Communicating and cooperating with people from other cultures is a part of life, and definitely a part of the management landscape. Good managers must develop cultural competency, which is the ability to recognize cultural differences, and respond to them appropriately and effectively.
A Starting Point: Look Within
Everyone brings their own background and preconceived notions to work with them every day. One exercise that is often recommended by experts in managing diverse workplaces is to do in a self audit of your own preconceived notions about other cultures. It’s impossible to address ‘blind spots’ or assumptions if they have not been identified. We all have biases, and the goal is to respond to cultural differences in the workplace in a way that is measured, balanced, and is not influenced by personal biases.
Self-regulation is a skill that allows us to choose how we will respond in various situations, including when we are exposed to cultural differences. Ideally, we would be able to hit the ‘pause button’ before every interaction and do a thorough audit to analyze if we are making the appropriate response. While that scenario is impractical, we can take a moment to think through things (like an email), before we respond to them.
Skilled managers of diverse workforces are able to pick up verbal and nonverbal cues given by others and respond appropriately. Getting to know your co-workers by being attentive to them fosters this ability. Show an interest in different cultures and develop a sense of curiosity to learn about others.
Cultural sensitivity is being able to notice the feelings and circumstances of others and respond appropriately, in a way that makes them feel validated and safe. Practicing being empathetic to others will help in this area, as well as being flexible when you hear the opinions of others, especially when they differ from your own.
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