Culture based conflicts

Culture Based Conflicts in the Workplace Impact Creativity

Culture based conflicts that affect a workplace are more formally referred to as cultural disharmony.

A detailed study conducted in 2013 demonstrated how this works. Reductively speaking, this is when a group of culturally diverse individuals fail to understand each other’s positions or points of view giving rise to subtle frustrations.

These in turn build up, and affect workflow, especially in the area of creativity. Even for those outsourcing human resource services, it is important to understand the underlying dynamics of this issue in order to better address it!

When does it occur?

When individuals belonging to diverse cultural backgrounds are grouped together to serve a function (in this case business related), certain conflicts do arise. These are often caused by poor communication, a lack of exposure, misunderstanding cultural queues and sometimes even from subconscious notions of personal superiority. Regardless of why, such conflict serves only to damage the existing workplace environment.

How does it damage individuals?

The effect of personal conflict in a work space on the individuals involved is quite obvious. If dealing with some kind of stated or unstated hostility, individuals tend to lose focus, tire quickly and waste a lot of energy stressing.

The fact that it is in fact a work space also makes these problems hard to address as most people would rather keep their heads down and get on with business. Though this is a good attitude; oftentimes, the cumulative effect of constant contention results in a breakdown of the individual’s executive and creative capabilities.

Why not just address the individuals?

In the study that you can access via the link posted in the first paragraph, the term ‘ambient cultural disharmony’ is used.

This describes a situation where individuals not directly involved in said conflict get affected due to the overall environmental disease. Certain individuals might shy away from others or groups, become intimidated and in extreme cases, even question their own competence as well as their safety within the organization.

What does this have to do with creativity?

Anyone who has performed a task where a degree of creativity was required will know that one needs to be in the right headspace to perform.

Feeling like your ideas will be shot down or misunderstood triggers insecurity. Insecurity is one of creativities biggest enemies. If you don’t feel good enough, how will you feel good about anything you create or come up with?

As a result, people shut down and good ideas are lost. Furthermore, cultural conflict deteriorates communication. A team that cannot communicate will likely, also, not be able to progress and prosper!


If we hadn’t already understood the importance of diversity in our everyday lives, now would be a good time. Different thoughts, perspectives and ideas are important for us to grow as individuals and in groups.

Increasing personal exposure means increasing the scope through which we see the world and everything in it.

It stands to reason that it is actually beneficial to embrace and promote diversity. Reducing cultural conflict is an important part of this. If you feel this would be biting off more than you can chew, given your current supervisory or managerial expectations you may always approach a reliable human relations service provider for support or guidance!

If this is indeed the need of your organization, waste no time! You’d be surprised to know how much unresolved workplace conflict, cultural or otherwise costs your business!

DFRI is a boutique Employee Relations and Human Resources Advisory firm dedicated to providing resolution to all manner of employee problems in the workplace, specializing in handling conflicts so that managers can focus on core tasks.


Lisa Scholfield

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