Ways to Improve Intercultural Relationships at Work

Every day, our world becomes more and more globalised, especially in the corporate sector. The medical field is one area where it’s especially noticeable due to the shortage of physicians and medical staff.

As a result, companies and hospitals are scrambling to update and implement policies to reflect the changes happening in our world. Diversity and inclusion are hard things to successfully measure, as culture is indeed deeper than people imagine. Similarly, data-driven models cannot always discern whether a company or institution has been successful at improving the culture of a workplace in these areas. Additionally, the LGBTQ community and other groups have increased their voice in societies like the United States and Canada, and have obtained more political power. A number of these changes are ones in which people have gained opportunities and platforms in society to express their worldviews in a more public way.

In many Western countries, the individual identity, lifestyle and preferences of a person have become in many cases more important than said person’s affiliation or loyalty to a larger group or cause. This has both benefits and downsides, especially as workplaces consist of teams that work to cultivate a larger company identity. Due to the wide variety of preferences and lifestyles in the world today, it’s no wonder that people are experiencing cross-cultural clashes. Gone are the days in which countries were more isolated and had fewer interactions with those outside their borders.

With that in mind, there are several practical things that a  company or institution can do to build positive environments that foster diversity and inclusion.

Here are a few dos and don ts:

DO:

  • Educate newcomers and help them integrate into your company/ institution’s culture. Talk about what your company expects, and acknowledge cultural differences.
  • Encourage team building activities, conferences and retreats.
  • Identify cost-effective methods to grow your team’s culture on a daily basis.
  • Consider feedback and questions from employees.
  • Research the cultures, perspectives, and worldviews of those around you.
  • Take time to observe and study the following in your workplace: leadership and decision-making styles, approaches to the delegation of authority,   preferences for information flow between leadership and those being led,  attitude towards women and minority groups,  life priorities at work,  formalisation, perception of feedback,  attitude towards time and deadlines,  motivational orientation, verbal and non-verbal behaviour patterns., relationships ,   socio-cultural differences,  language use and vocabulary, power distance, and uncertainty avoidance etc.
  • Ask questions to understand other peoples’ perspectives.
  •  Be patient.
  • Develop strategies for improved integration of marginalised groups.
  • Re-evaluate your promotion, recruiting, and evaluation approaches to determine if there is any cultural bias.
  • Provide ways in which employees can provide anonymous feedback about issues of diversity and inclusion.
  • Provide in-depth community and workplace support systems for those entering your workplace from other cultures or countries.
  • Evaluate your current models and tools used for departmental communication and look for weaknesses or areas lacking efficiency.
  • Look for ways to increase efficiency and decrease misunderstandings and cost during interactions between staff members and patients/clients.
  • Establish a team culture that values well-being and creates a sense of solidarity and community. This does not mean that everyone needs to agree with everyone all the time. It does, however, mean that dialogue and discussion are encouraged, and respect for others and their perspectives are valued.
  • Evaluate your procedures and management methods through the lens of your biggest minority groups.  Look for possible pitfalls, inconsistencies, and cultural barriers.
  • Encourage HR and HQ to be flexible and creative. Certain models that worked 100 years ago, may not be relevant today.
  • Promote and require professional development.
  • Create an environment of authenticity and integrity.
  • Ensure that non-native speakers of English are familiar with jargon and colloquialisms of your company. If necessary, hire a language or communication consultant to help them.

DON’T:

  • Rely on Cross-Cultural stereotypes.
  •  Try to figure out the culture, religion, values and beliefs of a culture solely through the lens of your own worldview.
  • Talk more than you listen.
  • Assume that you have all the answers.
  • Embrace institutional ethnocentrism or values.
  • Take a position of cultural dominance or as we like to call it, the  ‘my culture is better’  approach.
  • Provide insufficient communication to employees during periods of crisis or transition.
  • Force solutions without discerning if they are applicable,  considerate, and law-abiding.
  • Ignore dissonance between written policy and actually implemented policy at the ground level.

There are plenty of other tips, tricks and strategies we could offer and a host of resources, but your reading time is limited.  With that being said, we would recommend that you take the time to look into the scholarly research on these topics.  Also, stay tuned to our blog, as we often share free webinars interesting articles and other resources for your team.

©Allison J. Weaver Consulting, LLC 2017

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