nurse vardare sjukskotare lakare sjukhus

29.09.2022 | Kommentarer

The challenges of working in a multicultural team

Author: Jency Simon, BSc nursing student, Novia UAS
Supervisor: Anita Wikberg, RN, RM, PhD, Senior Lecturer, Novia UAS


Every individual while working in a multicultural team faces many kinds of positive and negative challenges. The positive highlights could be growing as a person in a new culture, learning more and gaining knowledge as well as understanding different perspectives. However, the demerits could be being misunderstood by the group of people and the individual works with, communication problems, difficulty in planning and coming up to a common conclusion.

Understanding the depth of the problems such as cultural and language barrier can contribute to finding solutions while working in a multicultural team. It is important to have an understanding on prioritising the significance of communication while in a completely different culture.

The most common issue in working in a multicultural team is to navigate the efficacy of communication barriers and to overcome this problem. This could be overcome by engaging in cross cultural competence in a multicultural team.


An individual can undergo different experiences while working within a multicultural team and can gain ample knowledge. However, along with knowledge many consequences can also arise such as having different perspectives and values, different way of thinking and getting onto various conclusions, and understanding ethnic diversity. This can result in multiple obstacles while working in a multicultural team.

Communication is one of the most important components of a teamwork. It is a predominant factor to understand and to be understood by the other person, especially when an individual is working in a team. If an individual fails to communicate while working in a team it would be difficult to convey ideas verbally, which could have a negative effect in a multicultural work life, thus giving a clear indication on the importance of language in a workplace (Goutam,2013).

One of the significant ways to interact with group members in a multicultural team can be, by being interdependent. Interdependency can be defined as to work together as a team to achieve a goal. An individual is aware that the given team task could only be completed when everyone would be involved and thus each person must be dependent on each other to accomplish the required goal. An interactive collaboration is important in a team (Zhang & Kwan, 2019).

Importance of team interdependency and team behavioural assimilation

According to Zhang and Kwan team interdependency can give a positive impact on the behavioural integration. Behavioural integration basically means combination of different behaviours functioning together as a team instead of functioning differently. If a mutual trust between the team members would be developed, the duties will be carried out in an easier way in a multicultural team. This can encourage the work quality, sharing important information, resources, and decision-making in a group etc. This can also be referred as task interdependence (Zhang & Kwan, 2019).

Goal interdependence is another kind of way to interact with people in a multicultural team. An individual need to be dependent on another person in the group to achieve a particular motive or goal and hence elevated levels of collaborative behaviour which then can be developed. To achieve the goal, the group members could work on sharing their knowledge, different ideas and hence creating a more accepting and respectful environment at work (Zhang & Kwan, 2019).

Cross-Cultural communication

When a multicultural firm grows, often the common problem which is faced is cross cultural communication. To meet the needs of a team of cultural diversity, the ethnic differences, the conflicts, and the difficulties that happen in a cross-cultural group. While working in a multicultural environment, it is important that the colleagues an individual works with, should have high levels of cross-cultural competence, which can help in decision making and could lead to positive outcomes in a group (Congden, Matveev, & Desplaces, 2009)

Importance of communication in a multicultural team

Language has an important role in providing healthcare. To have a good nurse-patient relationship it is important to have good language skills which makes the patient comfortable. The patient law portrays that the patient has the right of receiving the care in his or her mother tongue, thus, this makes it clear how important language skills should be considered as. While working in Finland, if it is within a multicultural team, the ethnic difference is seen because, the employees working do have different perspectives on basic things for example hygiene (Korpela,2008).

Effects of language barrier

The language limitations significantly affect the quality of care provided by the healthcare workers in healthcare. When two individuals have a different language of communication, for example, a nurse and a patient speak different languages, this could give rise to many obstacles. The patient fails to experience good care that he or she deserves to have from the healthcare sector. Language barrier can create misunderstandings, conflicts and can lead to many more negative aspects (Al Shamsi, 2020).

Language barrier can be a problem for the healthcare sector by being unable to provide basic quality of care for the patients is one of the major downfalls faced by the healthcare sector. If both patient and nurse are unable to communicate with each other in a common language the quality of care becomes substandard and unsatisfactory. However, other factors have also been contributing indirectly to more unfavourable effects while providing care. The availability of interpreter during patient care is comparatively less common, thus, making it difficult for the patient to have received a good care from the management of the hospital. Although, online services for having a translator are free of cost and quicker and more economical for the patients for having a satisfied patient-centered care, here as well problems of connectivity to the internet and issues concerning privacy can be faced by the patients or poor internet facilities are being provided by the hospitals (Al Shamsi, 2020).


The interdependency and behavioural integration in a group could lead to a bond of togetherness and due to collaborative work, a multicultural team can prosper. Once everyone is interdependent, when every individual knows that the work cannot be completed if one person does not take part in the group work, the team members would be more cooperative thus leading to a positive environment with less conflicts.

Communication, on the other hand, plays a crucial role in a multicultural team. Communication makes it easier for the team members to understand different ideas, and perspectives. If a language barrier arises in any sector in a multicultural group, it can amount to a huge setback for the working sector. Individuals could be easily misunderstood, more conflicts can be raised, hence, it is important to have one common language for communication which is understandable by every person in a group. This could deliver a better amount of result within a multicultural group.



  • Al Shamsi H, Almutairi AG, Al Mashrafi S, Al Kalbani T. Implications of Language Barriers for Healthcare: A Systematic Review. Oman Med J. 2020 April 30;35(2):e122. doi: 10.5001/omj.2020.40. PMID: 32411417; PMCID: PMC7201401.
  • Congden, S. V., Matveev, A. V., & Desplaces, D, E. (2009). Cross-cultural communication and multicultural team performance: A German and American comparison. Journal of comparative international management. Vol12, 73-79. Available from:
  • Korpela, S. (2008), Finnish healthcare goes multicultural, available from: (retrieved 3.9.2022)
  • Zhang, X., Kwan, H.K. Team behavioural integration links team interdependence with team performance: an empirical investigation in R&D teams. Front. Bus. Res. China 13, 7 (2019).