Does Culture influence Team Dynamics?

This team that’s almost two years old has the best dynamics I can ever hope for.

No fights and arguments between team mates, everyone is closer everyday— even outside of work. 
I hear so many people tell me a group of passionate and diverse university kids mean a lot of arguments — but I have not encountered that yet.

I begin to wonder whether this is influenced by culture. As a collectivist society, Indonesians prioritize harmony.

The few challenges we have faced have not been about differences in opinions — even if there are, it is mediated easily and on the spot. There are people that will assume the role of mediator and never fail to mention that we need to get along because we are a close-knit team.

Of course not everybody is fond of each other’s personality, but they get along well. They seem to seek similar grounds and talk about good happy things.

Perhaps it’s also because they’re in uni? Things were much simpler then. Friendships are easy because the world is new and exciting. Finding similar grounds with other people are easier because life was about studying and going out and a few other things. Work did not weigh much on the mind, responsibilities towards family and self weren’t a big priority.

Personally, I only began to edit my friendships last year — reflecting on characteristics and values of people who were close to me and whether those are still the friendships I want to keep for life. Of course, this will change with time and growth.

I try to keep a balance of introverts and extroverts — even if sometimes the extroverts will be louder at team meetings. But they seem to be enjoying each other’s company, they even ask for more bonding time. Perhaps it is also the joy of being around a big group of people that understands your work, effort and passions.

In my past team experience in Malaysia, we had a diverse group of people who were individualistic. Many had problems with each other, communication was difficult and cliques were formed. People were constantly trying to get others to their “side”, while I was always trying to keep neutral for the sake of work dynamics. I never wanted to choose a side, because at the end of the day, we had to work together for long hours at a time. As a team member, I felt like I was always trying to harmonize everybody but I was failing at it.

A few months into building this team, I began to see that whenever somebody makes a mistake, they refer to the problem as “our problem”. When somebody is caught coming late to the office, they will say “Sorry that we are always late. We promise that we will be better next time.” And there is usually no one else in the room.

It infuriated me because that meant I had to meet everyone individually and address the problem. But what I learned was, by confronting one person, the problem resolved with the others. It was like a domino effect, like a bowling pin. I just needed one to change and the rest will follow. That saved me a lot of time!

So, yes, maybe this collectivist culture really does help in the dynamics of this team. There is still room for improvement and the chaotic year we’re going to face will test our harmony, patience and understanding of each other’s work ethics — but for now I’m happy to have this team under control.

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