Culture in Project Management


Due to the ongoing globalization of business, international expansion of different companies, and the emergence of culturally diverse environments, project managers face challenges that have not existed before. Some of these issues can have a significant adverse effect on the performance of the team, and so they should be minimized. As such, the discipline of cross-cultural management has emerged to address the various difficulties associated with expatriate assignments and diverse teams. It is a relatively young area of research, but studies have yielded significant results that have been incorporated into the teachings of many business schools. The dissertation has identified five different aspects and the solutions that are currently considered the most effective in addition to suggesting future research directions.


This chapter will elaborate on the importance of culture in project management in all of its aspects. The research will investigate various practices and situations that involve cultural considerations. This introductory chapter will define the background, problem, gap, aim, scope, and justification of the study.

Background of the Study

Business is currently becoming increasingly globalized, with companies expanding their operations internationally and engaging in partnerships with foreign organizations. Firms outsource projects, send expatriates to establish foreign branches, and create international virtual specialist teams using communications technology. Even within one country, increasing immigration and diversity creates an environment where vastly different people work together. As such, interactions between people of varying cultures are becoming more frequent. Therefore, it is essential to understand whether such considerations change the outcomes of projects and how interference happens. If any noteworthy concerns are discovered, project managers should learn how to address these concerns to maximize performance.

Research Problem and Questions

Culture is well known as a determinant of interactions between people, as evidenced by the common practice of studying national business etiquette. Many firms employ practices that try to address the differences with their international partners. Nevertheless, research on the matter is disorganized, and so organizations struggle to take advantage of the findings. As such, this study aims to answer the following questions by reviewing contemporary research:

  1. What are the current most discussed issues in the cultural project management field?
  2. How do these issues affect the everyday operations of companies and project managers, specifically?
  3. What methods are considered effective at addressing these concerns and how may they be adapted for specific situations?

Research Gap and Problem Statement

Most companies are aware of cultural differences and their potential effects on the performance of international projects. However, issues of expatriate adjustment and diverse work environments remain inadequately explored. Specifically, there are no popular and well-defined approaches to the task of maximizing performance in such environments, even if some local initiatives may succeed. This study aims to organize findings of various multicultural environments, highlight the prominent issues and offer practical solutions. It intends to provide managers with knowledge on the issues they should expect to encounter and information on why specific methods will or will not work.

Research Aims and Objectives

The research aims to create an overview of cultural project management by examining a sample of papers written on the topic. Its primary objective is to explain why cultural project management is distinct from the general paradigm of the discipline and why the difference is relevant. As such, the following objectives can be set:

  1. Identify some of the relevant issues in project management that revolve around culture and cannot be addressed using traditional methods.
  2. Discuss the solutions that have been proposed by scholars and the competencies necessary for their implementation.

Scope and Limitations

The review will utilize a sample of papers published in scholarly journals and conference proceedings between 2014 and 2019. The specific articles will be selected based on their relevance to specific issues that will be discussed in the dissertation. However, some limitations will affect the breadth and depth of the investigation:

  1. Due to time constraints, it is only possible to analyze a limited number of papers. Overall, the study will cover at least 100 articles, but this number only represents a small portion of the field.
  2. Not all sources that concern project management is easily accessible, whether due to financial constraints or a general lack of availability. As such, only papers that are readily available from the databases used for the search will be reviewed.

Justification of Research

While project managers are aware of the cultural implications of modern business, they struggle to understand the full scope of the issue until they encounter it. However, by that point, it is often too late, and they have to deal with reduced performance or outright failure. While they may succeed in some aspects, they will fall behind in others due to the complexity of the issue. This study aims to create a framework they can use to identify issues in a timely fashion and respond to them using the best available methods.


The review collected articles from databases such as JSTOR, Google Scholar, and ScienceDirect. The primary keywords used in the search were ‘culture,’ ‘project management,’ and ‘cross-cultural.’ Specific other search terms, such as ‘communication,’ ‘expatriate’ and ‘conflict management’ were used to find papers on specific topics. Articles that surfaced as a result of the search were then manually screened for their applicability to the topic at hand and rejected if they did not concern the subject of the dissertation. The process continued until a sufficient number of relevant papers that discussed different aspects of an issue were collected.

The search consisted of two stages: initial data gathering and specific information search. The first step created the basic framework of the issues that would be discussed in the paper. Works that described the current state of cultural project management were collected and analyzed. Once a set of specific problems that would be discussed in the dissertation surfaced, the search proceeded to the next stage. In it, data was collected on the various aspects and implications of each of the issues. As a result, it became possible to create an overview of the current issues that was both broad and deep, identifying various concerns and discussing them in detail.

Literature Review

The initial selection produced a selection of primary issues related to culture in project management. Jenifer and Raman (2015) discuss how cultural differences create communication barriers in the workplace, which stem from misunderstandings, mismatched norms, and values, stereotyping, and ethnocentric behaviors. Pham and Panuwatnawich (2016) discuss how foreign managers can employ styles that do not maximize the performance of their employees due to their preference for specific characteristics. Mikhieieva and Waidmann (2017) identify risks that arise in intercultural environments, particularly stakeholder identification and management. Ihtiyar (2017) identifies a variety of reasons why people who work on a project can engage in intercultural conflicts. Lastly, Kumari and Nirban (2017) identify the need for capacity in fostering intercultural communication in a modern manager. All of these issues are prevalent in current projects that involve cooperation between different ethnicities and nationalities.

Larger-scale issues can arise when a company participates in an international project or opens a branch in another country. According to Wang and Kwan (2017), Eastern cultures tend to prefer leadership styles that are not common in Western countries, such as paternalistic leadership. Their benefits are still under debate, as Top, Öge, Atan, and Gümüş (2015) note, but in any case, it may be beneficial to use an approach that works for employees locally instead of forcing them to use approaches derived from European and American cultures. With regards to stakeholder-related risks, Bencikova, Mala, and Dado (2018) note that intercultural competence is essential to customer satisfaction. According to Ihtiyar and Ahmad (2015), the characteristic strongly affects the company’s service quality. As such, investigations into leadership styles and risk management are relevant and beneficial to companies.

The environment within a company and its relations with partners also contribute heavily to the success of each project it undertakes. Petrenko and Stolyarov (2019) note that companies from different countries can have significantly different cultures and use varying management styles, complicating cooperation. Stretton (2015) identifies situations where people from similar cultures struggle to resolve conflicts because of differences in values and misunderstandings. According to Al Wekhian (2015a), workers from other cultures may not adopt the values of their new location, especially if they are first-generation immigrants. Padhi (2016) highlights the importance of intercultural communication in modern business due to the advancement of technology. Kobayashi (2019) discusses how traits that are seen as essential in American businesspeople are viewed as detrimental by their Japanese partners, forcing concessions and adaptation. Ultimately, the cultural management paradigm arose in response to the global emergence of issues such as these and aimed to address and resolve them.

