In a diverse country such as ours, you're bound to wind up with employees from various religions, cultures and background. That's the beauty of our democracy, but it can also be a challenge.
Beautiful as our diverse national identity is, it can result in misunderstandings that may end up in hostilities. Workplace relations among employees from different backgrounds therefore are tricky at best.
Creating excitement and a shared “synergy” among team members is something that every leader should strive for and cultural competence is a key skill in this regard. Diverse values, norms, and traditions almost always dictates a member's perception, thinking, interaction, behaviour, and judgment.
As some cultures are individualistic and employees from these cultures may usually want to go at things alone, while other cultures value cooperation within or among other teams. Team building might be a challenge as teams comprise of members from these cultures.
Cultures differ in their perception of time. There's difference in how people of different cultures go about striking a balance between work and family life. Other differences include the perception of overtime, or even the exact meaning of a deadline.
A great leader would do the following to overcome challenges posed by cultural diversity:
1. Maintain a High Level of Cultural Awareness
- Develop a skill to understand your reactions to someone of a different culture and how your behaviour might interfere with effective working relationships.
2. Acquire Knowledge
- It's important to actively seek knowledge of other cultures and practice tolerance with regard to these differences, in the interest of effective teamwork.
3. Avoid Stereotypes and Assumptions
- Stereotypes may lead to invalid conclusions. As much as people have a lot in common by virtue of being human, we are all individuals and deserve to be judged on our own merit. Even when an individual seems to fit a stereotype, it’s important to analyse all the assumptions that are being made.
4. Learn to Adapt
- All employees have a duty to learn and adapt to the culture of the business, but this is a two-way street; management also needs to adapt to the diverse identities, cultures and religions that exist within their organisation.