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Cultural Mashup Magic: How leadership nurtures cultural harmony

Why is the idea of 'mashing up' so exciting?

This morning I was checking Facebook and came across a post about an “Indian Tapas” restaurant. 

The idea of mashing up Indian food and Spanish finger foods sounds exciting. People crave new food experiences, particularly something new that still has some familiar elements; for instance, you can try ramen burgers and hot dog pizzas!

Speaking of pizza, it is a controversial topic to say whether you like pineapples on pizza. If two people come to you and ask for a fair judgement on who is right and who is wrong, what would you do

(Resource: pizza hut)

How are leaders expected to respond when cultural conflicts happen without cultural bias or offending an employee? 

Cultural understanding and cultural relativism

Cultural relativism is the ability to understand a culture on its own terms and not to make judgements using cultural bias as a result of one’s own cultural beliefs. In a nutshell, it’s an awareness that no one’s culture is superior to another and that there’s no right or wrong. To achieve this judgement-free ethical system, we need to make sure we have a good understanding and knowledge about culture.

A example of this comes from my personal experience, where in my first month in Australia when I made friends with a French person. Being born and raised in China where people normally shake hands or nod to greet, I felt overwhelmed by the hugs and cheek kisses common to French greetings. I responded with a stiff hug. Instead of running away or ignoring me, she sensed my discomfort and asked if I was okay? I had a chance to explain hugs and cheek kisses are considered too ‘intimate’ for friends in my culture. This became a turning point where we both realised the ‘cultural gap’ which could be soured what has turned out to be a wonderful friendship.

Inclusive leadership needs leaders to have knowledge and an open mind

Good leaders tell and manage; Great leaders help and inspire.

Great leadership in a multicultural workplace requires leaders to understand employees’ cultures and find a way to help them work together better.

Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions framework is widely recognized as one of the most influential models in the field of cross-cultural management and international business. It provides a useful framework for understanding and comparing cultural differences between countries. Business leaders around the world use this framework to understand how culture influences behaviour and communication by analysing a society’s scores on Hofstede’s dimensions, leaders tailor their communication and management styles to better resonate with and motivate their team members.

(Table1: Cultural dimension scores comparison among Australia, Brazil and Japan)

  • Individualism VS. Collectivism: This dimension deals with the degree to which individuals are integrated into groups in a society. In individualistic cultures, individuals are more independent and value personal goals over group goals. In collectivist cultures, individuals are more interdependent and prioritize group goals over personal goals. Understanding this dimension can help to address issues such as teamwork, communication, and motivation in the workplace.


  • Power distance: This dimension reflects the extent to which a society accepts unequal distribution of power. In cultures with high power distance, there is a strong acceptance of hierarchy and a belief that authority should not be questioned. In cultures with low power distance, there is a more equal distribution of power and less acceptance of hierarchical structures. This dimension can impact communication, decision-making, and leadership styles in the workplace. For example, a 


  • Masculinity VS. Femininity: This dimension deals with the degree to which gender roles are differentiated in a society. In masculine cultures, there is a strong emphasis on competition, achievement, and assertiveness; while in feminine cultures there is a greater emphasis on cooperation, quality of life, and caring for others. Understanding this dimension can help to address issues such as workplace dynamics, motivation, and leadership styles.


  • Uncertainty Avoidance: This dimension reflects the extent to which a society is comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty. In cultures with high uncertainty avoidance, there is a strong need for structure, stability, and rules; while in cultures with low uncertainty avoidance, there is more tolerance for ambiguity and change. This dimension can impact risk-taking, innovation, and decision-making in the workplace.

Bond people in a diverse work environment

The University of Adelaide conducted research on the attraction and retention of the aged care workforce and found that even though many Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CaLD) workers felt that they’ve brought valuable language and cultural skills to their aged care role, actively enhancing the quality of care provided to clients. Some CaLD workers reported that they had encountered issues in the workplace relating to their English language competency and understanding of the Australian culture.

CaLD workers shared their experience of racial discrimination from management and other staff such as inappropriate comments relating to their skin colour, language, or migrant status. In addition, several workers reported perceptions that they were not respected by their co-workers.

Forbes Human Resources Council shared some tips on how leaders can encourage interactions and bonding between employees from different cultural backgrounds. 

  1. Ensure each team member’s culture and language are respected: “Create a culture of transparency and candour. Build time for teams to talk about how they resolve conflict, how they disagree and how they can offer different perspectives. Ensure each team member’s culture is respected. Communication should be tailored to everyone’s needs, not just those of native English speakers”.
  2. Set guidelines for email communication or other forms of internal communication: Keep the language simple and concise. Avoid acronyms, but if you must use them, explain the meaning. By setting guidelines like this, you ensure people will embrace and not fear connecting with one another!
  3. Provide diversity training to all employees: If your company decides to expand your team, provide diversity training to all employees to help them understand cultural differences and how to interact with others from different cultures and backgrounds. Are you looking for one? Check this out

Miscommunication? or Discrimination?

Leadership plays a crucial role in shaping cultural harmony in the workplace by setting the tone for how employees interact with one another. Great leaders prioritise creating a culture of inclusivity and respect for diverse perspectives, which helps to foster an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their unique identities and ideas. This can lead to greater collaboration, creativity, innovation, and satisfaction, as well as a more positive work environment where people are willing to stay and grow.


Consider your employee’s cultures and traditions as unique flavours or ingredients, they can be great on their own but may complement and be even greater when blended with other employees. Inclusive leaders are the chefs in the kitchen, fusing these traits into the missing piece of the recipe that will allow your business to highlight stand-out qualities distinctive to you.

You might be interested...


Work culture described by Hofstede’s method, September 1 2021, Qpage

Attraction, retention and utilisation of the Aged Care Workforce, the University of  Adelaide future of employment and skills research centre, April 19 2018.

12 practical ways to ensure effective communication among multicultural team members, Forbes Human Resources Council, January 21 2021.