Whether you’re starting a new job in a diverse environment or enjoying the company of new coworkers, adapting to different ages, genders and races can be challenging. But it can also be a blessing and an opportunity to grow as both a person and as a professional. By taking the chance to learn from and about those in your workplace environment, you can discover more about the world around you, more about yourself and more about what it takes to succeed in your career.
The world is filled with people of different skin colors. If you’ve been working in a homogenous work environment and a sudden new hire changes the color scheme, you may feel a number of new emotions and start asking yourself questions such as, “How should I treat her?” and, “Do I need to speak differently to him?” The answers to those questions are easy. You should treat the newcomers as you would want to be treated yourself -- with respect -- and you should speak to them as you would to a coworker of your own skin color in the same position.
Cultural diversity can be evident in a number of ways, including religious practices, food choices and wardrobe. If your new coworkers are on an even professional level with you, ask them if they feel comfortable answering questions about their customs. If they do, take the chance to learn about their habits and culture. Be respectful with your questions, and always check with your HR department before getting too nosy. Get the facts from the personnel experts regarding what you can and can’t ask, and respect the professional boundaries of your coworker.
If your company has hired someone who speaks a different language than you do, chances are they have made a way for the new employee to communicate with the rest of the staff either by hiring an interpreter or recruiting the help of another employee who speaks the language. As you work, however, may find that you need to be able to share and receive information with them directly on occasion. If that is the case, work with your superiors to find out if they would be willing to help you learn the new language by sending you through a class or purchasing language-learning materials. And, when it comes to encounters with your coworker, speak slowly and don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat themselves. Learn a few functional work-related phrases to help you both do your jobs more effectively.
If you get hired into a place that is run and staffed mostly by men, you’ll have a few adjustments to make. The best thing you can do is know your rights as a woman in the workplace. If a situation makes you uncomfortable, knowing what is legal and what isn't can help you determine your course of action. If all of your coworkers are happy to have you, the adaptation will be easier, but it will still come with certain boundaries that need to be upheld. Be willing to speak up and voice your displeasure if a coworker crosses a line and express yourself professionally. Soon, you’ll adapt to the new environment, and so will the rest of the staff.
After graduating from the University of Kansas with a bachelor's degree in sports information, Jill Lee served for 10 years as a magazine editor for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Also a published author, Lee now works as a professional writer and editor focusing on fitness, sports and careers.