Managing Cultural Differences

Although post Covid there had been a shift in how mobile people are globally, countries are maybe looking a bit more inward, and the global workforce has become a little more national. Even a whole country leaving a continent not too long ago has made the workforces in our countries a little more homogenous. However there are hubs where people of all walks of life, cultures, ideas and traits are still coming together and working together. Your Dubai’s, Singapores, Shanghai’s and many other hubs, so what do you do if you’ve been offered a job in one of these places? And need to adapt to managing 25 different nationalities as a cohesive team? The following is my experience of being thrown in at the deep end and discovering the plus’ and minus’ of these escapades.

Why do we need to manage cultural difference?

The reality is the world is becoming more and more diverse, as brain drain occurs in some countries it’s usually filled by expats plugging the gap. It could even be whole countries introducing a whole new business ecosystem, we only have to take a look at what Saudi is doing with its Vision 2030 and thousands of expats going in and setting it up. To the UAE where 93% of all jobs are taken by expats from all over the globe. To the currents labour shortages in Australia and New Zealand with many expats headed over there to plug the gaps.

The other fact of the matter is diverse teams around the world perform better than more homogenous teams. Makes sense when you have 20 different ways of tackling a problem, 20 different view points and experiences from different places, or 20 ingenious ideas compared to a collective 1. This does sound all pie in the sky, however there is research to back up the claims.

So what are the differences we need to look at when managing different cultures?

Power Distance

Differences in work styles are probably the most significant challenge most club managers face.

Culture often defines the work style of an individual. This affects their approach to decision-making (does the team make decisions collectively or differ to the team lead?) and authority (how much deference and respect individuals pay to status). 

For example, in Asia the company structure is much more hierarchal. You would never dream of popping into the boss’ office for a quick chat about something, whereas in the UK that is the norm. So this brings up the issues I have dealt with here in Asia, nobody told me any bad news whatsoever until I had to dig it out or worse find out when it’s far too late. In other instances the power distance can also be detrimental, people perceived as beneath you in the pecking order never suggesting good ideas to the “boss” as this would seem a slight on the boss’ knowledge! These are just some cultural differences I have had to manage and explicitly telling your employees they can pop in to my office at any time was a big help. With regard to great ideas, we opened an anonymous email login and any employee could fire me ideas and I wouldn’t know who it was.

In essence, high power cultures across the globe have much more regard to hierarchy and top down decision making (think China, Japan) whereas low power cultures are much flatter with cross departmental decision making or challenging authority taking place (think UK or Germany).  There is a brilliant website I used to know which people from which countries are high power and low power countries here (Hofstede Insights (

How do you go about it in a club setting, what we did!

When working with people from diverse countries and cultures one of the key features that helped us, was making one of our values about “Celebrate Difference” between us. It was pinched from a famous global hotel chain but it allowed us to be open about the fact we’re all different. This was then recognized and rewarded when staff showed one of these values.

The other key was to try and make everybody feel included, so in the staff canteen when it was one of the countries national days the chef would cook that food for the day. Including a company wide email so everybody knew which national day it was and who on our staff was from that country, simple really but monumental for the staff from that country or culture.

The reality is, the more your staff are aware of cultural differences themselves the better and more aware they will be of your customers differences in culture. Which can only help when your customer facing staff are working in these hubs, be it at a hotel, golf club or leisure facility.  

The above are snippets from what can be done and are by no means a law but little steps like this help. The most eye opening one for me was using the Hofestedes principles from earlier on to use when dealing with different nationalities and cultures.  So if you’re ever posted in one of these hubs and have to manage cross culturally there are thousands of research papers and books out there to help, some work, some help and some are downright ridiculous!

Article contributed by Andrew Laird, Director of Golf at Shanghai Sheshan International Golf Club