A company cannot change the global environment and convince people to adhere to cultural norms that are different from their usual ones. As such, it has to adapt to the countries it enters and introduce acceptably small changes while respecting the culture and understanding it. Bird and Mendenhall (2016) introduce and discuss the concept of global leadership as an evolution of cross-cultural management. Mittal (2015) suggests the use of charismatic and transformational leadership styles for cultures with specific attributes. Pham and Panuwatwanich (2016) provide an example of an adaptation of one cultural style to another. With regards to risk, Liu, Meng, and Fellows (2015) propose the use of Hofstede’s theory to evaluate dangers based on the country’s culture. Straka (2017) notes that companies should identify stakeholders correctly, accept their identity and adapt to it. Other details will be discussed in detail, later on in this paper.

Cultural management has created significant changes in the internal workings of companies throughout the world. Kiznyte, Ciutiene, and Dechange (2015) introduce the concept of cultural intelligence, the ability to work well in culturally diverse environments. Stahl et al. (2017) discuss the use of cross-cultural management to take advantage of cultural differences in the workplace and achieve success. San Cristóbal (2015) proposes the use of game theory to resolve conflicts between people who may belong to different cultures and live in various locations. Maranga and Sampayo (2015) note that cohesion is essential to a high-performing organization, and one person’s capabilities are not sufficient to address the matter of intercultural conflict, necessitating the cooperation of facilitators and controllers. Overall, the research into cultural project management is still ongoing, with many areas remaining insufficiently explored and new proposals arising continuously.

Primary Factors

Cultural Differences

A person’s culture can affect a wide variety of aspects in his or her workplace performance, ranging from small details to large-scale paradigms. Robbins and Burleson (2015) suggest that there may be cultural differences in consideration for future consequences, which is crucial in business, between people. Some employees will act impulsively while others will consider their actions carefully, and managers should be aware of their subordinates’ tendencies before assigning tasks that require decision-making. Furthermore, Gom et al. (2015) state that employees that come from different cultures will sometimes have different value priorities that will affect their work behaviors and performance. A manager who is used to one set of traits in workers and fails to recognize that some of his or her employees do not share these characteristics may miss valuable feedback or misunderstand team dynamics.

Some cultural traits can lead to significant harm if a manager does not consider them and adjust his or her behavior and expectations accordingly. Al Saifi (2016) discusses how the desire to save face and individualistic or collectivistic tendencies can negatively influence a worker’s willingness to share information. Some people prefer to keep to small groups and discuss matters with them, while others will share all information freely, and a manager should be aware of the possibility that some team members may withhold crucial information. Trobez et al. (2017) also note that various countries approach ethics differently, highlighting the importance of bribery in Italy and the tendency of Croatians to be deceptive as examples. The successes of various projects and businesses in these countries show that the differences are not severe enough to impede operations heavily, but project managers should research their work environment to be safe.

When working in a new country, a manager should learn about his or her subordinates, but this focus does not mean that he or she can neglect his or her performance. Kathirvel and Febiula (2016) discuss the phenomenon of culture shock, meaning difficulties in adjusting to new and unfamiliar countries, and its tendency to inflict considerable stress on the person. The effect can express itself in reduced work performance, whether temporarily or permanently, which can cause significant damage to the project in both the short and long term. Naeem, Nadeem, and Khan (2015) note that the adverse effects of culture shock usually follow a stage of positivity and optimism when the person experiences the positive aspects of another culture. As such, detection and prevention may be challenging, especially since the expatriate manager usually will not have a suitable person nearby to observe his or her mental state.

It should be noted that cultures are not static and can change over time, so the knowledge regarding specific cultural characteristics requires continuous investigations and updates. Schmidt and Uecker (2015) claim that while American and Russian business ethics used to be considerably different about favoritism, data manipulation, and adherence to the law, they are now more similar. Russia underwent considerable change over the last few decades, and the new beliefs may be seen as a result of stabilization after a significant cultural shift. As such, significant changes in the condition of a cultural group can influence the perceptions and values of that community, and managers should monitor the situation to discover potential trends and adapt to them. However, large-scale change usually takes a long time to occur, and the discovery of shifting trends should not be beyond the capabilities of researchers.

Cultural Management Methods

Business practices in many cultures usually evolve from interactions that occurred in the community in the past, and as such, many countries will have significantly different management approaches. For example, Al-Alawi and Alkhodari (2016) note that Germans prefer rigid hierarchy in business while Canadians are individualists who prefer direct communication, and Koreans favor punctuality while Moroccans are often late. Such knowledge is essential for a manager who leads a multicultural team or works as an expatriate to establish positive and effective communication. Obeidat et al. (2016) discuss the influence of culture on human resource management, noting that masculinity, uncertainty avoidance, long-term orientation, and individualism are responsible for significant differences between countries. The same proposition may be right for other aspects of management, and expatriates should be aware that their subordinates may have specific expectations of the leader.

Due to these expectations, no single management and leadership style will be appropriate for every situation, and managers should learn to adapt. According to Top et al. (2015), Eastern workers respond well to the paternalistic approach, which involves strict discipline and strong leader authority alongside benevolence and morality, and the servant leadership style is emerging as an alternative to the traditional transformational style. As such, it may be better to adopt the paternalistic style when working in China instead of risking failure with the use of a style that is more familiar to the manager than to the employees. Mensah and Qi (2016) offer a comprehensive overview of leadership style preferences by country, though the study does not cover some culture-specific approaches, such as paternalistic leadership. Of the nine styles identified, all are relevant in some locations, and a manager would benefit from knowing and being able to implement them.

The situation becomes more complicated once a firm enters a transitional economy, one where traditional management styles are phasing out of existence, but new ones are not yet sufficiently established to define the culture. Validova and Pulaj (2016) describe how Russian and Albanian managers tend to gravitate towards authoritarian styles established in the Soviet Union, though the younger generation tries to adopt the transformational style. The determination of which approach would be more effective at managing employees is a challenging task, and the authors do not provide a conclusive answer. With that said, Zubanov et al. (2017) note that Anglo-Saxon management patterns can be applied in Serbia, which also tends towards an authoritative management style, but required significant and careful alteration. As such, project managers should investigate the culture of the location that they plan to enter and develop a procedure for style adjustment.

It should be noted that adaptation to other cultures may not always be the optimal decision, and in some cases, the manager should take a more aggressive approach. Yam et al. (2017) discuss how transformational leadership is essential to promoting safety and reducing accidents in Malaysia, even if the country’s culture may not favor the use of the style for general business. Not all economies are sufficiently advanced to have developed optimal approaches to all aspects of business in the context of local culture, and the manager should continuously investigate the situation for potential improvements. Garg (2018) states that “certain leadership styles and practices transcend international boundaries” (p. 35), even if specific leadership decisions usually depend on the situation. The ability to distinguish when either of the approaches is applicable is an essential competency for an interculturally capable project manager.

Associated Risks

Companies will often decide to begin working on a project in another country and begin making assumptions about the local culture that may not necessarily be true. In other circumstances, a company may have foreign stakeholders, who propose projects that appear profitable and sustainable on paper. However, Binder and Varga (2015) discuss situations where such initiatives are less viable than expected due to sociocultural factors in the location where they would be implemented. The differences in the practices of different countries can lead to miscommunications and inefficiency, ultimately slowing and damaging the progress achieved on the project. According to Hyun and Yoan (2018), countries with similar cultures will still often display sufficient differences to complicate interactions without sufficient cultural adaptation. As such, firms should be mindful of potential intercultural complications and work to address them.

