Avoiding Cultural Sensitivities in the Workplace
Diversity is a fascinating thing, don’t you think? There’s so much to learn about cultures other than your own. Unfortunately, as with almost everything else, there is a downside to diversity. It has to do with lack of cultural awareness.
With everything going on in the news these days, cultural awareness is more important than ever before. Whether it’s workplace-related or connected to an individual’s home or personal life, avoiding cultural sensitivities is something that that person (and everyone else) should definitely strive for.
Here are a few things to do in regard to helping co-workers avoid painful sensitivities. You can also use some of these tips when working as a medium.
Focus on Teamwork
When you focus on teamwork, it typically puts a new spin on diversity. It’s a wonderful way to put negativity on the back burner. This is partly due to the fact that when people are extremely focused on the task at hand, they’re not thinking about issues like cultural differences.
Encourage Meaningful Discussion
Meaningful discussion is a wonderful solution for so many things. Talking honestly and from the heart makes it much easier to get to know someone. During these conversations, it’s important for everyone to remain as non-judgmental as possible.
If the group is representative of several different nationalities, ask each individual to talk a bit about his or her culture, including common sensitivities. Encourage questions from the other people in the group. Many times, insensitivity isn’t intentional. It stems from a simple lack of knowledge.
For example, something as simple as crossing your legs can be misconstrued as a bad omen or a lack of respect in some countries. In addition, you may not be aware that pointing is considered a very impolite practice in some cultures. These are things you can easily learn through meaningful discussion sessions, even if they only take place over lunch with one or two friends.
Recognizing another country’s holiday schedule is a great way to celebrate diversity and make people feel like they truly belong. If your company frequently has employee potlucks or lunches, it’s simple to suggest a theme for the meal. Something as simple as everyone bringing their favorite dish from their home country, is a tasty way to celebrate cultural differences.
Promote Workplace Education
You’re probably aware of the saying, “Knowledge is power.” This statement is so true. With the popularity of the internet, it’s easy to learn about other cultures. Promoting workplace education in this manner doesn’t have to be complicated or even a strict requirement. Simply making educational material available encourages employees to take advantage of the learning opportunity.
Take a couple of minutes to think about all of the different cultures you interact with on a daily basis. Wouldn’t it be great if you learned something new about each of them? This opportunity would certainly go a long way in regard to helping others avoid cultural sensitivities.
You don’t have to be “the boss” to take advantage of some of the suggestions. Even doing little things on a one-to-one basis, can help to promote cultural awareness and help to eliminate issues due to sensitivity.