How to manage diversity in the workplace? Tips from an expert: Mr Kourosh Dolatabadi, Controlling Manager at DHL in Maastricht

With cross-cultural interaction, open-mindedness is key, guest lecturer Mr Kourosh Dolatabadi told an audience of approximately 50 second-year International Business students at the Maastricht University School of Business and Economics during a talk on comparative management.

Originally from Iran, Mr Dolatabadi has been working as Controlling Manager for DHL’s European Financial Shared Services in Maastricht since 2007.

DHL is a global firm specializing in the international express and logistics industry. Since its conception 40 years ago, the company has become a market leader in worldwide product transportation, spanning over 220 counties and employing over 500,000 people. Mr. Dolatabadi attributed the firm’s success to its “innovative mindset and commitment to continuous learning”.

Diversity as an asset

Although now based in the Netherlands, Mr Dolatabadi has gained international work experience thanks to various professional assignments in Europe – Belgium, UK – and North Africa – Algeria, Mauritania, Tunisia and Morocco. These cross-cultural life experiences have offered him valuable insights in the field of comparative management.

What is considered appropriate in China, such as the practice of gift-giving, may be deemed inappropriate in North America. Comparative management analyzes cultural differences in management practices and advises on how to mediate them.

Having worked with people from many different cultural backgrounds, religions, ethnicities, Mr Dolatabadi is no stranger to managing diversity. In fact, he said that he welcomes it by encouraging hiring practices that place value on multiplicity.

Mr Dolatobadi highlighted the necessary traits, in his opinion, for a successful career in an international environment.

“Differences in business practices will arise,” he acknowledged. “Instead of deeming foreign methods as inferior, one should attempt to understand the meaning and rationale behind them. This requires continuous intentional effort, and as such, perseverance is also relevant.”

Mr Dolatabadi illustrated his point with a concrete example. He once had chosen a candidate for a new position at DHL who, in the eyes of his colleagues, was potentially problematic because her background, both personal and professional, differed greatly from that of the rest of the team.

It only took him a small amount of effort and communication, however, to ensure that her differences would actually become an asset to the company, not a hindrance.

On another occasion, compromise was the answer. Dolatabadi had assigned a few employees to work with a firm outside of the Netherlands, and differences in business style were noticed. The solution was simple: he reassigned coworkers native to the location of the outside firm.

What does an international career mean? An insider’s view

As with most things in life, such an international career comes with its pros and cons. Mr Dolatobadi has acquired a diverse set of linguistic skills – he is fluent in English, French, Dutch, and Persian – which often eliminates the need for a translator. He has indulged in culinary delicacies many of us can only dream of and has been able to interact with people from literally every corner of the earth.

“But don’t be fooled by all of the glamour,” he cautioned. “You want a social life? Forget it!”

After the sights have been seen and the deals have been made, constant travel can result in sleeping in a different bed every night, or even in an airport, not to mention physical fatigue. Mr Dolatabadi recounts consecutive evenings where he would live exactly this way, making it home to see family only on weekends.

For international business students, many of whom may embark upon a global career, Mr Dolatabadi provided useful insights and solutions to cross-cultural management problems, by emphasizing that not all answers are clear-cut and well-defined, but are to be developed through practice and experience.

By Emma Harris

Emma Harris is an SBE  exchange student from Canada and a guest blogger for the SBE Exchange Student Blog.

There is one comment

  1. Dr. Zareen karani

    Diversity exists when groups of people bring their own backgrounds and experiences to an organization or workplace. Managing diversity involves using these resources and experiences for the benefit of the organization. But knowing how to do this requires understanding your own background and how it affects your perspectives, behavior, decision-making and prejudices.

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