Group Working: Cultural Preferences vs Conflict Management Styles
by Chris van der Leer on May 22nd, 2017

​Most cultures around the world do not fully into the individualism or collectivism group, rather they will exhibit elements of each, the end result being that they will fall on one side of the spectrum or the other. This means that there no one-size-fits-all approach to conflict resolution, since the varying culture will always be a factor.
In the example of India, individuals seem to align with a holistic cultural style because relations tend to be prescriptive, individuals are not normally expected to choose their relationships and members are expected to work toward the goals of the whole (Lim & Giles, 2007). This appears to be a form of collectivism because loyalty lies with the group first; individual members tend to work together, performing different tasks and roles that complement each other.
People from a holistic culture prefer the compromising style of conflict management as the collaboration skills, diplomacy and administrative aspects suit them best. Adopting a participate and non-autocratic approach to leadership of the group when working with these individuals is usually most effective. Spending time explaining the bigger picture and how all the pieces slot together to fully clarify the direction and purpose of the group will also be beneficial.
In contrast, a group also consisting of members from the USA, Australia and New Zealand the loyalty will lie with the individual. A group member’s opinion is more important than the general group opinion. This individualistic style of culture is in direct contrast to the collectivism style and requires that the group leader and the members develop a rapport and find common ground early in the Forming stage.
The individualistic group members involved were adopting a competitive /enforcement style where they used their position and influence to convince others of their positions and opinion. When working with these group members the project manager ensured that communication was precise, direct, and specific. She also allowed the group members to work autonomously and gave them responsibility for making decisions within their remit.
Sometimes these styles clash, however as the team moves into the Norming stage of group development the team will start to recognize the cultural differences and become mindful of them.
​This article is taken from a paper written by Chris van der Leer on the development of group processes. It is licensed under CC BY 2.0. This means that you are free to license and adapt the contents of this article by giving credit to the original author.

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