Our cross-cultural interactions with our colleagues or clients can either strengthen our connections and help us succeed or work against us.

A group of people at work from diverse backgrounds standing and discussing a project.

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.

A group of people at work placing their hands on top of each other.


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:

Flaticon Icon: 3 people talking

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.

Flaticon Icon: Two people giving high five

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.

Flaticon Icon: A man in a formal suit

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.

Flaticon Icon: A calendar with a small clock

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?

A man wearing a suit extending his hands for a handshake

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

A magnifying glass with the word culture in the centre

  1. 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.

  2. Avoid making assumptions. Preconceived ideas of how someone from a particular background is supposed to behave or think can be harmful.

  3. Reflect on your own biases. Be aware of how your own biases may influence your perceptions of other cultures.

  4. Practice empathy. Try to understand people's experiences from their perspective.

Check out this this Byte for some tips on how to develop cultural awareness.💡

Ways to Demonstrate Cultural Sensitivity

A happy group of people at work from diverse backgrounds clapping their hands

  1. 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.

  2. Be open-minded. By approaching different cultures with a spirit of curiosity and flexibility, you get to enjoy new experiences.

  3. Respect boundaries. Be mindful of people's personal space, privacy, and cultural practices.

  4. Communicate clearly. Avoid using expressions that may not be familiar to others from different cultures.

Check out this Byte for some tips on how to be culturally sensitive when asking people about their backgrounds.💡

Take Action

Our diversity is our greatest strength. Let's celebrate our differences.

Developing cultural sensitivity is an ongoing process. Start the journey by following these steps:


Your feedback matters to us.

This Byte helped me better understand the topic.

Get support to take action on this Byte