Cross Cultural Team Conflict: When Someone Doesn’t Pull Their Weight

The Graduate School of Management at UC Davis first year MBA candidates: Michael Delehant, Lauren Davis, Evan Benway, David Cain, Matt Auman, and Brooke Dodson completed a case and provided their advice on what do to do when a member of a team doesn’t pull their own weight.

Solution:  Hold A “State of the Union” Meeting                 

Hopefully, one person is comfortable acting as the leader or there is a formal leader or project manager defined.  This person will take the first action, after the other team members have expressed their frustration with the “slacking” team member. By sending an email (or text or call), this leader can bring the team together to discuss how everyone is proceeding with the project. Once a date/time/location is agreed upon, the leader sends the formal meeting invitation, and asks each team member to come with a general status update on the tasks that they were assigned or took on at the start of the project.

At the meeting, the defined or “default” leader becomes the project tracker (or defines someone else to take on this role).  By using a white board or a project tracker (i.e. an excel spreadsheet emailed after the meeting), the leader constructs a diagram or outline that shows each person’s name. As each person names his/her tasks, the leader can list them under their name. Then he/she checks or crosses off each one as the person reports its completion. Be sure that the leader does this for all members, including the person who is “slacking.” When it’s his/her turn, list the tasks that he/she reports as being assigned. Be sure that this person mentions every task that the team thinks he/she is charged with completing. Then, as it becomes evident that very few have been completed, allow other team members to offer assistance or ask what might make it easier for this person to complete these tasks.

The feedback will be most effective if it is more “helpful” and less accusatory. The leader should encourage everyone to keep an upbeat tone, but strive to reach a real response with actionable recommendations for how the “slacking” teammate should proceed from here.  At the close of the meeting, each person reiterates his/her next steps and agrees to the next “check-in” date or meeting.  If, by then, the  team member has not improved, then it’s time to move on to using more direct language, defining one person as the lead communicator who can directly communicate with this individual to let him/her know that his/her performance is detrimental to the group’s progress. Again, the communicator should be as positive as possible, asking how to help accomplish the task at hand.   Keep the whole team involved and abreast to the progress on changing the behavior of the individual, so that everyone is aware of the situation. The overall goal is to increase personal accountability and achieve the task at hand without creating tension amongst all team members, which can further distract from completing the project.

Global Expansion: Joint Venture with China

The Graduate School of Management at UCDavis first-year MBA candidates completed a case with their advice on how to approach a joint venture with China. The follow was written by: Nitya Tamizhmani, Jolin Tiffany Tan, I-Wei Wu, Jacky Zhao, Kevin Wen, and Mark Zabezhinsky


Your company would like to expand into China, but they are not sure how to enter the market. Discuss and find solution/strategies for the following challenges:

  • What are the first three steps to take in order to establish a connection and business partner in China?
  • If time: Discuss strategies that would ensure continued success.


The first step a company should take to establish a connection and business partner in China is a thorough research and market analysis of their industry in China. Next, conduct research to know what models other companies have employed to start a joint venture in China. Only with that comprehensive knowledge can a company then reach out and establish a connection and business partner in China by utilizing the following strategies simultaneously:

  1. Engaging a company’s first degree network, its employees, to see if anyone already has an existing relationship within China that can be expanded upon.
  2. Second, reaching out to a company’s network of trusted vendors, clients and business partners who may already be doing business within China and are willing to make an introduction on a company’s behalf.
  3. Third, attending industry specific Expos and Association events and directly targeting businesses from China whose members are open to new relationships and will be responsive to incoming inquiries. Information about useful Expos and associations can be found at the following websites:

After a partnership is established and the joint venture is progressing, the following strategies will ensure continued success in China. Government support and involvement is crucial for businesses to succeed in China. To obtain that support, companies should invite retired Chinese government officials to join any joint venture’s board of advisors. Serving as lobbyist on behalf of joint venture, they will ensure a relationship with the government and a certain amount of lawful protection for a company to operate under. Once that relationship with the government is secure, a company can move forward by appointing a task force that will train its Chinese employees and figure out which product or service has the best prospect of succeeding.

