How to Approach Cultural Differences in the Workplace

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Australia is one of the most multicultural societies in the world, and many of our organisations have key recruitment goals to create a more diverse workforce.

But with diversity comes some challenges, like how to deal with the day-to-day cultural differences in beliefs, communication styles, formalities, values, and priorities.

We take a look at how to approach cultural differences and value the many benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace.

Clear Communication

Ensure your policies, health and safety information, and company code are clear and easy to understand for everyone. This way, everyone knows what’s expected and what they’re accountable for, making it fair and equal across the board.

The Australian Multicultural Foundation explores communication styles in their Managing Cultural Diversity Training Manual. They touch on how cultural assumptions, ways of making a point and ways of speaking all contribute to the ways different cultures communicate and express themselves. Other factors covered include:

  • Taking turns in conversation

  • Tolerance of silence

  • Humour and irony

  • Rules of politeness

  • Views of what is logical.

As Diversity Resources outlines in their article, Workplace Cultural Competence – 7 Essentials, cultural differences can make some conversations confusing. Encourage staff to ask questions if something isn’t clear. It’s important to understand and respect different cultures’ communication styles to ensure you’re on the same page.

How to Approach Cultural Differences in the Workplace

Recognition and Understanding

From culture and social upbringing to age, gender and sexual orientation, there are several factors that make people different. Instead of brushing these differences under the rug, embrace them with recognition, acceptance, and understanding.

Encourage employees to let their differences show. Ask someone from a different culture or religion about their practices and beliefs. By asking and educating yourself, you can learn to understand each individual and break down barriers that can lead to discrimination. Understanding a different culture’s etiquette, taboos and important holidays can also help you to accommodate their needs in the workplace.

Working together

Celebrate Diversity

Diversity and cultural differences are something to be celebrated. As discussed in our article, The Importance of a Diverse Leadership Team, diverse businesses boast a selection of benefits, including:

  • A larger pool of experience and unique points of view to draw from, which is great for creating new ideas

  • People from different cultures and backgrounds can bring unique connections, which can lead to more networking opportunities for a company.

Along with recognising and understanding the different cultures in your workplace, celebrate how these differences benefit your business.

You might like to hold a monthly working lunch where each team member shares the story of their cultural background so they feel heard and celebrated.

Discover more about how you can make your workplace culture more inclusive here, or get in touch with the professionals at Chandler Macleod.

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