Multi-Cultural Workplaces: 7 ways to make them work

Multicultural workplaces

Multicultural workplaces

Nowadays, 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. Multi-cultural workplaces also offer a wealth of new experience and self-growth opportunities. Here are 7 ways to improve multicultural relationships in your workplace.    

  • 1. Make it ok to ask questions. Some people may feel that they cannot ask a person where s/he is from for fear of being offensive or being seen as racist in some way. This can prevent communication, team effort and even friendship from happening. Encourage people to talk about where they are from, and their culture. Most misunderstanding comes from lack of communication. If you can ask questions of one another, then the growth in relationship will enable more effective working together.

 

  • 2. Learn about each other’s countries and cultures. Many people want to travel to exotic places and experience a different culture. But nowadays, there might be someone from one of those countries in the office. Put a map on the wall and stick pins in it linked to photos of your team members so you can see where people are from. Encourage people to add to the display with information and other pictures and use it as a group talking point.
  • 3. Be respectful and open-minded. Cultural differences can sometimes be confusing or misinterpreted. Be respectful of the way other people work and interact. Try to learn from them instead of considering your way to be the best and criticising. Apologise if you feel you might have offended someone, and ask them how you can behave more appropriately in the future. Speak out again discrimination in the workplace and encourage understanding.
  • 4. Celebrate holidays of other cultures. Festivals and celebration are a great way to learn about other cultures. Have a lunchtime meeting where you share some traditional food and discuss what the festival means. People are the same underneath and festivals often reflect what is important to all cultures – family, faith, children, honouring the past and looking to the future.
  • 5. Create cultural awareness factsheets. If your company employs people from other countries, give them some material on what it is like to work in your company and country. If you send employees overseas to meetings or conferences, they should also know how to work in those cultures. For example, what is the customary greeting within each culture? These worksheets will help provide context for interactions and enable easier work relationships.
  • 6. Treat people as individuals. Culture does not define a person, and cultural stereotypes can also be responsible for more misunderstanding. 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 more effectively together?

“Understand the differences; act on the commonalities” – Andrew Masondo, African National Congress
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