Workplace Communication: Avoid Communication Blunders in a Multicultural Workplace

The multi-cultural workplace is here to stay. For many workplaces, miscommunication because of cultural differences is quite common and, as you can imagine, leads to hurt feelings and uncomfortable employee relationships. That’s why workplace leaders need to train employees to use effective communication in a multicultural workplace.

Obviously, better workplace communication can provide for more employee job satisfaction in general, but it’s even more important when there’s a mix of cultures.

Avoid Making Cultural Communication Blunders

In order to avoid making a cultural communication blunder it is very important for your staff to understand the customs of the different cultures represented in your workplace.

Anna is her team’s leader. She is giving evaluations and feedback to coworkers at a meeting. When she reaches Jin, a Japanese coworker, and offers some criticisms and helpful suggestions, Jin appears upset. “What did I do?,” wonders Anna. “Did I say something wrong?”
Anna didn’t realize that it is serious breach of etiquette in Japan to criticize someone directly in public. While Anna was a team coworker, it is even true when the relationship is superior-subordinate.

Anna decides to approach Jin about the meeting and ask if she did something wrong or offended her. Jin was appreciative and explained that in her culture, it is not acceptable to criticize someone in public.
Anna apologizes to her and adds that she would like to learn more about her culture so she can communicate more effectively. They decide to ask their supervisor to plan a training session where employees can share information about their cultures.

How to Help Multi-cultural Employees Get Along Better

Provide opportunities for your staff to:

Talk about each others’ cultures. Ask each other about helpful in communication tips.
Share information about each other’s cultural celebrations.
Bring in ethnic food and share recipes
Two other cultural differences that affect workplace communication.

What one culture considers ambitious and industrious is seen by some cultures as self-serving
While one culture values a confident and direct approach, some cultures view it as arrogant.
Everyone is Also an Individual

It is good to remind employees that even individuals within a particular culture are unique because of gender, age, occupation, education, life experiences, etc. That’s why it’s important for all employees who work together to get to know each other, personally.

If you and your staff can understand each other’s customs, and understand each other as individuals as well, it will open up a new world of communication for all of you, and lead to significant improvement in teamwork and employee satisfaction.

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