The workplace has become a melting pot for people of different cultures. Understanding and appreciating the diversity will become a source of motivation and enjoyment for you. Failing to respect other people's differences will lead to hostility, tension, and unhappiness. Here are some things you can do to take advantage of working in a multicultural environment:
Avoid offensive terms when referring to race, gender, or ethno-cultural background.
Team new employees, if possible, with partners from similar backgrounds until they find a place in your organization's culture.
Learn about the ethno-cultural backgrounds of people in your organization. You will discover useful information about
how to greet them;
their cultures' attitudes towards authority and gender roles;
compatible personality types;
how they perceive time and the importance of punctuality;
possible tensions with other nationalities;
forms of humour;
expression of emotions;
views on what confers status.
Find out how long your associates from other cultures have been in the country. This knowledge will help you gauge their understanding of, and comfort with, local customs.
If you are working with people whose cultural attitudes towards time and punctuality differ from yours, bring up and discuss the difference, and try to negotiate a mutually acceptable solution.
Remember that different cultures have different degrees of comfort with physical closeness. What might appear standoffish to one person could seem a violation of personal space to another. Be careful about touching until you have a clear understanding of a person's distinction between friendly and offensive behaviours.
Find out the best way of communicating with each person. Some value directness and others find it rude. Some avoid asking questions because they consider it humiliating, so you must make extra efforts to ensure that they understand directions.
Under no circumstances should you tolerate racial slurs or other examples of prejudice in your workplace. Lack of action condones such behaviour. Make sure your colleagues understand that comments based on stereotypes are repugnant and unacceptable.
Support events that let staff members get together socially; these give them a chance to get to know each other better.
Use humour (avoiding stereotypes, of course) to promote a harmonious workplace. Show that you can laugh at your own mistakes, so your colleagues will feel at ease when they have to bring up disagreements.
Remember that your sense of humour may not seem funny to a person from another cultural group. Think about your audience before you make a joke.
Make special efforts to help people from minority groups achieve status in your organization. If you have a say in personnel matters, try to recruit, promote, and train people from other backgrounds so they are represented in all areas and levels of the workplace. Let them prove themselves by giving them increased responsibility and authority.
Spend more of your work and social time with people from backgrounds different from yours so you can get to know them better.
Pay attention to your body language when dealing with people from other ethno-cultural backgrounds, to avoid giving the wrong impression.
Be prepared for problems between your colleagues resulting from cultural conflict or misunderstanding. Deal with them as they arise, before they can turn into major crises.
Remember that cultural differences exist not only between people of different ethnic and religious backgrounds, but also between men and women, different age groups, and people of different sexual orientations.