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Conflict Resolution in International Organizations

Effective conflict resolution is an important component of productive leadership—particularly, as it pertains to organizations that conduct business globally. As companies seek to expand their operations worldwide, they find that differences in cultural background, customs, and language can sometimes lead to misunderstandings in the workplace. Possessing the proper tools for conflict resolution can help leaders reconcile employees’ various backgrounds, effectively bridging cultural differences to create a more productive work environment. In turn, companies that promote internal synergy have the opportunity to become more competitive on a global scale, as they are better able to reach out to and engage with more consumers. As a result, companies are becoming increasingly aware of this and are looking to hire more employees and managers who demonstrate high levels of cultural sensitivity. Therefore, it is important for burgeoning leaders and managers to understand the causes of culture-based problems in the workplace relative to an international setting, and how to effectively manage and resolve those issues.

Cross-Cultural Training for Expatriate Managers and Employees

Effective global companies understand the value of cross-cultural communication and develop training methods for their expatriate employees and managers. Cross-cultural training is vital to helping employees and managers quickly assimilate to the cultural norms of their new surroundings. There are several steps in cross-cultural training; first, there is an assessment of the expatriate’s background, as well as the individual’s concerns and expectations regarding his or her new host country’s culture. Then there is training, which can take the form of classes, workshops, or simulated exercises that elucidate the host country’s customs, values and different management styles. Prior to meeting the expatriate employee, the host country’s office team receives detailed instructions on the incoming expatriate worker’s beliefs, management style, goals and social norms. Once the expatriate arrives, he or she will take some time to introduce themselves and communicate any of their thoughts, concerns, or needs regarding working in a different nation. Afterward, the expatriate and the team can work together to achieve cohesion in the workplace.

Workplace Conflict Due to Cultural Differences

Effective global leaders try to understand employees’ cultural differences and take them into account when seeking to increase productivity and workplace satisfaction. They determine what motivates employees by developing an understanding of each individual’s cultural background and adjust their methods accordingly, as techniques that are viable in the United States may not apply in Italy or Singapore. This information can also be useful in building organizational goals and objectives and tailoring strategic decisions with cultural differences in mind. If there are performance problems within the organization, learning what motivates employees can help leaders deal with conflict and manage potential expansion and new negotiations.

Effective international leaders understand that there can be acute differences not only between nations, but also within a nation’s various cities, towns, regions, ethnic groups and religions. For instance, business leaders from the United States, when visiting a foreign country to sign a deal, may be eager to start negotiating right away. This can seem aggressive to their Asian or Latin American counterparts, who typically wish to first establish a rapport before talking business. Conversely, U.S. businesspeople may come off as energetic and friendly, while their Asian or European partners might be more reserved at first. There are also differences in the way various cultures perceive spatial proximity, as some cultures have an easier time showing physical affection than others. These differences can make business meetings and negotiations uncomfortable if not properly prepared for and understood, which could result in lost opportunities.

Conflict Resolution in the Workplace

Managers can help promote understanding through various social initiatives intended to foster positive relations among employees, which should (ideally) translate into a harmonious and collaborative work environment. Workshops designed to encourage an open dialogue about cultural differences can help employees identify stereotypes and understand how they distort expectations. In the event that conflict arises, effective global leaders understand that effective methods of resolution will depend on employees’ country of origin. In some cultures, such as the United States, it can be useful to bring the conflicting parties together to openly discuss the problem and find common ground in order to reach a compromise. In other nations, this method may be considered too confrontational, and the use of a third party or cultural consultation service may lead to a more satisfactory resolution.

The proliferation of global trade means there are more opportunities to reach a higher number of people across various countries and regions. However, such expansion comes with an increased risk of conflict in the workplace—which can arise as a result of differences in cultural background and communication—as well as a need for extensive training. Prior to expansion into a new foreign market, a company must study the local culture in order to understand how to best market and promote its products and avoid potential conflicts due to cultural differences. A Master of Arts in Diplomacy degree can help individuals become effective international leaders who utilize cross-cultural sensitivity and other highly developed conflict resolution tools to help mitigate workplace conflict.

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As the nation’s oldest private military college, Norwich University has been a leader in innovative education since 1819. Through its online programs, Norwich delivers relevant and applicable curricula that allow its students to make a positive impact on their places of work and their communities.

Norwich University’s online Master of Arts in Diplomacy program provides working professionals with a broad understanding of global communications protocol and a deep knowledge of the world issues that affect international relations. The program allows you to build on your political, governmental, or business expertise with a solid foundation in the theories and practices that direct international relations and political science within the international system.

Recommended Readings:
A Career in the Foreign Service: What You Need to Know
6 Tips for Cross Cultural Management
What’s Next for Our Increasingly Overpopulated World


Cross Cultural Training for Expatriate Hotel Managers: An Exploratory Study, International Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Administration

Cross Cultural Conflict Resolution Styles: An Extensive Literature Review, ResearchGate

Cross Cultural Training Effectiveness: A Review and a Theoretical Framework for Future Research, Academy of Management Review

Expatriates and the Impact of Cross-Cultural Training, Wiley Online Library

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