Communication within the project team can be a concern for some current projects, which involve teams that are distributed around the world. According to Alami (2016), interactions between different groups of workers are prone to misinterpretation due to a language barrier, and differences in local organizational culture can lead to mutual dissatisfaction. People who are used to working within a culture may not recognize that there are other valid approaches and concentrate on what they perceive as negative traits, refusing to adjust and worsening the relationship. Amster and Böhm (2016) note that employees, as well as managers, should receive training in cross-cultural competencies. However, due to the ambiguous definition of culture, current training strategies are not transparent or well-defined, with no indication of what aspects of the culture workers should learn to improve their intercultural awareness and enhance the communication quality.

Another issue is in the interactions between stakeholders from different countries or cultures and the firm. According to Browning and Ramasesh (2015), such agents may have conflicting goals and visions, complicating the firm’s planning and forcing it to decide whose needs will be satisfied and whose will not. Such decisions are inherently associated with risk, as they are likely to lead to disapproval from some of the organization’s partners no matter what. According to Alotaibi and Mafimisebi (2016), the communication of goals to various stakeholders and quick as well as the fair resolution of goal conflicts is among the foremost challenges of project management in the 21st century. Cultural factors may complicate understanding and communication, and so firms must make an effort to learn as much as possible about how local characteristics affect business.

The last risk that should be discussed about intercultural management is that of expatriate management. The phenomenon of culture shock has been discussed above, but other issues can arise when a person is sent to another country to lead a project. Tokar (2018) discusses issues such as inappropriate training, issues with personnel selection for the task, and overall adjustment. The difficulty in formulating a functional intercultural training program that is described above complicates preparation, as does a lack of clearly defined criteria for potential expatriates. Varma et al. (2016) note that host culture members respond better to people whom they believe to share their values, and the resemblance must be more than a superficial cultural similarity. As such, expatriates face a challenging task that they may fail before beginning, and with the expanding scope of international missions, project managers need to develop a robust framework for success.

Conflict Management Styles

The cultural differences between different countries and cultures tend to manifest strongly in their conflict management styles. According to Gunkel, Schlaegel, and Taras (2016), cultural values and emotional intelligence are the two primary determinants of a person’s conflict-handling preferences. Furthermore, the former tend to influence the development of the latter, making their evaluation critical for managers. Combined with the complicated conflict resolution patterns within a culture, the task of adapting to an environment is highly challenging. Abbas and Karage (2015) claim that Indians tend to adopt a dominating attitude but become more avoiding as they devote more time to their work while Nigerians are compromising, integrating, and obliging but become less so as they work. As such, a manager would have to use considerably different methods to approach one of the cultures.

In theory, it is possible to restrict oneself to using the five conflict management styles recognized in Western theory: competing, avoiding, collaborating, accommodating, compromising. However, Ani (2017) discusses how the introduction of unique indigenous principles can enhance the resolution process. People tend to learn and internalize their cultural practices as they grow up in an environment, responding to them almost unconsciously as a result. As such, they will usually accept them better than they would answer to management styles as defined by external entities, especially those from another culture. As Conti, Arcuri, and Simone (2018) state, team leaders should develop excellent communication skills and gather information about conflicts as well as understand the group’s emotions. Learning about local cultural practices and determining when intervention is necessary are critical parts of these competencies.

The situation is complicated by the lack of research into every culture’s preferences about conflict resolution. European and American approaches are usually seen as radically different from Arab ones, but Gardner and Barcella (2015) argue that there are many similarities between the two. They admit that their findings contradict earlier work by Muslim scholars, and so it is difficult to know which side deserves more trust when studying the local culture. An incorrect choice may be damaging to the success of the project on both a small and a large scale. Khalil (2017) notes that conflict resolution and cross-cultural training are vital competencies for team performance improvement, especially in modern virtual long-distance environments. However, such education becomes meaningless if the information gained in this manner is false or does not correspond to local realities.

Diverse cultural environments in countries such as the United States present a different variety of issues, as workers can come from a broad assortment of backgrounds. Kim and Jang (2017) state that there are many points of conflict between cultures that may be perceived as similar from the outside, ones that can result in disagreements and issues in the workplace. Distinctly different groups would likely have more issues, and conflicts would emerge continuously. As such, a manager’s job in navigating such a team would be complicated even if they were assumed to be homogeneous. However, as Al Wekhian (2015a, 2015b) notes, first and second-generation immigrants tend to display significantly different values, beliefs, and conflict resolution approaches, as the latter are more acculturated. As such, the research field is highly complex, as each employee may display unique traits and defy theoretical analysis.

Intercultural Communication

Language is among the most important distinguishing factors between different cultures, as it is shaped by their communication patterns and affects them in turn. Sanden (2015) discusses the practice of using corporate language policies, which determine the languages employees should use to converse in the workplace. When a firm expands into another country, the correct adjustment of its language to accommodate its culture while maintaining productivity is essential. English is the central language that is used in business worldwide, and a unified language will allow team members to communicate with other branches throughout the world. However, Ahlfors and Fang (2017) make a case for the use of adaptive strategies, where the company adjusts its language to that of the host culture. In doing so, it can accommodate its employees better and improve economic performance, though workers who can communicate with offices elsewhere are still critical.

Even when both sides use the same language, such as English, but are not native speakers, difficulties may arise during communication. Zummo (2018) states that cultural differences, such as those between rule-based and relationship-based cultures, can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts during email exchanges. Two people may misinterpret each other’s meanings or read into subtexts that do not exist due to the differences in how each understands the language and cultural communication patterns. The same concerns may also apply in verbal and written communications, though it may be easier for two people to understand each other and resolve concerns in face-to-face discussions. Nickolayev et al. (2015) state that miscommunications can lead to a waste of time or material difficulties, which are impermissible in a business that operates efficiently. As a result, fostering understanding between the different sides of the discussion is vital.

Communication patterns also have important implications for managers when they are interacting with their team and discussing specific aspects. According to Orji (2016), individualistic and collectivistic cultures show significant differences in their susceptibility to particular persuasive strategies, with the former preferring authority, reciprocity, consensus, and liking, individualists favoring scarcity, and commitment viewed equally well. A manager should be capable of understanding the specific culture of his or her current location and applying the correct method to the situation. There are likely further distinctions based on other cultural dimensions, and so it is possible to gather a wealth of information on individual cultures. Ditta-Apichai and Kattiyapornpong (2018) note that individuals can be considerably different in how easy they are to persuade based on specific cultural values they do not share. As such, the concern can also apply in diverse, multicultural environments.

