Continuing the discussion and series of posts in cultural diversity in virtual teams, I will next turn to the concept of cultural masculinity. The impact of the level of masculinity in a culture on the functioning of virtual teams is an interesting one to consider.
Cultural Masculinity, along with Power Distance, Individuality, Uncertainty Avoidance and Long Term Orientation, all measurements documented in Hofstede’s research, is, in part at least, a reflection of the way the individuals in a society regard assertiveness as opposed to modesty, with those societies classified as more masculine being considered the more assertive. Countries with the highest measured masculinity indexes in the research are Slovakia, Japan, Hungary, Austria and Venezuela, with the lowest measurements being in the nordic countries of Sweden, Norway and Denmark along with Holland and Slovenia.
- Masculine societies and individuals will typically seem to be more aggressive and assertive in meetings, discussions and correspondence. Individuals will typically want to have more of their achievements recognised and rewarded and will have a tendency to over promise deliverables. To individuals with the more feminine traits, these masculine members of the project team may seem to be overly assertive, tough and posturing.
- Feminine societies and individuals on the other hand will be more inclined to deal with issues in private and out of the public eye, they will expect meetings to be forums for open and honest discussions where consensus decisions are reached and not a forum for self promotion.
Managing cultural masculinity in virtual teams
As you can see from the above, these differences could easily lead to serious conflict within a virtual team environment where there are likely to be personalities with traits all along the continuum. As such, the management of meetings where individuals or groups with highly divergent masculinity profiles must be carefully structured and controlled, allowing everyone to achieve what they need from the meetings, without them becoming either a vehicle for conflict or a trigger for ongoing rivalry and disagreement between your project teams.
From my own experience, having observed virtual teams with personnel from highly divergent masculinity levels and seeing several members of the teams from both sides struggle to maintain a business like relationship with their cultural opposite, in these instances, the best course of action is for someone with a real understanding of cultural differences to spend time with the each of the conflicting groups and individuals to explain to them the drivers of the differences so that they each have an opportunity to understand that their assumptions that everyone should be like them are flawed and to see that the other party simply measures things differently.
Done properly, these opportunities to hold cultural alignment sessions can have immediate and generally long lasting benefits to the team. If issues are left unaddressed however, the situation can rapidly deteriorate into an irrevocable standoff that can only be resolved by removing some people from the project team.
Ulfire specialises in assisting organisations develop high performing virtual teams, please feel free to contact us for any assistance or guidance you may need in establishing or managing your team or project.
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