Workplace Culture Conflict: What Should HR Department Do?

Workplace Culture Conflict: What Should HR Department Do?

June 2, 2022

Multinational companies are regarded as the dream workplace for most people such as fancy offices, professional working style, high salaries, generous benefits, etc. However, constant conflicts among staff have quickly brought junior HR staff back to reality.

Workplace Culture Conflict: What Should HR Department Do?
Differences between Asian and Western cultures lead to many misunderstandings and conflicts

In the digital era when everything is closely connected, businesses have a lot of employees that come from various countries. Cultural diversity accidentally results in awkward misunderstanding situations that make HR staff exhausted when solving them.

“What the eye doesn’t see, the mind doesn’t know”

During the peak season, not only do functional departments work overtime, but HR must also be dedicated to helping them reduce stress. Ms. Minh Thương, head of the HR of an import & export company in Ho Chi Minh city, shared that “We have both Vietnamese and American staff so misunderstanding is unavoidable. A few months ago, a Vietnamese and an American counterpart who works in the project management department had a serious disagreement about management methods. They even took the matter up with the director. I was tired of listening to their argument.”

According to Ms. Thương, the HR department is not responsible for resolving disputes among employees, but they cannot ignore the problem either. During the peak time, Ms. Thương and her department even have to work at their best to prevent any possible conflicts. “In an international working environment, there are always cultural differences and miscommunication. The language barrier also restricts employees from fully expressing their opinions. Sometimes, I just want to ignore it. What the eye doesn’t see, the mind doesn’t know. Yet, if I do so, the workforce will lose its unity and cohesion.”

Creating a harmonious working environment for all members of a team and in a company is an intricate question not only for Ms.Thương but also for the whole HR community. By being understanding, delicately handling conflicts, and prioritizing the common interest of the employees, HR can exercise and promote empathy, and empower the bonds of the members in an organization. 

How to become a problem-solving expert in an environment with many strong individualities?

According to Talentnet experts, HR cannot ignore disagreements between employees, even though they are not required to solve them. Above all, the role of the HR department is to create a healthy, beneficial, and empathetic working environment for employees, thereby reinforcing the cohesion within the company.

In a multinational environment, communicating and working with foreign colleagues are everyday tasks. Therefore, creating and encouraging an equal working environment that supports cultural diversity and individuality is the top priority of HR. Moreover, cultural diversity training is essential for any international business to increase the understanding and respect for other’s cultural differences, as well as to learn to communicate effectively with people from other cultures.

For example, Western colleagues regard direct discussion on a matter as the most effective means of communication. However, most Asian counterparts do not view it as the best approach. Mutual respect and a good understanding of cultural diversity in manner and communication can facilitate employees in coordinating with each other while working.

Supporting cultural diversity is the key factor to attract and retain talents for businesses.

With the role to connect other departments in the company, the human resources department can create opportunities for employees to share and bond with each other through the following activities:

  • Regularly organize culture & lifestyle sharing sessions to share stories: This is an opportunity to create a better understanding of the cultural differences, thereby employees will be more likely to respect and reconcile with each other.
  • Organize team-building activities on unexpected occasions: Do not wait until special occasions such as the end of a month, a week, or a quarter, surprise parties in the middle of the week can effectively relieve stress and bring people together. 
  • Hosting more entertainment and relaxation activities at the office: The HR department can boost the employees’ morale with some adjustments at their workplace such as playing music in the pantry, redecorating the office, and serving sweets and snacks. Organizing minigames is also a good idea to improve interaction among colleagues. Such improvement can help employees to ease the work pressure during the peak seasons, calm them down, and prevent any possible disagreements.  

“The HR department functions as a bond to connect all the members within the organization and this role should be flexibly maximized to harmonize relationships and form a solid workforce. Therefore, besides creating a professional working environment and interesting benefits, businesses also need to focus on implementing internal activities to improve their employees’ mental health” said Mr. Jack Nguyễn, Deputy CEO of Talentnet. Resolving cultural differences is undoubtedly a major challenge for any HR employee at first. However, it is also an opportunity for them to sharpen necessary HR skills, thus boosting the company’s revenue significantly.

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