What is said can be as important as what is omitted in intercultural communication, as different groups can participate in varying contextual practices. Adair et al. (2015) discuss how nonverbal, relational, spatial, and temporal cues can contribute heavily to a culture’s communicative practices. Without being aware of how people in a culture convey information, a person can miss out on a lot, especially during verbal communication. The differences led to the emergence of the distinction between high-context and low-context cultures, which are differentiated based on how they convey information. Hamelin et al. (2018) state that the former prefer indirect communications that tie into politics, morality, and social relationships, while the latter favor verbal discussions and direct conflict. As such, encounters between the two types of culture can lead to miscommunications due to people saying too much or too little.

Importance and Influence

Cultural Differences

Different countries and cultures provide specific environments that may assist or impede the progress of particular international projects. Jørgensen and Yamashita (2016) claim that the characteristics of the countries where the two entities that cooperate for the project are located are more critical to the possibility of failure than the differences between itself and the home nation of the firm. Both the country of the buyer and that of the supplier are important because the former defines goals and the latter works on the implementation. As such, companies should be careful to choose the appropriate countries for their outsourced projects, ones with compatible cultures. Moura, Singh, and Chun (2016) claim that websites designed in a cultural environment will reflect its values and primarily appeal to that culture. If the same view is applied to other products, it is possible to infer that outsourcing can damage the product’s appeal.

Cultural information sharing tendencies can have a considerable impact on businesses in terms of both improvements and detriments. Millar, Peters, and Millar (2018) describe culture sensitivity as an essential part of knowledge management in organizations that process large amounts of information such as high-technology firms. It would enable them to ensure that the full scope of the knowledge is available to each employee to the firm as well as its partners if it is necessary to share information with them. Furthermore, cultural characteristics influence a person’s willingness to share information with coworkers informally, in contexts such as mentoring. Sunardi, Tjakraatmadja, and Bangun (2015) suggest that cultural diversity enhances employees’ ability to interpret information and transfer it in ways others find easy to understand. As such, the awareness of this trend can contribute to a manager’s performance considerably when it comes to team selection and management.

Cultural adjustment is critical to guaranteeing an expatriate manager’s performance and ensuring that he or she can continue being productive in the new country. Basuki and Riani (2018) state that an expatriate’s gender, home country, and educational background do not influence a person’s willingness to leave but homesickness, which is moderated by cross-cultural adjustment, does. As such, expatriates from every culture are likely affected by difficulties when trying to continue working productively and ensure that the project succeeds. However, emotional intelligence may contribute to the manager’s ability to adjust to the new culture. Singh and Mahmood (2017) claim that the trait improves expatriate performance and note that cultural adjustment is a significant factor that enhances this effect. The findings have significant implications for the process of expatriate manager selection for projects that take place in another country.

Lastly, culture can affect innovation to a considerable degree for both small and large businesses due to its various aspects. Tehseen and Saijian (2016) state that market orientation and technology orientation in culture have a significant relationship between innovative practices and business growth with the individualism-collectivism dimension acting as a mediator. The framework of these interactions is still under discussion, but existing findings have noteworthy implications for businesses that operate in countries that have been studied. Furthermore, in addition to promoting the use of innovations, culture may influence the probability and speed of their emergence. Medcof and Wang (2017) claim that contemporary literature converges on the support of the culture, exploration, exploitation model of innovation. The framework can be used by companies to determine where to place their future research units for optimal performance.

Cultural Management Methods

Previous research has established the fact that different countries will display considerable variation in their preferred management styles. Al-Alawi and Alkhodari (2016) discuss the situation in four different countries and find considerable dissimilarities that correspond to variations in Hofstede’s cultural dimensions. These preferences should inform the approaches a firm takes to establishing a presence in the country and begin work on projects. Otherwise, difficulties and conflicts may arise when the company’s values and practices do not match those of the host country, creating tensions and damaging the project. Sharif et al. (2017) discuss how some countries may be more accepting of bribery than others but hold environmental concerns in high regard while others display the opposite practices. As such, they would have polar opposite expectations from managers, creating complicated situations if one was not aware of the tendency and prepared to address it.

The incorporation of cultural differences into management and general operations has the potential to yield significant results when the tendency passes through to consumers. Hartono (2016) describes cases in which culturally appropriate models that fulfill the emotional needs of customers achieved considerable success with both local and foreign clients. While the study took place in the service industry, which has a high orientation on satisfying the customer, the results can be extrapolated into other fields. Most industries focus on selling products to customers, whether individual or corporate, and satisfaction is essential to the success of such a relationship. Hosseini and Allahyari (2016) note how cultural intelligence can significantly enhance customer satisfaction in the bank industry, establishing more efficient and lasting relationships. By incorporating culturally appropriate management methods, the project manager can improve the firm’s performance and achieve better results.

Some issues, particularly ethical ones, remain static and unchanging regardless of the country, but different societies show varying concerns for addressing them. Džupina (2016) discusses how managerial altruism, religious beliefs, and education drive corporate social responsibility practices alongside regulatory and institutional frameworks as well as stakeholders. As such, with regards to ethical conduct, it is the responsibility of the manager to ensure that green and socially friendly practices take place. To maintain its image, the company should maintain socially responsible policies, even in locations that do not promote them culturally. However, there are still difficulties, and Xiao and Overton (2018) highlight the fact that the perception of socially responsible practices differs considerably between the United States and China. As such, project managers should understand such concerns and be prepared to address them without compromising the company’s core values.

Lastly, adaptation is essential, as most management styles are dependent on the cultural context and perform worse when translated outside of it. Nakagawa et al. (2018) claim that while a complete transfer of Japanese management styles to a company’s foreign subsidiaries does not improve performance, a departure towards looser and freer relationships shows positive results, particularly in emerging markets. They claim that the findings show that the nation’s traditional management styles are obsolete and that companies should reconsider their use despite their success in establishing Japanese companies in the global arena. The same consideration may apply when many of a company’s employees are migrants, particularly ones from the same cultural group. Lee, Park, and Ban (2016) claim that such workers do not want to adjust to their new culture or its management preferences. As such, a team located within a location where a particular culture is prevalent may not respond to that culture well, and it is the task of the project manager to ensure that operation continues smoothly.

Associated Risks

There is a wide variety of risks associated with beginning a project in another country, many of which are related to the differences in their cultures. Danu (2015) identifies vendor selection, incompatible standards, security gaps, legal and regulatory issues, single seller dependence, cultural differences, reduced employee motivation, and a lack of centralized control as the most significant risks associated with outsourcing. Many of these issues can be traced back to the variance in cultures that led to diverging norms. Even if the company is establishing a foreign branch and not outsourcing a project, many of the considerations still apply. However, Baptista et al. (2016) claim that the challenges of global development can be addressed using new developments in project management. As such, it is essential for leaders to follow the latest research and become able to address the various concerns that may arise.

Communication can present a variety of concerns and dangers, within the company as well as outside of it. Epifanova and Hild (2015) highlight the issues that arise during interactions between expatriate managers and employees in Thailand, in particular with regards to the acceptable modes of talking. Managers may try to adapt to local conditions or to force their subordinates to conform to a non-local culture, but both approaches are likely to create tension. Furthermore, other organizations are under no obligation to adapt to other cultural norms, but the company will likely still have to interact with them. Notably, Alves (2017) highlights the influence of cultural similarities on the relationship quality between companies from different countries. While the compatibility between Portugal and Angola may be excellent, companies will often expand into significantly dissimilar cultures and face the associated difficulties.

