Avoiding Groupthink in Multicultural Teams

Conflict is a standard component of multicultural team interactions.  When conflict arises, most team members can address and solve it by following the skills presented in 5 Skills For Managing Conflict in Multicultural Teams.  However, some teams practice inefficient strategies that avoid conflict but limit creative problem-solving.  One method, group-think, is a decision-making process to avoid conflict by promoting agreement among members.  When group-think takes over, members of the group unquestioningly follow another member instead of engaging in rational disagreement.

Group-think tends to occur when a team is composed of interconnected people with similar backgrounds.  Because they urgently require a decision, they allow an overbearing or powerful member to lead them to an unexamined outcome.   Indications of group-think include stress placed on members who argue against a popular choice, communal efforts to reach an established solution, and blind faith in the group’s righteous leader. Groups that are afflicted with group-think refrain from considering alternate approaches, hold extreme bias against researching alternatives, engage in biased data collection methods and dissuade others from supporting the optimal choice.

Leadership should identity the opportunity for group-think upfront and establish proactive strategies that including diversity in terms of age, race, gender, experience and education.  In diverse teams with non-native English speakers, members should be given special training in active listening.  When language barriers are too great, professional translation services should be hired.  Further, decisions on data collection and analysis methods should be made upfront, along with a process for evaluating alternative solutions.

Making Decisions

Good morale and dedication among team members is instrumental in creating solid decisions and successful strategies.  Teams can make decisions using a number of methods, but it is better to specify the method at the outset.  Here are a few common methods:

1.      Majority Vote – Team members vote for their preferred solution and the majority wins. The downside is that the minority voters may be upset and refuse to collaborate on implementing the solution.

2.      Consensus – Members continue to deliberate on the merits of each option until they hammer out a unanimous decision. This method requires a considerable amount of time and decisions may never be reached.

3.      Minority – A subcommittee is tasked with making the decision. This method is often used when groups are large or when it would be impractical or impossible for members to convene and form an opinion.

4.      Authority – The team leader makes the final decision but relies on team members to provide data, recommendations and opinions.

Making Decisions

Good morale and dedication among team members is instrumental in creating solid decisions and successful strategies.  Teams can make decisions using a number of methods, but it is better to specify the method upfront.  Here are a few common methods:

  1. Majority Vote – Team members vote for their preferred solution and the majority wins. The downside is that the minority voters may be upset and refuse to collaborate on implementing the solution.
  2. Consensus – Members continue to deliberate on the merits of each option until everyone comes to a unanimous decision. This method requires a considerable amount of time and decisions may never be reached.
  3. Minority – A subcommittee is tasked with making the decision. This method is often used when group are large or when it would be impractical or impossible for members to convene and form an opinion.
  4. Authority – The team leader makes the final decision but relies on team members to provide data, recommendations and opinions.

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