Multicultural Workplaces: 7 Ways to Make It Work
Today, people work in global offices with colleagues from different worldviews, religions, and attitudes. It is important to be aware of cultural differences and how they affect team dynamics, communication and management style. Multicultural workplaces also offer a wealth of new experiences and opportunities for personal growth. Here are 7 ways to improve multicultural relationships in your workplace.
1. Make it okay to ask questions. Some people may feel that they cannot ask a person where they are from for fear of being offensive or being seen as racist in some way. This can prevent communication, teamwork, and even friendship from taking place. Encourage people to talk about where they’re from and their culture. Most misunderstandings come from a lack of communication. If you can ask each other questions, then the growth of the relationship will allow you to work together more effectively.
2. Learn about each other’s countries and cultures. Many people want to travel to exotic places and experience a different culture. But today, there may be someone from one of those countries in the office. Put a map on the wall and stick linked pins to photos of your team members so you can see where people are from. Encourage people to add information and other images to the screen and use it as a group conversation starter.
3. Be respectful and open-minded. Cultural differences can sometimes be confusing or misunderstood. Be respectful of how other people work and interact. Try to learn from them instead of considering your way of being the best and criticizing. Apologize if you feel you might have offended someone, and ask how you can behave more appropriately in the future. Re-speak out about discrimination in the workplace and encourage understanding.
4. Celebrate festivals from other cultures. Festivals and celebrations are a great way to learn about other cultures. Have a lunchtime gathering where you share some traditional food and discuss what the festival means. At heart, people are the same and festivals often reflect what is important to all cultures: family, faith, children, honoring the past and looking to the future.
5. Create cultural awareness fact sheets. If your company employs people from other countries, provide them with some material on what it is like to work in your company and country. If you send employees abroad to meetings or conferences, they should also know how to work in those cultures. For example, what is the usual greeting within each culture? These worksheets will help provide context for interactions and facilitate working relationships.
6. Treat people as individuals. Culture does not define a person, and cultural stereotypes can also be responsible for more misunderstandings. Don’t jump to conclusions just because someone is from a certain place. Get to know people as individuals regardless of their culture.
7. Identify gaps in your own knowledge. We are all a work in progress, and we can always learn more. Identify what you don’t know about your co-workers and their culture. What can you learn about your own culture that affects the way you work? How can you improve the situation so your team can work together more effectively?
“Understand the differences; act on the common ground” – Andrew Masondo, African National Congress