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How Cultural Diversity Affects Workplace Behavior
The workplace is an arena of forced relationships. Under ordinary circumstances, personal social circles are created voluntarily. People choose their friends and acquaintances by making a conscious choice. People also decide if they wish to maintain a friendly relationship or end it. In the workplace however, these rules don’t apply.
In the workplace, people from different ethnic cultures and backgrounds come together. Unlike social circles, workplace relationships are for better or worse, imposed upon us. You meet your team members and bosses at random without your approval, opinion or choice. Out of necessity, you must learn to co-operate and collaborate in order to function as a successful and productive work team.
The level of diversity found in any given workplace across America is astounding. It’s interesting to note that there are over 300 languages spoken in the United States today. We are exposed to unfamiliar behaviors, different interpersonal communication styles, cultural norms and religious beliefs. The American workplace is truly a reflection of our ever changing, dynamic society.
For better or worse, Americans have always had the luxury of travelling abroad without having to worry too much about communication issues. Almost every metropolitan European city is able to accommodate the American tourist and offer tours, services and hospitality in English. It's remarkable how many people in countries outside the United States speak English. There is no single group anywhere in the world that can boast of this privilege.
The opposite is certainly not true. You would be hard pressed to find the same level of communication for Polish, Austrian or French travelers to America. Perhaps it is this huge convenience in the American mindset that has also made it so difficult and inconvenient for Americans to learn a language other than English.
It is a fact that Americans have not expended the same effort as their European counterparts in attempting to understand other ethnic groups and become more culturally educated. While it’s quite common for many Europeans to speak two or three languages, most Americans are uni-lingual.
To a large degree, this cultural isolation mindset is reflected in the American workplace. Even though they work side by side, Americans have a minimal awareness of the cultural identity of people from different countries.
The workplace is an extremely important juncture where culturally diverse, first generation employees attempt to immerse and make the transition into the American culture. It may be useful and wise for the rest of us to assist these individuals during this dynamic process.
In today’s workplaces where cultural diversity is commonplace, it is important to attempt to increase our sensibilities and learn to become more culturally aware. Perhaps we should begin to think how we can enrich each other by taking the best from each other's cultures and use that as a springboard to develop better working relationships.
About the Author:
Isaac Botbol - CEO of Training for Hispanics in the Workplace.
Isaac has over 19 years experience as a bilingual Organizational Development Consultant. He is dedicated to the learning needs of non-English fluent Hispanic Team Leaders, Supervisors and Front Line employees.
For more information about the author, please visit: www.hispanicsintheworkplace.com