The Rewards and Challenges of a Culturally Diverse Team

Creating a comfortable workplace where all people feel valued has never been more important!

In today’s diverse work force, you know how important it is to make sure your organization creates a culture that embraces different opinions, perceptions, and approaches to life and work. In fact, the benefits for you and your organization are endless.

Businesspeople Holding Jigsaw PuzzleMembers of a diverse team need the opportunity to grow together, to get to know one another better if they are to continuously improve their functioning and learn to trust one another’s judgment. Team members need to know how their co-workers see themselves, what forces made them the individuals they are, and what they value.When diversity thrives in an organization morale, and teamwork increase and productivity soars. Recruitment and retention of top employees is easier. Simply put, your organization prospers and grows on all levels.

But getting others to buy in and help foster diversity at work can be challenging. People avoid the topic. And no one wants to think that they aren’t embracing diversity. It’s up to you to ensure your company is nurturing an atmosphere that respects and invites all people to succeed.

Help Employees Discover Cultural Awareness

The key rewards from diversity conversations start with increased awareness, valuing the differences in each other and recognizing each other’s value-added contributions. From this starting point, you can create the right environment, where every person’s opinions and viewpoints are not only respected but expected.

• Help employees see the value of diversity to themselves, to the organization, and to the organization’s customers. Regularly revisit the business case for the organization’s diversity vision.

Leader speaking• Welcome viewpoints that are different from your own. Challenge stereotypes. Give people a chance to raise questions about diversity — even if those questions won’t be addressed immediately. Getting questions out in the open helps acknowledge people’s opinions — letting them voice their concerns.

• Encourage action. Observe results and use both successes and challenges as learning opportunities. Ask everyone to monitor their own behavior. Recognize and reward participation whenever possible.

• Network with other managers in your organization to find out how they are implementing diversity in their areas.

Tips for Interacting Cross-Culturally

• Enhance communication. Ask questions when you do not understand.

• Be aware of the different “styles” and variations of verbal and nonverbal communication between cultures. For example, the lack of knowledge about a particular culture may result in nonverbal communication (e.g., gestures and eye contact) being misinterpreted.

• Don’t use acronyms without explaining them.

• Remember that emotions are expressed differently. In some cultures, it is acceptable to show feelings, while in others it is not.

• Be understanding when people are functioning in a language that is not their native tongue. Words can carry different meanings in different cultures.

• In some cultures, touch is an important part of communication, and in others it is rarely used.

Large Group of Cats and Dogs Together

Common Communication Mistakes

• Asking “yes” or “no” questions: In some cultures it would be rude to answer “no” to the question “Do you understand?” Instead ask, “Can you tell me what you need to do next?”

• Eye contact: Averting eye contact in many cultures is a form of respect.

• Asking direct questions about personal issues in some cultures is considered rude and may not elicit an answer. Instead, phrase the questions as gently as possible, being sensitive to the fact that people may not feel comfortable answering rapid-fire questions.

• Nonverbal answers for “yes” and “no” are not universal. They can mean the opposite of what others may think. Get a verbal response to clarify.

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