Inadequate stakeholder identification and analysis can lead to subpar project outcomes, including failures to accomplish some parts of the overall goal. Josserand, Kaine, and Nikolova (2018) discuss examples such as Apple’s failure to control the pollution created by its suppliers, which were located in China. The incident created considerable negative publicity for the company, even though it was not directly responsible for the practices of its foreign partners. The reason why the situation occurred was likely a lack of control from Apple combined with insufficient reporting of CSR practices by its suppliers, as the corporation most likely made an effort to address pollution. Jian et al. (2017) note that Eastern companies are prone to underreporting their successes in such initiatives due to the culture of modesty prevalent in a region, though there is some variation. As such, Apple may have assumed that the supplier progressed further in its pollution reduction initiatives than it did in reality and underreported its success.

The last risk that will be discussed concerns the possibility of expatriate manager failure and its influence on project success. Taiwan, Na-Nan, and Ngudgratoke (2017) discuss the various reasons why an employee sent overseas may underperform or fail, with adjustment and personality being the most significant determinants. The failure of the manager will most likely lead to considerable damage or complete shutdown for the project he or she had been leading. Furthermore, measures that have traditionally been used to alleviate expatriate stress, such as sending their spouses as well, may not be valid. Erogul and Rahman (2017) note that the manager’s partner is likely to experience stress as well, and the pressure contributes to the chance of project failure. As such, specific and innovative interventions are necessary to improve the overall performance of expatriate workers.

Conflict Management Styles

Conflict is inevitable in large-scale corporate settings, as it is part of the decision-making process and, therefore, integral to the regular operation of the enterprise. However, Smits and Brownlow (2017) state that a lack of unity manifests in collaborative multicultural environments, and therefore, conflict is more likely to emerge and be unproductive. Each partner will have specific ideas about how to conduct a particular operation, and misunderstandings can lead to poor resolutions. The different approaches various cultures take to conflict resolution can have a considerable influence, as well. Shaw (2015) highlights how, depending on cultural dimensions, companies may prefer to force their decisions through or try to negotiate. As a result of the mismatch, suboptimal decisions can be made, and some partners may decide not to follow the plan.

Conflicts within the company may also create issues if they are not resolved appropriately, a situation that can arise in culturally diverse environments. Wanyonyi, Kimani, and Amuhaya (2015) note that the use of various conflict resolution styles can affect the organizational commitment of the employees, potentially lowering it. If workers believe that their position is being ignored while others receive preferential treatment due to their better compatibility with the manager, they may choose to leave. Conversely, it is likely possible to increase the commitment of the employees by using appropriate methods and ensuring that everyone’s position receives respect. The analysis by Hussein, Al-Mamary, and Hassan (2017) concludes that conflicts, including cultural ones, can be managed in a manner that creates positive outcomes. As such, project managers should try to acquire the competency to achieve the best results in conflict-prone diverse cultural environments.

A manager needs to obtain overall cross-cultural competencies to become able to manage conflicts. Calvin, Beale, and Moore (2017) claim that an approach wherein one values the various aspects of different cultures is the most effective at maximizing benefits and minimizing conflicts. However, to learn to value other groups, it is necessary to understand what the differences entail and how they may manifest in work. Otherwise, the manager may appear to be culturally insensitive and foster further issues within the workplace. Hassani, Ahmadi, and Parhizgar (2015) identify cultural intelligence as the primary trait that should be acquired by managers to improve their ability to resolve altercations. An overall understanding of the aspects of a culture and their manifestations makes adaptation to new encounters easier and creates a positive image.

Diverse environments present a particular variety of issues, as the manager has to concern himself or herself with compatibility between different employees as well as himself or herself. Naismith et al. (2016) claim that conflicts in such environments tend to have more destructive effects than positive ones due to the inability of conflict theorists to account for personality. It is challenging for a manager to develop a framework for a complicated situation with many different parties, especially if no theory is available. However, research on the topic is ongoing, and new paradigms may emerge in the future. Korovyakovskaya and Chong (2016) note that while task and process conflicts tend to hurt the performance of diverse groups, relationship conflicts do not. As such, managers can focus on specific aspects of the issue to achieve the best results.

Intercultural Communication

There are many modes in which communication between different organizations may take place, especially if they come from different cultures and, therefore, do not use the same language. Bourne (2016) states that the use of interpreters is associated with numerous difficulties, such as context, power distance, value system, tone reproduction, and culture-specific words and expressions. Most translators will not be able to deliver a complete equivalent of what is said by either side to the recipient, creating misunderstandings and issues. As such, partnerships between companies that do not share a working language can be problematic and dangerous. Doğan (2017) proposes the emergence of a new variety of interpreters that takes culture into account and tries to reconcile the different value systems. However, such a profession has not yet been created, and companies cannot rely on professionals being competent in this fashion.

Even when the negotiating parties share a language, whether through being from similar cultures or through one or the other learning the partner’s language, their understanding may not be perfect. Tiechuan (2016) provides the example of nonverbal cues, with the “OK” hand symbol meaning reassurance, zero, or a demand for a bribe depending on the person’s culture alternatively. As such, the use of inappropriate cues can be devastating for the partnership, mainly if the person does so unconsciously due to being used to their home culture. The possibility is particularly concerning due to nonverbal communication’s growing importance. Blahova (2015) notes that understanding a culture’s complete arsenal of nonverbal cues and using it is a challenging task, but adds that the field has progressed considerably recently. As such, a framework that improves the quality of communication may be established soon.

The skillset would be a part of the overall intercultural competence structure that should be established for effective communication. However, as Stadler (2017) states, most companies currently use development methods that are inadequate for the task by being overly culture-specific or culture-generic. One approach is ineffective whenever the company encounters a new culture, as a period of study and experimentation is necessary. The other is prone to errors caused by insufficient learning and careless assumptions about a particular culture. Nevertheless, as Mulyana and Zubair (2015) state, there are examples of successful intercultural communicative relationships where one party knows how to achieve the desired results by influencing others. It is possible to learn from such successes and develop a system that will lead to considerable benefits for the organization.

It should be noted that cross-cultural communication takes place within the organization as well as outside of it. Verghese (2017) notes that effective internal communication educates employees about organizational culture, providing a basis that they can use to unite regardless of their diverse backgrounds. However, they must respond positively to this foundation, and so it has to be inclusive and acceptable to everyone. Many aspects are defined by culture and may change based on employee preferences. In particular, O’Neill, Hodgson, and Al Mazrouei (2015) note that the context level of a culture may determine its preference for direct or indirect communication methods. Other similar considerations have to be considered before the procedure is implemented to ensure that the needs of all employees are met.

