Cross-Cultural Cross-Generational Issues

Cross-Cultural Cross-Generational Issues

The topic for this month in the I-O Psychology Blog is dealing with cross-cultural cross-generational issues in the workplace.  This post describes approaches to dealing with the cross-cultural and cross-generational issues uncovered in a training program.  The following sections describe the situation, identify approaches to discussing the behavior in the group setting, and presents three questions for discussion.


During the training program, the instructor notices that the students have formed four different groups.  The first group is composed of four Hispanic individuals ages ranging from 17 to 22 years old.  The second group consists of seven White individuals ages ranging from 26 through 39 years old.  The third group consists of four African American individuals ages greater than 35 years old.  The fourth group consists of two individuals one Asian, 21 years old, and one Iranian aged 57.  The groups are not interacting.  The makeup of the groups is mainly by cultural backgrounds.  There are also some generational differences among the group members. 

Approaches to Discussing the Behavior

Although the groups are mainly based on cultural backgrounds,  It is possible that a secondary basis is that they work together in one department and or know each other.  It is unlikely that the groups interact at work based on no interaction among the groups in the class.  According to Yuki, Maddux, Brewer, and Takemura (2005), cross-cultural differences can cause lack of trust in a group setting.  For example, the Hispanic individuals will band together in a situation where the group is composed of more than one cultural representation.  They will tend to trust others who share their cultural background.  Members of a cultural group will likely be biased in their understanding of the task and or the training material presented by their cultural reference (Cseh, 2003).  They will also not communicate their knowledge outside their group and do not perform experiments with cross-cultural boundaries (Cseh, 2003).  Any method used to address the issue must, then, find a way to persuade the groups to interact.  In selecting a method to persuade the groups to interact, one should understand the individual’s cultural perspective (Lee, Adair, & Seo, 2011).  Lee et al. (2011) indicated that negotiators who use cultural perspective talking in cross-cultural negotiations increased their abilities to relate and enhance the reliability of the negotiations. 

  Black and Mendenhall (1989) and Cseh (2003) discuss several methods for cross-cultural training.  Attributions training, cultural awareness training, experimental learning, and interaction training would work well in this situation.  Attributions training provides the group with an explanation of behavior from the point of view of the individual with a cognitive behavior approach (Black & Mendenhall, 1989).  For this method to be successful, the facilitator must understand the cultural makeup of the groups and how they process information (Cseh, 2003).  Cultural awareness training provides explanations as to values, attitudes, and behaviors associated with the different cultures that make up this group.  The goal of the cultural awareness method is for the individual to understand how their culture impacts their decision making and behavior (Black & Mendenhall, 1989).  Experiential learning immerses the individuals as active participants to introduce them to the group’s individual cultures by complex role-plays (Black & Mendenhall, 1989).  The last method discussed is Interaction Training.  In this method, the individuals need to interact with a different individual from another culture in a role-play environment to understand how that culture differs from theirs.

Questions for discussion:

1.               What approach would you take in this situation and why do you believe this is the best approach?

2.               Develop an outline for the approach taken

3.               What steps would you take and what is the expected response from the group?


Stewart, B. J., & Mendenhall, M. (1989). A practical but theory-based framework for selecting cross-cultural training methods. Human Resource Management (1986-1998), 28(4), 511-539. Retrieved from

 Cseh, M. (2003). Facilitating learning in multicultural teams. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 5(1), 26-40. doi:10,1177/1523422302239181

Lee, S., Adair, W., & Seo, S. (2011). Cultural perspective taking in cross-cultural negotiation. Springer Science + Business Media, 22, 389-405. doi:10.1007/s10726-011-9272-4

Mitchell, R., Boyle, B., & Nicholas, S. (2011). Cross‐cultural group performance. The Learning Organization, 18(2), 94-101. doi:10.1108/09696471111103704

 Yuki, M., Maddux, W., Brewer, M., & Takemura, K. (2005). Cross-cultural differences in relationship and group based trust. Personality and Social Psychological Bulletin, 31(1), 48-62. doi:10.1177/0146167204271305

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