Overcoming Cultural Barriers – Meaning and Causes

Workplace training

Culturally diverse teams outperform culturally homogeneous ones in creativity and innovation if the team works well together, which is often the most difficult aspect. When various methods of approach are misunderstood, misread, or not accepted, cultural differences can create barriers between team members. This article explains the meaning of cultural barriers, their causes, how they impact communication at the workplace, and some of the most practical tips to overcome those barriers.


Did you know that culturally diverse teams outperform culturally homogeneous ones in terms of creativity and innovation?

This is due to the fact that people from various cultural groups have different approaches to issues and problems. Distinct cultures have different ways of thinking about and reacting to the same problems. They complete the task in a variety of ways.

A culturally diverse team enhances their skills and knowledge pool and has the ability to think in more abstract terms and create answers on several levels by merging those distinct methods and mindsets.

Of course, this only works if the team works well together, which is often the most difficult aspect. When various methods of approach are misunderstood, misread, or not accepted, cultural differences can create barriers between team members.

Meaning of Cultural Barriers

Diverse modes of communication and disparities in communication style can produce variety across civilisations. People from diverse cultures and historical periods communicate in different ways and think in different ways. When communication takes place between two people from different cultural backgrounds, there is a cultural barrier.

Causes of Cultural Barriers


Verbal communication takes numerous forms, from national languages to regional dialects to cultural colloquialisms. When workers speak different native languages, cultural barriers might arise. They may struggle to express precise concepts or pick up on the complexities of verbal signals and idioms.

Even when people speak the same native language, tiny variances in our speech and expression might lead to misunderstandings.

Signs and Symbols

Nonverbal communication, such as signs and symbols, varies by culture and cannot be depended upon in conversation. In Bangladesh, for example, the “thumbs up,” a sign of favour in the Western world, is regarded as an insult.

While not as easily misinterpreted in a team setting as the other elements, it can nevertheless lead to cultural misjudgments that take effort to rectify and should have been prevented in the first place.

“Us” versus “Them” (Ethnocentrism)

This us-versus-them mentality is deeply embedded in our psyche, and it may lead to feelings of alienation when someone acts in a way we don’t understand or anticipate — if they don’t fit in.

The more another person’s culture, conduct, language, and beliefs differ from it, the more “other” they are called. This has an impact on the message’s comprehension and develops hatred.

Stereotypes and Prejudices

Stereotypes are preconceived assumptions or unfavourable perceptions about a given community, group, or culture. Stereotyping can be based on various factors, the most prevalent of which are nationality, gender, ethnicity, religion, or age.

This fosters prejudice among people of different cultures and judgmental attitudes against one another. Based on preconceived notions, people regard other cultures as “wrong,” “challenging to work with,” or “incomprehensible,” and approach them with disdain and disrespect. Working together effectively with individuals who dislike and disdain one another may become exceedingly challenging if things reach this far on a team or corporation.

Behaviours and Beliefs

Body language, gestures, attitudes, communication, etiquette, and standards are examples of behavioural and psychological variations that can contribute to misunderstanding. In certain cultures, for example, eye contact is essential, whereas, in others, it is considered unpleasant and insulting.

Conflict and cross-cultural obstacles can arise due to people’s differing religious or spiritual views.

How Cultural Barriers Can Affect Communication

The easiest way to minimise communication failures is to take a proactive approach to overcome cultural boundaries. You may create teams that benefit from diversity by fostering excellent practices in the workplace.

Before we talk about how to deal with them, let’s look at how some potential cultural barriers can affect communication in a workplace.

●       Lack of trust: When cultural obstacles prohibit employees from performing their tasks effectively, others may doubt their ability. As team members struggle to work together, trust erodes, and development is hampered.

●       Stagnation: Stagnation occurs when leaders attempt to overcome cultural obstacles by suffocating variety. They may design policies that restrict change and new ideas while building a multicultural workforce. Communication slows down in this setting, and employees don’t feel secure expressing thoughts contradicting the current quo.

How to Overcome Cultural Barriers

Cultural differences should not hinder you from employing or working with people from diverse backgrounds. On the other hand, diversification has been found to improve your bottom line! However, to embrace cultural diversity, you’ll need to know how to bridge gaps and bring your team together.

Begin by learning about the cultural obstacles that exist on your team. Some may be obvious right away, while others will necessitate seeking input. Inquire about your team’s preferred work and management methods.

Remember that a great manager’s ability to implement a single management style uniformly throughout a team is not a measure of greatness. It’s their capacity to adjust to the specific demands of each team member. Most of your employees will respond positively if you display a desire to learn about and adapt to cultural differences.

Once you’ve recognised the cultural barriers, you can tackle them by the following:

●       Accommodate variations in culture and embrace diversity – As a global leader, you must convince your team members and employees that culturally varied teams, as opposed to homogeneous groupings, deliver more imaginative and creative solutions. You want a group to operate effectively together despite their differences, not because of them. Determine if you can accommodate the cultural difference in a reasonable manner. Sometimes a simple adjustment is all it takes, such as adjusting how you thank someone for a job well done or giving more positive comments.

●       Determine how these distinctions relate to the work –  If someone requests a reasonable adjustment that does not jeopardise their ability to complete their task, you should offer it without hesitation. If cultural differences hamper a person’s ability to do their task, you’ll need to help them modify their workflow.

●       Learn about the most prevalent cultural differences – Is your team composed of people of varying age groups? Look into management approaches for each age group and see how you may mix and match styles to suit various personalities. Is your workforce dispersed over the globe? Learn about the region’s core cultural standards, such as customary signals of respect and suitable ways to approach one another. A fast Google search may teach you a lot, and your entire team and organisation will benefit from your efforts.

●       Bring the team together around the same goal or vision – Bringing people together over the same goal or cause may be a great way to bring the team together and have everyone pulling in the same direction.


A single organisation cannot accommodate individual preferences. Meeting cultural diversity in the workplace with respect and action, on the other hand, will allow each team member to perform to their full potential.

Working with people from various backgrounds and life experiences is crucial for us, both in and out of a job. Workplace training programmes might be a suitable way to approach cultural diversity in a workplace.

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