Our cross-cultural interactions with our colleagues or clients can either strengthen our connections and help us succeed or work against us.
Developing and showing cultural sensitivity is essential for your success and happiness in the workplace.
What is Cultural Sensitivity?
Cultural sensitivity is:
being aware that there are cultural differences between individuals and groups.
understanding that cultural differences can have an impact on people's behaviors and communication styles.
being respectful and non-judgmental towards other cultures.
being curious and open to learning about other people's cultures.
Cultural sensitivity means you recognize that people:
Cultural Differences At Work
Our everyday interactions at work depend greatly on our cultural backgrounds.
Here are a few examples:
Communication Styles: Eye contact, for example, is perceived as a sign of respect in some cultures, while in others, it may be considered confrontational or inappropriate.
Relationship Styles: Some cultures are more task-based and focus on people's competence at work, while others are relationship-based. They tend to focus on building stronger personal bonds at work.
Degree of Formality: The way people dress, how they address their superiors, and how they communicate can be formal or informal depending on the culture.
Degree of Punctuality: While some cultures are timely and precise, others are more flexible and adaptive with time, schedules, and deadlines.
Which of the following can be influenced by someone's culture? Select all that apply.
Why Does Cultural Sensitivity Matter?
To get an idea of how culture can influence the interaction between people in the workplace, take a look at this scenario:
Michael just got his first job. He works in a multinational company, and he is in a meeting with a group of colleagues and clients from various countries. He extends his hands to a female client, but she hesitates to shake hands.
What can Michael do in this situation?
A. Assume the client isn't interested in doing business with him
B. Offer a polite greeting and a smile instead of a handshake
C. Ask the female client why she doesn't want to shake hands
The best way to navigate this culturally sensitive situation is to:
Ways to Develop Your Cultural Sensitivity
Learn about other cultures. Attend cultural festivals and events, and get to know people with unique backgrounds. Educate yourself about other cultures, especially the cultures of people you work closely with.
Avoid making assumptions. Preconceived ideas of how someone from a particular background is supposed to behave or think can be harmful.
Reflect on your own biases. Be aware of how your own biases may influence your perceptions of other cultures.
Practice empathy. Try to understand people's experiences from their perspective.
Ways to Demonstrate Cultural Sensitivity
Listen actively. It’s important to open the doors of communication if your colleagues want to share their thoughts and experiences in the workplace with regard to their culture.
Be open-minded. By approaching different cultures with a spirit of curiosity and flexibility, you get to enjoy new experiences.
Respect boundaries. Be mindful of people's personal space, privacy, and cultural practices.
Communicate clearly. Avoid using expressions that may not be familiar to others from different cultures.