Cultural Mistakes To Avoid

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cross-cultural mistakes to avoid

Cultural Mistakes To Avoid

You’re working on a team where there are multiple people from different cultures converging in one place. Mistakes and miscommunication can happen. According to a recent study, inclusive company cultures lead to higher work engagement. 

As a leader, you need to help your team avoid making any cultural mistakes. The more prepared you can be, the more seamlessly your team can work together.

Below are things to consider to prevent those awkward mistakes from happening in a cross-cultural environment.

1. Don’t Make Assumptions

Make sure you consider different cultural influences and how and where everyone is coming from. Doing so will help you and your team work together more productively.

Consider the following:

  • Time Zones – You are working with a team from around the world, which means many of you will be in different time zones. It would help if you kept in mind the various time zones your team is located in and not create unrealistic expectations by assuming everyone can meet. For example, if you schedule a meeting at 4 pm your time, this may be 3 am for someone else. Do not assume they can make it to the meeting. Instead, explain how you will accommodate the people who can’t make it by either recording the meeting or scheduling another time when it is more convenient for them.
  • Communications – You don’t want to make assumptions, especially regarding your communications. This is why you need to ensure everyone understands your message the way you intended. You can do this by scheduling regular check-ins with your team to ensure everyone is on the same page.


Making assumptions is when a lot of mistakes happen. Be sure you are taking the time to consider where everyone on your team is coming from before you jump to conclusions.


2. Avoid Slang Words

When you are communicating with your team, you want to try to avoid using slang words. This is because other people might not understand what it means, which can cause miscommunication.

Consider the following:

  • Double Meanings – Many words have double meanings. However, people from different cultures may not understand the other meaning, making it much more difficult for them to follow a conversation. For example, if you said, “The new website is on fire!” People may think it is literally up in flames and a disaster. When really, you meant it was really great. Double meanings can cause a lot of confusion and miscommunications. Avoid using them if you can. cultural mistakes to avoid
  • Pop Culture References – Working with people from other cultures means they may not understand specific pop culture references. For example, if you referenced Friday Night Lights, most people probably wouldn’t know the show. However, more people would probably know the show Friends since it was syndicated worldwide. Even though a show or pop culture reference may seem universal to you, it may not be to others. It is best to avoid making these types of references.


3. Allocate Time For Meetings

You want to ensure you allocate enough time for meetings to happen. This is especially true if you have people from different cultures attending. This is because some people may speak English, but it may not be their first language. 

Consider the following:

  • Time To Speak – Allocating enough time to ensure everyone has a voice is very important. For example, when leading a meeting, you may want to set aside time throughout the meeting for people to respond. You can have people write their questions or thoughts in the chat function and go through the messages during or at the end of the meeting. Making sure everyone can speak up will help you avoid miscommunication. cultural mistakes to avoid
  • Translator – You may also want to bring a translator for your meetings. This can be very valuable if you know people who may prefer not to speak English. Bringing in a translator ensures everyone is on the same page and feels comfortable.

When you allocate time for meetings, you allow people to process the meeting in their native tongue first, translate it in their minds, and then communicate it in the meeting.

Think about these things and how you can implement them in your next global team meeting.


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