is ensuring that the group members feel that they are part of the team. In addition, the group should understand and communicate its purposes.
The storming phase is the most complex and critical stage of the group. It is a period characterized by conflicts and competition among individual team members. In multicultural settings, conflicts might emerge due to differences in worldviews and opinions (Nelson & Quick, 2013). Team performance may decline due to energy being shifted to unproductive engagements. For instance, group members may express hostilities and disagreements on team goals. As a consequence, subgroups and cliques often form around strong personalities or in areas of agreement. In order to address problems at this phase, all members must be brought together and urged to overcome barriers and causes of conflict (Nelson & Quick, 2013). In addition, they should be encouraged to accept personal differences and work towards team cohesion at the time when they have conflicting views.
The norming phase is dependent upon the outcomes of the storming stage. If the team successfully goes through the storming stage, conflict can be easily resolved, resulting in unity, coordination, and cohesion among team members (Nelson & Quick, 2013). In the norming phase, members develop a consensus on who the leader should be and members’ roles and responsibilities. At the same time, group members begin to coexist and address their interpersonal differences. Team performance and productivity improve during this phase due to cohesion and unity. Therefore, people learn to cooperate and focus their attention on the collective team goals. Nonetheless, harmony is still precarious. Thus, in the event of a disagreement, the teams can slide back to the storming phase. Problems can be resolved in this stage by building and sustaining an environment of trust and facilitation of clear roles and responsibilities.
In the performing stage, consensus and cooperation have been developed and sustained. As such, the group is not only mature, but it is also properly functioning to the realization of common goals and objectives. Furthermore, there is clarity and stability of structures that have been established to govern the group. Members are also focused on the team’s overall vision and purpose. While problems and conflicts might emerge, they are addressed in a constructive way. At this phase, the team should continue focusing on problem-solving to realize team goals (Nelson & Quick, 2013). The maturity of this team depends on its capacity to deal with challenges through judicious utilization of specific positive and negative sanctions based on the assessment of specific member behaviors. Members in this group should be allowed to operate autonomously without being instructed. However, they should be given the liberty to ask for assistance.
The final phase of group development is the adjourning stage. As soon as the specified tasks are completed, each team member can shift focus to new and different areas. Team members at this stage have also established a sense of accomplishments and feel positive knowing that their goals have been realized. At this point, the leader should place emphasize recognizing the team’s attainment and praising the efforts of each team member (Nelson & Quick, 2013). Unless in situations in which the group is a task force or other informal teams, most groups in organizations often remain at the performing phase and are not dissolved. When it comes to transitional development and succession planning, members may be replaced by new people and the team can go back to a forming or storming phase.
Addressing Challenges facing multicultural Teams
Multicultural teams encounter numerous challenges that may cripple their performance if not addressed well. These groups can face challenges that stem from differences in norms, values, expectations, and communication styles (Halverson & Tirmizi, 2008). Problems related to expectations emerge when individuals from task-oriented societies such as the United States and Europe meet with their counterparts from relationship-oriented communities. Task-oriented cultures normally focus on getting things done whereas relationship-oriented ones emphasize social niceties expected from their colleagues (Halverson & Tirmizi, 2008). In order to address this problem, team members should develop a good working relationship before embarking on tasks assigned.
Differences in values can also generate conflicts and group problems. Values can be viewed in terms of two broad cultures of individualism and collectivism. In individualistic societies such as the United States and the United Kingdom, people first place personal interests ahead of the team’s interests (Halverson & Tirmizi, 2008). They identify themselves first and foremost as individuals with the primary goal of personal gain. In collectivistic societies such as Asia and Africa, people focus on the collective goal of the whole group and the society at large. Conflicts from this point should be addressed by encouraging cultural awareness programs that are meant to merge the two cultures and ensure that each team members’ values are well understood and take care of. For instance, the team leader should design a list of personal and collective goals that the entire team should work to attain.
Finally, communication barriers often emerge as a result of differences in language and strategies used to communicate. In low-context communication cultures, people communicate disagreement outright (Halverson & Tirmizi, 2008). On the other hand, high-context communication societies tend to encourage hiding one’s feelings and indirect communication. In order to address these problems, team members must first embrace a common language that is understood by all members (Halverson & Tirmizi, 2008). In addition, a hybrid model with specified rules and norms should be developed to govern the manner in which messages are sent and received.
Group Decision-Making Challenges and How to address them
Groups often encounter many challenges when undertaking decision-making. For instance, decisions may be reached without regard to alternatives just to maintain team unanimity (Hardman & Hardman, 2009). Groupthink mentality can make those who hold differing opinions to shy from expressing their views due to fear of collective condemnation from other members (Hardman & Hardman, 2009). Further, team members may not accept decisions that have been made by their leaders.
There are various measures that can be taken to address these group decision-making processes. For instance, group leadership should give all members the opportunity to provide dissenting views on the options that are explored before making decisions (Hardman & Hardman, 2009). Each individual in a group approaches problems differently. As such, the participation of all members in the decision-making process cannot only provide more creative solutions but also increased acceptance of the proposed decisions and outcomes (Hardman & Hardman, 2009). Therefore, team member participation is critical in making informed decisions.
There are various strategies that can be employed to make the team more effective. First, the team should embrace shared leadership concept. In shared leadership, team members are encouraged to participate in the leadership process (Zander & Butler, 2010). As a result, they feel that they are recognized and that their views count. Secondly, team leadership should introduce valuing policies. Valuing refers to understanding the personal, group, and cultural values of all the team members (Mateev, 2016). Examples should include independence, happiness, quickness, as well as equality. Finally, the team should embrace an open communication model in which people are welcomed to provide feedback (Mateev, 2016). A listening team is not only creative and innovative but can also address conflicts in a timely fashion because it gives room for diverse views and ideas.
Halverson, C. B., & Tirmizi, S. A. (Eds.). (2008). Effective multicultural teams: Theory and
practice (Vol. 3). New York: Springer Science & Business Media.
Matveev, A. (2016). Intercultural competence in organizations: A guide for leaders, educators
and team players. New York: Springer.
Nelson, D. L., & Quick, J. C. (2013). Organizational behavior: Science, the real world, and you.
Boston: Cengage learning.
Zander, L., & Butler, C. L. (2010). Leadership modes: Success strategies for multicultural
teams. Scandinavian Journal of Management, 26(3), 258-267.
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