3 Common Causes of Cross Cultural Conflict in the Workplace

May 28, 2021by Vanessa Rose

Everyone deserves to feel safe and included in their workplace. In addition to the legal parameters established to ensure this, employers and leaders are also responsible for effectively addressing and preventing cross cultural conflict in the workplace. When people don’t feel safe at work, their work suffers because they’re suffering. Employee turnover may rise, morale may fall, and the organization may find itself needing to re-evaluate the values from which it operates.

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Cross Cultural Conflict in the Workplace

In addition to being bad for morale and company values, chronic conflict that can arise from a lack of cultural competency can be costly to your organization, can have negative impacts on customer experience, may reduce the talent available to recruit, and may overall give your company a bad name. Here are some common causes of cross cultural conflict in the workplace and how you can work with your team to avoid them.

Limited Lens

Many times when we encounter people from different backgrounds, we prioritize our own perspective and see them as “other,” “less than,” or perhaps even “wrong.” This creates a barrier to curiosity, diversity of ideas, and creates a power dynamic which is unsubstantiated and can create a dangerous environment for those outside of it. By allowing space for other “right ideas,” even if they are new, diversity can become a point of collaboration rather than a point of tension. Fostering these ways of thinking is another method of resolving conflict at work as a manager.


A limited lens can create more than just judgments. When learning how to resolve cross cultural conflict in the workplace, it can be helpful to complete your own personal reflections on the topic. By noticing assumptions, biases, or emotional reactions you may have to people from different backgrounds, ideologies, and cultures, you are better equipped to withhold any action or behavior based on those assumptions. The assumptions you have about another person may likely be similar to the assumptions your employees may start to have about each other, which can impede effective communication and can create competing realities in which conflict becomes ripe.

Exclusive Workplace Culture

Employee relations is an important aspect of any organization where people have to work together. It is critical to ensure your workplace operates within a framework that prioritizes inclusivity and has effective policies to ensure any discrimination or harassment is swiftly handled without retaliation. Diversity and inclusion training can be an effective way to get your team on the same page, respect differences, and celebrate diversity of ideas and backgrounds. It can also arm your team with issue resolution strategies that can be applied to all types of conflict.

Cross cultural conflict in the workplace can create a myriad of long-term challenges to your organization that are not worth their cost. Get ahead of these issues with the help of neutral and experienced professionals who can teach you effective strategies for minimizing impact. Contact Pollack Peacebuilding Systems today to get the right solutions for your organization.

Vanessa Rose

Vanessa is a licensed psychotherapist and writer living in Los Angeles. When not on a mission for inner peace and conflict resolution, she enjoys making art, visiting the beach, and taking dog portraits. Always curious about self-improvement and emotional expansion, Vanessa also manages her own website which explores the unconscious and archetypal influences on how we eat, express, and relate.

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