In today’s ever changing global market, people from a diverse range of backgrounds are brought together in the workplace. This can create challenges but also offers the opportunity to collaborate talent. Much of a person’s cultural background is unspoken and influences behaviour, perceptions, views and ideas. Subsequently, it may not be immediately obvious to someone from outside that culture in explaining why people behave in the way that they do. To help avoid conflict and promote an integrated, tranquil and productive workplace, here are some factors to take into consideration to make working in a multicultural environment a success!
- Encourage Open Communication
This might sound obvious, but having a good line of open communication is what will enable you and your team to work effectively. If you do not have platforms in place to empower people to speak up, then you will prevent allowing potential issues to be raised and dealt with accordingly. People may open up more one to one, whereas others feel more comfortable talking in a group. Ensure you provide a holistic environment with many options to communicate to get the best out of the team.
I mean, really listen! This is simple, but are you really hearing what someone is trying to say? Sometimes you have to ignore your interpretation or assumption of what someone might be trying to say to REALLY get the point. Be open minded and ensure that you are really taking into consideration what people are saying to you. It might be the difference between make or break if their voices go unheard and you will not look particularly compassionate in the process.
- Have Patience
Rome wasn’t built in a day, right? It’s the same with cross cultural working. It may be completely alien and new to you. But nothing worth having happens overnight, so you have to be patient, work hard at it and be persistent; you will get there. As long as you are always making progress, that’s a great thing. Also, you can look back and see how far you’ve come and how much you have learnt along the way.
It’s safe to say, there is definitely no easy ‘one size fits all’ approach to cross cultural working. To make it successful, people have to compromise somewhere. It might be the style in which you work, the time or even the location! The key here is, as long as the work gets done, does it matter? Come to an agreement that works for everyone and don’t expect it to go entirely your way. Be diplomatic and tactful to make sure everybody wins.
- Promote Workplace Harmony
Do not get emotional or hot-headed. Since when did someone raising their voice at you motivate you to do as they asked unless it was out of fear? This does not help nurture healthy working relationships and although it can feel frustrating at times; keeping cool, calm and collected will get you a lot further than shouting at fellow team members. Productivity will almost certainly take a dip if everyone is working in a stressful environment. Maintain harmony, and people will be more receptive to you.
- Show Respect
I cannot emphasise just how important this truly is. Treat others how you would like to be treated. It’s a two-way street; how can you expect people to respect you if you do not do the same? So no matter who you are working with, take into account someone’s background, appreciate them and see what you can learn from each other. This will create mutually beneficial relationships and you will see the advantages in how people’s attitudes are towards you.
Empathy involves emotional intelligence, to understand where someone is coming from or what they mean. Try to picture yourself in their position. Would you be behaving in the same way? What can you do to understand where they are coming from and encourage them to thrive and feel empowered? The principle of ‘treating others as you would like to be treated’ plays a role here again. Be considerate and sensitive of to others and what they might be going through. It will help you work more effectively as a team.
- Be Personable
You do not have to be everyone’s best friend, that is unrealistic and sometimes it is not possible to like everyone that you work with. However, consider the task at hand and being able to do the job. Make your life easier, be approachable and avoid hostility in the workplace. Who really loses if you cannot make it work? Put in the effort to have pleasant working relationships that will not impose or be detrimental to you achieving what you need to achieve.
- Honesty is the best Policy
It may be that something bothered you, an instruction you don’t fully understand or even an idea on how you can improve something, but you doubt how receptive people will be. The issue here is that only YOU will lose if you don’t speak up! Always be honest as it will be a step in the right direction and promote progression within the team. Be tactful in how and who you speak to in order to deal with issues in the best way without drama or unnecessary conflict. You will reap the benefits, feel a whole lot better and encourage others to be honest in the workplace too.
Last but certainly not least, learn to collaborate together! The CEO’s of successful companies didn’t work alone, they had a great team behind them. Accept diversity in all of its beauty and bring to the table everyone’s combined knowledge and expertise. Take pride in the work that you can all achieve together to strengthen the team spirit and morale. Everyone should play an important role in the work that you do, tap into the talent at your fingertips and get involved. Someone may surprise you at just what they can contribute, or have a perspective you may not have thought of before.
Written by Lucy Gibson, Team Leader in Kumasi, Ghana during summer 2017