Cultural Management Practices

Cultural Awareness

Cultural awareness can be highly beneficial to a manager who is prepared to embrace the diverse nature of his or her stakeholders and take appropriate measures. Khan (2018) describes how France is suffering from poor leadership practices that can be improved if managers adapt to the environment and the differences between different provinces. However, the task requires extensive study of the various contexts and considerable competence in adaptation, which is likely the reason why many workers refuse to try. With that said, there are considerable benefits that can be had from the appropriate management of a diverse team or overall organization. Udebuana (2019) highlights the variety of viewpoints that can be harnessed in a multicultural team and the overall organizational benefits from the process. As such, if cultural awareness can be taught, managers and companies stand to benefit considerably in the modern globalized environment.

As a complicated skill set, cultural awareness should be included in curricula for prospective project managers as well as other management majors. Cox (2016) suggests an experiential, multimedia-based approach to teaching students about diversity as a potentially useful method for business schools. Culture should be taught via practical approaches instead of pure theory, as students have to be capable of applying their knowledge in real environments without struggling to match their understanding with the situation. However, research into the most effective method of education about cultural awareness should continue, as the matter is not settled entirely. Berényi and Deutsch (2018) suggest the notion of gathering student opinions and using them to determine the optimal teaching methods. As the people who are receiving the knowledge and trying to apply it in a practical context, they should have a detailed understanding of the methods that do and do not work.

It should be noted that many business schools do not incorporate cultural awareness education into their curricula at the moment. Bele and Hebalkar (2019) suggest that the reason is a lack of the skillset in teachers, which impedes their ability to educate others regardless of the existence of established programs. As the discipline is new, effective teaching methods have not been established yet, and the successful transfer of knowledge is heavily dependent on the educator. Furthermore, many schools do not make an active effort to implement cultural awareness courses despite stating an intention to do so. Alas, and Mousa (2016) provides the example of a school in Egypt that lists cultural diversity as an essential value but does not take a systematic approach to the topic. Such situations have to be addressed for the improvement of the overall education quality in the facility.

Research and development on the topic of cultural diversity education are ongoing, with new educational ideas appearing frequently. Ge (2018) offers an iceberg model that analyses the visible and invisible parts of a culture and helps students identify both to gain a better understanding of its aspects. Such a structure should be capable of identifying the parts that will be relevant to project managers and describing aspects that may usually not be mentioned. Furthermore, it may be possible to incorporate cultural awareness education into education without significantly disrupting its current organization. Gunn, Peterson, and Welsh (2015) propose a model that integrates diversity issues into general course content. These frameworks can be applied in business schools with their focus on practical cases without significant difficulty, improving the quality of education provided at the facilities without changing the time spent learning.

Cross-Cultural Management

There are many examples of successful companies that have managed to lead international and cross-cultural projects to success. Siriphattrasophon and Trang (2016) discuss the example of a Western company that has succeeded in expanding its operations into Thailand and Vietnam and engaging employees through effective cross-cultural management. Notably, the study claims that organizational commitment is not relevant in its findings, an idea that contradicts much of contemporary scholarly literature. Furthermore, it is possible to look beyond business enterprises for examples of successful implementation of cross-cultural leadership. Łużniak-Piecha et al. (2016) discuss the notion of scientists becoming international project managers during research initiatives due to the ability to cooperate at a distance provided by modern communication technology. To do so and succeed, they had to acquire a set of competencies that can serve to instruct others.

There is considerable support in the literature for the notion that organizational commitment is an essential feature that should be addressed in cross-cultural management. Wood and Wilberger (2015) claim that even the most talented teams do not guarantee success if cultural considerations are not respected, and they refuse to put sufficient effort into the task to satisfy its needs. As such, project managers should consider approaches to maximize the statistic as well as its relationship with culture. It may be possible to find some general findings that can be applied to create a basic framework for the task. van Dick and Kerschreiter (2016) suggest that companies can develop a shared social identity that exists alongside their cultural background or overrides it about work. As they identify with the organization, they would find it easier to become committed to it and apply their utmost effort.

As each culture demands a unique adaptation from the manager for optimal performance, it is best to teach the competencies necessary to develop such a response. Alexandrova (2016) discusses the importance of various values and skills such as volitional regulation, knowledge of specific speech and cultural dialogue, and general interaction. A manager with these competencies would be able to blend various management styles that he or she can use to create one that is suitable to the situation. Furthermore, the contributions of various cultures will likely be necessary to complete the theory due to its foundation. Ko (2015) claims that non-Western expatriate managers consider integrity, self-learning, sincerity, open-mindedness, and extroversion essential qualities for success. With these traits, a person would likely be able to become accepted by the team and establish positive interactions with its members, enhancing productivity.

It is essential to teach the necessary competencies to a manager while he or she is still in business school, as it is harder for an experienced worker who is used to particular methods to adapt. Whitaker and Greenleaf (2017) propose a course that is adjusted based on the evaluation of a student’s cultural intelligence and teaches global leadership based on developing the trait. It is critical to note that cultural intelligence can be developed and does not define how competent a student is forever. It is also possible to adapt education methods utilized for other business professions, as they are interested in learning about cultures, as well. Rodriguez and Boyer (2018) suggest using role-play sequences to educate students on the situations that they will likely encounter in their work. With appropriate examples, they will develop cultural competencies and become capable of handling issues in real scenarios, as well.

Culture Adjustment

Expatriates deserve particular attention, as they should be carefully selected and appropriately trained to ensure that they succeed at the task that the organization assigns to them. Heirsmac (2015) notes that most successful expatriates believe that both gender and personality are essential to their work, in both positive and negative manners. Some cultures may see women as weaker than men and challenge their leadership, creating complications where none would exist in the manager’s home environment. Personality and beliefs can also affect the relationship of the manager with his or her subordinates, as both parties have to accept each other. Aljbour (2017) notes that many expatriate managers do not trust their subordinates and show little interest in learning the language of their host country. These perceptions are likely to be noticed by the person’s business partners and harm the productivity of the entire project.

Cultural intelligence plays a significant role in the performance of the project manager as well as the team that he or she leads. Aziz (2016) claims that the trait helps expatriates minimize uncertainty and anxiety, enabling new possibilities and enhancing their contextual performance. They would be able to relax more, reducing their stress accumulation and enabling them to work more productively while also engaging with locals in social environments. The last activity will help them build trust with subordinates and partners while providing the manager with an excellent learning environment about their host culture. Lie, Suyasa, and Wijaya (2016) state that cultural intelligence enables expatriates to experience others’ traits and increases their overall job satisfaction. As such, their likelihood of success increases considerably through the minimization or removal of numerous risk factors.

Appropriate corporate training is required to teach future expatriates the necessary competencies as outlined above. Li (2017) provides an example of Japanese companies, which employ a one-year training period before departure and teach the worker the local language and various customs. The approach is comprehensive and systematic, but it takes a considerable amount of time and requires the manager to devote much effort to studying. As such, it may be possible to optimize the strategy or find different approaches that will work better for a specific person or culture. Chen and Chang (2016) discuss various approaches such as sensitivity and problem-solving training, factual training and local mentoring upon arrival, practical lessons via overseas seminars held in subsidiaries, and re-entry preparation before departure as well as support using communication technology. Each strategy has seen practical use and proved itself successful in some situations, resulting in its designation as a method that deserves further study.

