Managing Cultural Differences in the Workplace
Mary J. Shaw
Managing diversity means acknowledging people’s differences and seeing these differences as valuable. Supporting and encouraging a diverse business will help recruit the best talent, keep prized employees on board and deliver a better product and service. A work culture that supports diversity will encourage employees to develop their strengths, think outside of the box, take risks and share innovative ideas. Ignoring diversity issues will not only cost an organization time and money, but can leave them with employees who are less productive because they feel unsupported. This paper takes a look at how to manage a diverse workplace that supports diversity, ensures that all people have the opportunity to compete for careers without being disadvantaged by difference. Organizations with a positive workplace culture ensure a rich workforce mix that better reflects the community and takes advantage of the benefits a diverse workforce can bring.
Managing Cultural Differences in the Workplace Cultural differences can encompass everything from religious observances, personal habits, food and clothing. An employer’s ability to meet the individual requirements of an employee may be dictated by any number of factors, including the type of position and the workplace itself. It is in the best interest of employers to develop an understanding of its employees’ backgrounds and to try, when possible, to accommodate all workers, not just the majority. Managing a workforce of assorted customs and beliefs can be challenging but in doing so will create a more unified organization, which will result in greater productivity, reduce turnover and avoid discrimination lawsuits (Diller, 2011). The differences between people are not as significant as the things they have in common. Open communication about cultural differences can defuse tension by creating an atmosphere of understanding the cultural differences and can prompt curiosity, which can open the channels of communication. Employees that focus on a common goal that the company is trying to accomplish, will have less time or reason to dwell on differences between themselves and their co-workers. Building a strong sense of team environment is one of the best ways to minimize cultural differences (Dr. Richard T. Alpert). The affects of poor communication creates personal conflicts, missed deadlines, incorrect goal assumptions and contribute to employee turnover. Effective communication establishes trust and rapport. Language barriers are important to address and can often be over looked. Employees may pretend to understand directions when they really don’t. Printing memos, company newsletters and other communications in bilingual editions is often a solution. Stereotypes can create destructive communication. Employees have to sort through all the prejudices about people who are different, it may take longer for performance but once it is worked out they are more innovative and perform better (Dr. Richard T. Alpert). Managing cultural diversity in the workplace does not have to be as hard as people make it out to be. Steps can be taken to ensure employees from different racial backgrounds feel more comfortable at work. Making a diversity friendly workplace enhances team spirit; it can also boost creativity and promote a sense of buy-in to the company. Everyone feels equal, and valued. Going back to basics is the easiest way to make employees with diverse backgrounds fit in. For example; racial related jokes have no place at work, even racial banter between colleagues from the same background can be off putting to others. Some people disapprove of racial humor, no matter the source of it. Considering all race-based jokes to be inappropriate behavior and unacceptable. Learning about the cultural and