A second group at the Graduate School of Management at UCDavis first-year MBA candidates added their tips as well on how to approach a joint venture with China. The follow was written by: Jason Parsiani, Sherry Si, Sanjana Patel, Nandhini Raghunathan, Seth Staton, Philip Menges, and Ming Ee Ong

Developing Business Partner in China

1)     Research industry to hire potential connectors that are very well connected in China.

2)     Interface with government officials to develop relationships, get connected with relevant conferences  and associations and further

3)     Forge business contacts with physical presence (dinners and recreational activities)

Recruiting Latinos in the Bay Area

The following students in the MBA program at the Graduate School of Management at UC Davis have submitted the following written proposal for how to recruit job candidates from the Latino community in the Bay Area: Chris Baggett, Alexandra Caldwell-Wenman, Nathan Chan, John Churchman, and Sara Snider

Candidate Recruitment in Latino Community (Bay Area)

Local recruitment is difficult and your company would like to tap the Latino community for new hires.  Discuss and find solutions / strategies for the following challenges:

  • How do you find qualified candidates?
  • What could your company do to encourage and motivate candidates to join?
  • What could be effective retention strategies to create an inclusive environment?

Case Summary

For our group, analysis of this case prompted discussion of issues that extend beyond just how to best hire, motivate, and retain Latino employees.

The case raised interesting questions for our group, many of which face large multinational organizations on a daily basis:

  • “How can a company create a culture of inclusion when faced with a diverse, multicultural employee base?”
  • “What is the best way to increase recruitment of an underrepresented group in order to build and maintain a truly diverse team?”
  •  “How does a company recruit employees of a specific nationality without creating the impression of inequality for employees and recruits of other nationalities?”
  • “Once a company has successfully recruited members of a particular nationality, how do they make sure that the corporate culture evolves to be welcoming and inclusive?

The answers to these questions are definitely not straightforward, and require a great deal of tact and sensitivity.

Our group feels that the most important prerequisite to any strategy of this type is a genuine, top-down commitment to diversity.  This entails much more than simply hiring employees of particular nationalities and trying to be inclusive by sponsoring “cultural events.”

We feel that a company should promote diversity by “promoting diversely.”  A company should ask themselves:

  • Is our management team ethnically and culturally diverse?
  • Is our executive team ethnically and culturally diverse?
  • Is our board ethnically and culturally diverse?
  • Does executive management value diversity both personally and professionally?
  • Does management go out of their way to recognize and celebrate the many cultural traditions represented within their company?

The key is genuine, top-down commitment.  If employees feel that their individual interests and traditions are genuinely respected and valued by management (starting at the top), a diverse corporate culture will grow organically from within.  This negates the need to “force” corporate culture.  Our group feels that any attempt to “force” a culture of inclusion will not produce results, but rather, be perceived as insincere and disingenuous.

Finding Qualified Candidates

A firm in the San Francisco Bay Area has a wealth of resources at their disposal to find highly qualified Latino Candidates:

  • Latino Clubs at Colleges and Universities– A great place for an employer to find highly qualified candidates are local universities.  A firm based in San Francisco could look at any of the highly ranked universities in the Bay Area:
    • UC Berkeley
    • Santa Clara University
    • San Jose State
    • Stanford
    • UC Davis

Most of the local universities in the San Francisco Bay Area have Latino clubs.  A firm could easily establish relationships with these organizations by sponsoring events.  For a small sponsorship, the firm could easily align themselves with Latino students at great universities.