Lastly, the families of expatriates should not be omitted, as many managers will want to go abroad alongside their spouse and children if they have any. Warinowski (2016) notes that social support within the family is a critical determinant of expatriate success and a prominent resource that managers use to manage issues. However, as is mentioned above, spouses of managers are subject to cultural shock as much as the workers themselves, and with both members having difficulties, the situation could deteriorate quickly. As such, both members of the couple must receive training if they are going. Teague (2015) proposes a dual system of formal training and informal support programs that would improve the spouse’s acculturation ability. Combined, these measures can improve the probability of success and benefit the company as well as the manager.

Cross-Cultural Communication

It is essential to establish that effective cross-cultural communication can improve the company’s performance in addition to reducing the possibility of mistakes and errors. Rani et al. (2016) discuss the case of Samsung, an international giant that has overcome various challenges by implementing successful interaction patterns and fostering quality information exchange. The ability to clarify misunderstandings means that the company can trust the data that it obtains from its foreign partners and use it to improve its performance. As such, interpersonal communication skills are essential for managers who want to improve their project’s progress rate and overall success. Zheng (2015) outlines a basic learning model that one can use to foster his or her communication skills that consist of simplifying ideas, learning about the other culture, actively listening, and opening to new ideas. These steps are similar to those described above with regards to cultural awareness, and so education can be integrated and streamlined.

In addition to project managers attempting to improve their skills, companies should conduct training for their employees. According to Ghatge and Dasgupta (2017), the approach can improve their competitive performance, with primary factors that help create the advantage being a willingness to experience, tolerance, motivation, prior experience, emotional intelligence, and cultural flexibility. The informational and financial power of a corporation can enable training programs that are more effective than ones individuals can organize. It may also help them develop effective frameworks that can be applied to all project managers to make them more productive. Newman et al. (2016) discuss how even in low context cultures, people can improve their persuasion, leadership, and confidence with non-verbal cues. Larger sample sizes would help researchers verify the results of the study and develop superior approaches to training.

Such learning may lead to the creation of a foundation for global business communication that does not require extensive adaptation to individual cultures to be effective. Meske, Kissmer, and Stieglitz (2018) state that many companies are adopting the policy internally to govern employee interactions, but subsidiary acceptance of the methodology varied. Likely, the techniques necessary to create such a paradigm are still incomplete due to inadequate cultural knowledge. However, the situation may change in the future, as research is ongoing in various areas of investigation, including both academics and business. Waisbord (2016) discusses the progress towards global research and discussion space that is not impeded by language but notes that current knowledge is insufficient for achieving that goal. However, scholars from various fields can combine their knowledge to achieve an overall unified paradigm.

The training process is another area where contemporary research can be applied, though it is also in the early stages. Keefe et al. (2016) propose simulations using long-distance communication tools as an effective method to improve the functioning of multicultural virtual teams. However, the program took place in a university and may not be easily transferable to a work environment, where there is less time available to learn. It would be preferable that the team creates a functioning and positive relationship while advancing the project, a task that would be made more accessible by the use of existing resources. Zwerg-Villegas and Martínez-Díaz (2016) propose the use of social media alongside online collaboration tools to enhance the effectiveness of the program. Nevertheless, further research is required to ensure that the approach has value to project managers and can be applied in a business environment.

Conflict Management

Project managers should be prepared to encounter cross-cultural conflicts and address them in a manner that ensures the optimal performance of the team. Mengesha, Yesuf and Gebre (2015) claim that learning the local approaches to altercations and potentially adopting them can be a useful measure. However, they may not always apply to the situation or compatible with the manager’s values, complicating the environment and creating potential dissatisfaction when he or she refuses to follow local customs. Sometimes, it may be necessary for the expatriate worker to adjust to the local norms, especially in developed countries with contemporary advancements. Popov (2016) proposes the notion of sociocultural integration and trying to address issues proactively to reduce the overall incidence of conflict. However, doing so may not be possible in environments where the manager does not have sufficient power and influence.

Managers should be aware of their biases as well as those of their employees to be able to resolve conflicts fairly and equitably. Dildar and Amjad (2017) discuss gender differences in conflict resolution times and note that they exist but are mitigated in the workplace, where the position is more important. Nevertheless, managers should remember that culture is not the sole determinant of a person’s conflict resolution strategies. Religion deserves separate study as it is a significant contributor to a person’s beliefs and values, informing his or her conflict management approach as a result. However, Azim (2017) notes that even though the dominating style is prohibited in Islam and the obliging style is encouraged, the former is the second most popular and the latter is second least preferred. As such, personal characteristics and general cultural convictions are still essential aspects and deserve in-depth investigations.

It may be possible to create an organisational culture that alleviates the influence of culture on conflict, at least within the organisation. Khan et al. (2016) claim that fostering a hierarchical or market culture contributes significantly to the reduction of conflict, while adhocracy and clan cultures make them more likely to occur. Formal structures that do not permit employees to arbitrarily declare allegiance to a group ensure that they hear the opinions of people of other cultures and establish an understanding. It is possible to adapt the model for short-term partnerships that can characterize some projects and reduce the time required for the workers to become used to each other. Siakas and Siakas (2015) propose a model that is appropriate to multicultural environments without a need to analyse each participant’s culture, though doing so would improve its performance. Overall, strict frameworks can make the process of preventing and resolving intercultural conflicts easier can be highly beneficial.

As with the other competencies required of an intercultural project manager, conflict resolution approaches should be taught in business schools. Avcı, Aydaş and Arlı (2015) note that the teaching of various conflict styles in such institutions is often not even, possibly due to the cultural preferences of the educators. An adaptable manager should be highly competent in each variety, though he or she will usually have a preference for a particular approach. Other aspects deserve to be included in the educational program due to their necessity to a successful manager, as well. Aşkun and Çetin (2016) discuss the role of mindfulness in conflict communication and its relation to personal characteristics. It should be taught alongside traditional controlling managerial behaviours to create a balance and ensure that each resolution strategy receives attention.


The literature review uncovered a variety of issues that are generally present in traditional project management but become complicated with the involvement of culture. They can generally be divided into two varieties: issues that appear when a manager is immersed in another culture and ones that surface in a diverse environment. Cultural management methods belong to the former category, but the others can be attributed to both, mainly due to the emergence of virtual teams whose members are spread out around the world. As such, most project managers are likely to encounter cultural concerns in their work, and therefore, the appropriate competencies are universally necessary.

Fundamental cultural differences may not complicate adaptation significantly, as specialized training is usually unnecessary to understand it and to make the necessary changes. Managers will study the fundamentals of their future host culture before departing, and employees in a diverse environment will adapt to a particular baseline to become able to operate. Cultural management styles present a similar situation, as it is usually best for a manager to adapt to the local circumstances and follow the preferences of the employees. It may sometimes be necessary to try to enforce a particular paradigm on the team, but the manager should be able to identify the need based on overall performance.

