Working with people who come from a different set of beliefs, traditions and cultural norms is nothing new to the workforce, but it has become more prevalent today. A lack of knowledge or respect toward other cultures can cause tension among employees who come from diverse backgrounds. Employees can learn how to maintain their own personal beliefs without attacking or being attacked by coworkers or management. Companies that take steps to improve acceptance of different cultures will create a more harmonious work environment.
Allow employees to plan events for the various monthly cultural observances such as Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15; Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month in May; Native American Heritage Month in November; and Black History Month in February. Preparing dishes, bringing authentic displays and even performing are great ways for employees to learn more about the cultures of their coworkers. Select two or three employees of different backgrounds each month to plan a cultural observance, but always ask first if the employees feel comfortable with the task of planning. No one should feel forced to participate, but everyone should feel welcome to join in on the festivities.
Take complaints about harassment or discrimination based on cultural differences seriously. Have an open-door policy so that employees feel comfortable addressing these types of concerns to you. Make your employees' comfort level at work a priority, and listen carefully to their concerns, show empathy and take action to ensure that they feel satisfied with how the situation was handled. Whether you have to contact human resources or reprimand the offender, ensure that you are following company policy and all applicable laws.
Create a survey asking employees how comfortable they feel with management's actions on diversity matters and if they feel as if everyone is treated fairly regardless of their race, religion or background. Ask employees if they would be interested in programs designed to make working together easier. For instance, starting a language course through the company's internal training program may help some employees understand one another more clearly. Be open to your employees' suggestions; you may find the key to some of your deepest concerns in their responses.
- The Office of Civil Rights regulates compliance with laws dealing with discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age and disability. Though the agency focuses on federal workplaces, its website provides links to plenty of helpful information about fostering an open, nondiscriminatory environment in any work setting.
- Showing bias toward any particular culture may cause problems in the workplace
Christina Caldwell is a contributor for online publications such as Women's eNews and Little Pink Book. Her work has also been featured in the popular U.K. magazine "Black Heritage Today." Caldwell holds a bachelor's degree in marketing and communications.