We are different but let’s work together as the workplace is the most dynamic place an individual can be in their life. From meeting tough bosses to sometimes not-so friendly co-workers, the workplace often tests your tolerance levels. In the 21st century we now share our work space with people from various backgrounds. In working with different people we also try not to step on their toes. However conflict in the workplace can be good to help you understand people from other cultures. The idea is to make mistakes and learn about what is and not acceptable in the next person’s culture or beliefs. Every lesson learnt brings better understanding which improves working relationships.
So how do you break multi-cultural barriers at work?
1. Find Common Ground
Breakdown barriers that are caused by race, ethnicity, social background, religion and even accent by taking individuals holistically. This means that you are looking at an individual for what they value and their needs. What are their aspirations? How do they meet their work goals? What are their interests outside the office? Finding the common denominator among people rather than what divides them.
2. Learn More About Others
Remove stereotypes about groups of people and learn about your colleagues’ culture. You can use general behaviours and customs in your culture to break the ice. For example if kneeling is a sign of respect in your culture, ask what is respectable in their culture. Don’t make assumptions based on what you have heard or think you know.
3. Be Open Minded
Have a positive attitude and be polite to your colleagues. Even if history mentions that you come from a great heritage, don’t behave as if your culture is superior to others. Be curious about other people’s backgrounds and cultures and learn something from them.
4. Use Simple Language
In as much as English is the universal language you might need to pay attention at how you phrase your words. Understand that not everybody is as eloquent as you are so keep it simple. Don’t use big words or jargon. Make sure that communication is clear and understandable.
Be attentive to your colleagues and make sure that you give feedback by giving the proper response. Make sure that your facial expressions and body language do not appear rude or non-receptive. Remember to always to listen with an open mind.