Ethnic or group culture can influence local business practices considerably, particularly in developing countries, where traditional practices may be preferred over those that are most efficient. If a manager does not prepare for the particulars of his or her expatriate assignment, his or her expectations may be subverted, resulting in damage to the project’s progress. In particular, different values may lead to mismatched priorities and interruptions to the plan put forward by the leader. Some cultures may perceive a female leader as less competent and deserving of subordination than a male would be. Lastly, in some countries, unethical business practices are commonplace, and partners may cheat a manager or give him or her poor treatment due to a refusal to bribe officials. However, these possibilities can be avoided with careful preparation and training.

The business practices of a particular country or culture tend to give rise to specific management styles that are preferred by its members. As such, they may resist attempts by the expatriate to use another approach to leadership that may be recognised as valid globally. Such an attitude may be seen as a failure to fulfil the roles that are necessary for a manager and call his or her ability to lead into question. However, the opposite situation may also occur, with managers trying to force management styles from their home on foreign subsidiaries. Such a case can be observed with the Japanese, whose particular approach to leadership does not translate well to foreign environments. As such, at least a degree of adaptation appears to be prudent and necessary for the project’s success.

A manager can prepare to deal with the particulars of another culture through cultural awareness training. The trait encompasses an understanding of how different communities can have varying values and worldviews and acceptance of the differences. A person who is culturally aware would find absorption of other people’s customs and beliefs easier, leading to better outcomes in blending in with local workers. It should be noted that personal efforts to learn culture awareness are not sufficient, as a single person’s capacity is limited. Business schools should include the topic in its curricula and ensure that it is taught in practice as well as theory. Furthermore, companies that plan to send an expatriate abroad should contribute by gathering data about other countries and using it to train the manager who is chosen for the job.

The problem of selecting an appropriate management style for a culture is complicated, as it requires finding a balance between employee approval and efficient operation. Some aspects of a traditional cultural leadership approach will usually be inefficient or apply to a particular set of tasks poorly. As such, the complete adoption of local practices is not advisable, as it may harm the overall success of the project. In the end, an expatriate manager should be competent to create a leadership style that blends the latest advances in management theory with local practices. The task demands a high degree of competence from the person, and so companies should select employees for foreign assignments carefully and thoroughly. Cultural intelligence is a trait that may be helpful towards this end and should be fostered in employees during their education and work.

The risks are the primary reason why culturally sensitive project management is emerging as an essential part of the discipline. The failure of a project is costly and potentially heavily damaging to the company, and foreign environments do not allow the same degree of control as local initiatives. As such, there is a considerable amount of responsibility on the project manager in charge, and he or she should do his or her best to justify the trust. Furthermore, he or she has to monitor his or her condition, as the manager’s productivity is directly linked with that of the project he or she is overseeing.

When a project attempts to fill some niche in the local market, the manager must identify the stakeholders correctly and gain their approval. Otherwise, the new venture may disrupt a system that existed to fill that gap but was missed by the company. The people involved in this alternate approach would naturally oppose the progress of the project and potentially cause it to fail to meet its goals or fail. Managers should also monitor their conditions, as the adjustment to an unfamiliar environment tends to be challenging. Culture shock can lead to the complete breakdown of a person’s ability to operate when combined with the heavy responsibilities of a leader. Many expatriates take their spouses along for the assignment to provide support, but there is a risk that the partner will not be able to handle the conditions and become an additional burden.

In addition to careful selection, avoidance of cultural risks requires a considerable amount of training. Companies and expatriate managers should possess excellent stakeholder identification abilities and be able to reconcile their potentially conflicting demands. The necessity restricts the pool of potential successful expatriates, but choosing the candidate with the necessary skills is critical for success. Besides, the company should conduct extensive training using one of the selection of strategies available and used worldwide. Variants include extensive theoretical learning, visits to the target country, local mentoring, extensive support from the central office using modern communication tools and others. The spouse, if there is one, should participate in these sessions, as well, as he or she will face the same challenges. Lastly, companies should consider introducing re-entry training for their expatriates to avoid the difficulty of adjusting to home once their assignment is complete.

Conflict management generally requires understanding each side in detail and making a judgement that is best for the project and perceived as fair. This comprehension is complicated in multicultural environments because managers can no longer make specific underlying assumptions as they could in their home culture. In short-lived projects, where there is often little to no time to construct a detailed portrait of each employee, this fact can damage the manager’s ability to resolve conflicts considerably. As such, he or she should obtain an understanding of the conflict management practices of the cultures that will be involved in the project before its beginning and use this information as a foundation for assumptions.

Conflicts are more likely to arise in a multicultural environment than in a homogeneous one, and so a manager who leads a diverse team should be prepared to resolve the disagreements. However, even in groups that come from the same culture, issues may arise if the manager is an expatriate. Furthermore, a conflict that is not resolved appropriately can lower the organisational commitment of the employee and, therefore, his or her willingness to work hard and create ideas. While in the expatriate situations, the manager can learn which style his or her subordinates prefer and adjust accordingly, diverse teams present an issue. Each member will have a particular preference, and it can be challenging to satisfy everyone, especially as the manager may not have enough time to profile every employee.

The issue can be partially resolved through learning about cultures beforehand and applying knowledge about their conflict management style preferences without the need to learn about a particular employee in-depth. However, doing so would require a repository of knowledge about various cultures, the creation of which requires further research. Besides, the database will require continuous updates, as cultures change over time and may stop responding well to a particular method. Another approach is to try and ensure that organisational culture is valued more than one’s home environment. In doing so, the manager can convince employees that it is best to resolve conflicts in a manner that is favoured by the firm. However, high organisational commitment is necessary to achieve this goal, and fostering it is a different issue that is mostly outside the sphere of cross-cultural management.

Lastly, intercultural communication can present considerable complications, as a manager cannot be entirely effective at directing the project if he or she struggles to convey ideas to his or her subordinates. The language barrier can be a significant concern, as non-native speakers of a language can formulate significantly different understandings, particularly concerning direct and indirect statements. However, the nonverbal aspect is also considerably influential, as various cultures display significant differences in their use of indirect communication. Low and high-context cultures should be considered a topic of particular importance due to the reliance of the latter on context and inferences, which can be challenging for an inexperienced negotiator to discern.

Poor communication can create a variety of difficulties such as miscommunication, conflict and overall damage to the relationship. Language barriers remain problematic for negotiations, but even with a shared language, communication can be disrupted if the tongue is not native to one or both parties. As such, education in both verbal and nonverbal differences in communication between cultures is essential. It will help managers foster productive and beneficial interactions, improving information sharing and general performance. The use of virtual multicultural teams in business schools may be an effective option.


Project managers have to contend with numerous complicated issues in multicultural environments or on expatriate assignments. Differences in local traditions and customs can reduce their performance or that of the project team and sometimes put the success of the enterprise in jeopardy. However, the discipline of cross-cultural management has emerged in response to the concerns. It has created a considerable amount of knowledge on how to manage multicultural environments and adjust to unfamiliar cultures to maximise the project’s performance. As this literature review shows, right now, the task of cross-cultural management is highly demanding of the leader who will execute it. However, future research may create a framework that will simplify the issue and minimise the risks companies and managers face.


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