  • Latino Professional Clubs– There are many national clubs focused on the advancement of Latinos in business.  Many of these organizations hold job fairs and recruitment events.  Examples of these organizations include:
    • League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) –
    • Latin Business Association (LBA) –
    • National Society of Hispanic MBAs (NSHMBA) –

Encouraging and Motivating Candidates

Our group feels that a company should encourage and motivate Latino employees in the same way as employees of other ethnic groups, including:

  • Compensation and Benefits – A company that provides competitive compensation and benefits will retain more employees.  This is true for Latinos, and employees of all nationalities.
  • Potential for Advancement – This is a key area for motivating employees.  A company that truly wants to create a diverse and inclusive environment needs to “put their money where their mouth is,” and create real opportunities for employees of all nationalities to advance.  The best way for a company to promote diversity is to “promote diversely.”
  • Public Relations – Our group felt that PR is a necessary, yet ancillary component of encouraging and motivating employees of different nationalities.  It is necessary because a company needs to let everyone know that they promote diversity, but ancillary because without a top down commitment from management to “promote diversely,” public relations can seem transparent and vacuous.

Retention Strategies

If a company has truly committed to diversity from the top down, retention is easy.  Management just needs to make the work environment inclusive, social and enjoyable for the entire workforce.  Examples of ways to do this include

  • Extracurriculars / Social Events to Foster Inclusion
  • Empowering Individuals to celebrate their diversity, with Management initially taking the lead to plan:
    • Multi-Cultural Clubs
    • Cultural Events highlighting the breadth of unique foods and traditions from around the world.


A culture of diversity and cultural inclusiveness is not something a company can hope to “fake” or “force.”  It has to be genuine, and it has to come from the top down.

If management is truly committed to diversity and inclusion, the modern global organization can be a place where people from all over the world can come together to work, have fun, and celebrate the remarkable qualities that make each one of us unique.


A Strategy for Eradicating Gender Discrimination and Leveraging Diversity

Five MBA students at the Graduate School of Management at UC Davis proposed the following strategy to eradicate potential gender discrimination and leverage Diversity in a global organization:

“We would first bring in a 3rd party company to conduct a survey and concurrently interview a large section of the workforce with special emphasis on women. We want to survey everyone and conduct 360 interviews to get a true understanding of the situation and to see where the issue originates and how wide spread it is. We are bringing in a 3rd party to give employees the security of both anonymous surveys and the “safe room”/individualized experience of speaking with an impartial team.”

We would then enact the following programs:

  • Mentor/Women leadership programs to not only build a career path for women, but to build an open line of communication with management (not all female employees, but enough that there should be an impact)
  • Look at management staff and see if women are represented.  If not, we need to look for some to promote or bring in.
  • Diversity Training for all employees. With the curriculums designed for particular audiences (i.e. managers, executives, subordinates, etc)
  • Training program/classes to empower employees to speak up and actively participate, so that not only are the managers ready to listen, but female employees are given the tools to make it happen
  • Hire staff (dependent on size of company) as an onsite advocate and to maintain the new policies
  • Introduce a woman friendly perk, though it shouldn’t be woman-centric (day care, flexible work schedule, tuition discounts, scholarships for children, adoption funding, on-site massages, gym membership discounts, etc.)
  • Periodic audits to ensure continued success
  • Periodic return of 3rd party surveys/interviews to act as on-going reminder
  • Internal and external Marketing campaign reinforcing the company’s dedication to diversity with particular focus on woman friendly environment

Names of the strategy authors are: Kevin Mendenhall, Alex Seal, Parry Pardun, Dylan Selvig and Jessa Reus

Cultural Transformation in Companies Today

It’s clear to me that companies today are struggling with several aspects to working successfully globally. First of all, let me just say that my focus is on people, not process, not technology (although they interact and intersect very closely). My cross cultural business and work in cultural agility and cultural transformation leads to changing the perspective, expectations, and approaches of people.

People struggle with the following issues in their work in teams or as individual contributors in organizations and this is culturally determined: 1) giving feedback in an appropriate, polite, calm, honest, manner 2) bridging the way we’ve done it before with what we need to do now to meet the new market demands (especially in the case of expansion) 3) remaining agile and communicative when the company grows and expands and employees are working not only all over the world, but often remotely. 4) engaged leadership, or leaders who worry about the business but not the people who are running the business.

How are we going to meet the demand of our diverse talent pool today? What can we do to further engage employees and how can we develop new models for business excellence?

