Cultural diversity in the workplace and how to manage it

It’s a small world indeed

Cultural diversity in the workplace has grown rapidly over the past few decades, leading to a workforce that can be a melting pot of different cultures, beliefs, age and social status. This diversity has the potential to make the job of leaders and managers challenging. However, if managed effectively, workforce diversity can be very positive as it breeds creativity, great ideas and different perspectives.

Managing Cultural Diversity in the Workplace as a leader

An important soft skill in any manager or leader’s arsenal is that of cultural competence. This will allow you to communicate more effectively when interacting with people from different cultures, due to your ability to understand.

4 ways to build your cultural competence in the workplace

1. Understanding the difference in communication styles

There are generally two styles in which people use language to share information or views with others.

Direct communicators: people who use this approach will express their true intentions explicitly in their communications. When they want or need something, they will come right out and say it.
Indirect communicators: place emphasis on being polite when communicating, over expressing their true intentions.

In most western cultures, direct communication is usually the preferred style. While other cultures, such as African and some Asian countries, indirect communication is more prevalent.

2. Conventional behaviour

The ideas, customs, and social behaviours differ when it comes to various cultures greetings, manners and etiquette. In western countries such as the United States, people tend to be more relaxed in terms of dress and behaviours. Whereas with others, formality is more valued and is a sign of respect.

3. Team-Building

There are two main divisions when it comes to team building among cultures. When it comes to cultures that place emphasis on individualism, more focus is placed on being self-reliant, assertive, and independent. North America and Western Europe cultures tend to be more individualistic.

This contrasts with cultures who place a deeper focus on collectivism. Such cultures believe that characteristics like being self-sacrificing, dependable, generous, and helpful to others are of greater importance.

Understanding these behaviour dynamics will help you structure your team building activities accordingly.

4. Value of time

Attitudes to time differ from culture to culture and in some instances in significant ways. A good example of this in Mediterranean and Arab countries, where being late for a meeting or taking longer to get down to business is an accepted norm. While your more western countries such as USA, Japan, Germany, Switzerland would take offence to this.

As the world evolves and society adapts, so should we.

We too need to assess and evolve our practices and beliefs from the “norms” to match the society we currently operate and look to thrive in. A more inclusive approach to business and management can only be beneficial to not only the bottom-line but to your personal success and growth as well.

As our world becomes ever more interconnected, cultural competence is an essential skill for almost every workplace.

MasterStart in partnership with USB-ED promotes cultural diversity in the workplace. If you’re looking to update your Business Leadership and Management, Human Resource Management or Leadership skills, have a look at our online short courses.

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