Cultural diversity is very common in workplaces as it is common in schools and other social groups. While cultural diversity can bring about wonderful benefits, such as innovation, new knowledge, more ideas, and growth, there is no denying that these differences can also bring about a lot of challenges that can cripple the workplace when not properly dealt with.
What is cultural diversity
Cultural diversity simply refers to the existence of a variety of cultures in a social setting. These settings include schools, communities, and workplaces. Cultural diversity can reflect differences in language, food preferences, traditions, beliefs, social norms, and behavioral patterns.
Challenges of cultural diversity in the workplace
In the workplace, cultural differences can bring about the following challenges:
1. Misunderstanding and miscommunication
Differences in language can result in misunderstandings. As one learns to communicate using a new language, he or she may utter the wrong words. It can also be unavoidable for the other party to misinterpret what one truly wishes to convey. Differences in perception among cultures can also result in misinterpretation and misunderstanding.
2. Lack of voice
Speaking another language one is not comfortable with can result in a lack of voice in the workplace. One would just simply decide to stay quiet than speak up and be misunderstood. Lack of voice can also result from a minority who feel they have no power to speak up because their ideas or opinions are given less priority.
Differences in ideas, perceptions, norms, and traditions in the workplace, which are not respected can cause disagreement in the group. When such conflicts happen often, it can result in inefficiency and can hinder the group to work productively.
4. Discrimination and bias
Bias can happen anywhere and in any situation, but cultural differences can trigger unconscious biases to emerge in workplaces. The affected person may feel isolated, unwelcome, and discriminated against, which can affect one’s productivity and eventually, his or her well-being.
Facing the challenges of cultural diversity in the workplace
An organization and its members can take advantage of the benefits of cultural diversity and face its challenges with the following strategies:
- Understanding that diversity exists in the workplace;
- Respecting differences in the workplace, including differences in perceptions, beliefs, traditions, and social patterns;
- Being aware of your own cultural orientation;
- Acknowledging that culture can affect one’s behavior, perceptions, and values;
- Understanding other workmates who belong to different cultures by connecting and bonding with them;
- Avoid miscommunication and misunderstanding with workmates by clarifying and by being open to different perceptions and views; and
- Avoid conflict by not imposing your values and perceptions to your coworkers.
Organizations can face the challenge of cultural diversity by coming up with activities that promote camaraderie, teamwork, and respect among members. Companies can also provide training for cultural intelligence that will help members of the organization become more receptive and adaptive to cultural differences.