Cultural Agility, Cultural Communication, and Cultural Transformation: The Keys to Expanding Globally

Listen to an interview on cultural agility, cultural transformation, and cultural communication, important aspects of doing business globally, on the radio show put out by The American Entrepreneur. Scroll down to listen to the MP3 file. Cut and paste this link:

German American Relations Expert

If you’d like to understand how cultural transformation happens, see this short article about my cross cultural living and working experiences in the US and Germany. The American Dream website shares blog articles on how to work and live in Germany and in the U.S. and interviewed me about my cross cultural journey navigating cultural differences in Germany. You’ll also get some tips about how to develop cultural agility generally and as a German Business Culture Expert, you’ll learn about how to work successfully with German culture in particular. Enjoy!

Cross Cultural Men vs. American Men

I got a call from a journalist who writes about men and how we as women, love them. She writes about the cross cultural differences between American men and European men, she also makes cultural commentary about how men approach relationships. Today, we have more contact to cultural diversity and it is socially acceptable to have relationships across cultures, race, gender, etc.

I answered her questions, stating that I believe men and women are like two different cultures – I mean we’re socialized differently, right? And cultural agility is the only way to make relationships between men and women (as well as other cultures) work. This is a global phenomenon that I’ve seen in my cross cultural consulting work.

For the article, 5 reasons to love an American man, click here:

Ireland: Cultural Agility, Cultural Transformation, Cultural Communication

Ireland was a wonderful cross cultural experience. I was specifically in Dublin. The people are charming, particularly the men over the age of 55. They were flirtatious – respectfully so – and full of wonderful stories, stopping periodically to call you “love”. I found the accent difficult at some points but quickly adjusted to “wahk” for “work” and funny expressions which didn’t sound like anything I’ve heard before.

I know now where Boston gets is culture! The pub culture is loud, communal, and boisterous. Not really my cup of tea but still fun to watch and observe. Speaking of tea, I drank a lot of it. It was cold and wet and I was chilled to the bone due to temperature and rain, so the tea helped. In fact for those three days I loved tea and didn’t really have a taste for my usual drink, coffee. Plus tea goes with buttered fruit scones… yum!

The Irish are culturally agile, open, fast, and flexible. I liked their ability to hustle for a euro. Their economy is suffering greatly now. They blame the banks but still maintain a good spirit and keep their sense of humor. The tour bus driver told us joke after joke, showing us the largest brewery in the world – Guinness – and where the crossword puzzle inventor was buried (three down and 5 up). The two main historical churches are Protestant but sell rosary beads in case you were interested. A funny cross cultural mix which most folks seem to accept.

They love the Americans, full of admiration and loyalty to us. In fact Barack Obama was there the week before visiting his cousin! They have a female President in Ireland, whom they adore. And her house is similar in architecture to our White House in DC. In fact it was an Irish architect who designed and built our White House!

Hats off to the Irish culture, I had fun and felt welcomed. Thank you, Ireland for a lovely treat!

Honesty vs. Politeness, A Cultural Predicament in Europe

Recently some interesting discussions have come up with my customers in Europe. They seem to be grappling with creating a culture of honestly while retaining their cultural value of politeness. The U.S. has long understood the code of political correctness, appropriate cultural behavior in the workplace, and softening messages in order to neutralize potentially hot subjects. Currently Europe is finding their own way of giving feedback directly, yet politely, working across cultural and gender diversity, and retaining a sense of chivalry while still hoping to make “harmless” blond jokes.

As I sat with my group yesterday, it dawned on me that because of the European tendency towards direct cross cultural communication, they may fore-go the truth all-together in order to avoid the risk of making a mistake. The situation was the following: The European Commission has expressed interest in giving more female researchers visibility in the field. My client has two women on the team and a male team lead asked his female colleague if she would consider presenting at the next EU Commission Council meeting. He complimented her work and told her it would be good for her career… However, she resisted, becoming suspicious of his motivation.

He asked me, “Can I tell her honestly the commission wants to see more women present research?” I found the question interesting. “What are you afraid of?”, I asked back. He said he didn’t want to make her feel “quota-tized”. The discussion ensued and eventually he was convinced that honesty was the best policy.