Simple Conflict Prevention in a Culturally Diverse Team: Public Relations

PUBLIC_RELATIONSConsider the following scenario. You and your project team will be working at the headquarters of an online retailer to assist with modernizing their website. Specifically, you’re tasked with improving user experience. The goal is to make the brand appealing to a wider audience. Your team will be working with the in-house IT team as they are the creators of the current website. They’ll also be maintaining things when your team is finished.

There is more to this scenario. The two teams who will be working together are culturally different. Your team members are quite diverse in religion, race, sexual orientation, and gender. Political beliefs as a whole tend to be liberal. The team you will be working with is located in an area where there’s some racial and gender diversity; however, you get the heads up that your team and in-house IT team are politically and culturally quite different.

Your challenge: ensure that the project goes smoothly. Which means that both teams, your team and the in-house IT team, are able to work well together.

There’re certain conflicts you should be aware of in the event you need to deal with them. You don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable because of their beliefs, background, or culture.

So what are the potential conflicts which may arise? How you can deal with them? Let’s take a look at 4 and the conflict resolution/prevention.

1. Language Barriers Causing Miscommunication

When people think of language barriers they usually picture situations where people are speaking entirely different languages. However, consider that there’re other ways in which language barriers can become an issue. These include:

  • Regional language differences
  • Cultural language differences
  • Generational language differences

One of your team members might use a local colloquialism in an effort to connect with one of their new teammates. Unfortunately, what they don’t realize is that the term is actually offensive. If the overall interactions between your team and the other is going well the utterance of a colloquialism, considered offensive, can easily be smoothed over by addressing it as soon as possible. If not, it may create more tension between your team and the onsite team.

How to Deal With it
As you already know that there are cultural differences between teams have them use neutral language. Ask your team members to refrain from using slang terms, regional sayings or other idioms that are culturally based.

2. Differing Political Views

Telling your team not to engage in arguments over political issues seems like a no brainer. Of course they shouldn’t do that. Unfortunately, it isn’t always that easy. Someone who is particularly passionate about a political issue or who feels the need to debate might make it hard for one of your team members to dodge this kind of discussion.

How to Manage This
Team members should be instructed to offer up a polite agreement such as, ‚ÄòThat’s food for thought.’ Or, ‚ÄòWow, you’ve really done your homework on this’. If things escalate to where it becomes hostile, abusive and challenging to get work done, contact the project manager team to deal with the situation.

3. Feedback Provided by a Team that is Culturally Different – A Recipe for Insult?

Given the context of this scenario, this is likely to happen. In spite of the fact that you are being diplomatic and respectful, you are in a situation where you’re telling the internal team how they should be doing their job differently. You’re having to tell them how to do things differently because their website needs improving so that it appeals to a target audience. When you add in the fact that your team doesn’t have many cultural similarities with the internal team, the internal team may find your team off-putting. The internal team may be offended, become territorial by the feedback provided by your team even though it was given with good intentions.

How to Combat This
Encourage your team to be exceptionally polite and positive. Advise them to not engage in any unproductive dialogue. They should also make the internal team as much a part of the decision making process as possible. As well, have your team work on finding things in the previous design that were effective.

4. The Needs of The Project Team

If a member of the internal team does not eat meat for religious reason and begins lecturing a member of your team about eating meat, you may have to step in and deal with the situation. You are obligated to help members of your project team if they are having issues.


Above all, your primary focus should be assisting the internal team improve their website. And, fortunately, the majority of people truly want to get along with their colleague(s), even when there are political and cultural differences. Be sensitive to any potential issues, and encourage your team to do the same. By doing this, most projects can be completed without any serious problems.

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