In the world we live in, with a supremacist leader as the leader of the free world, it seems that culturally ignorant people feel free to demonstrate their ignorance. Lately, cultural ignorance and overtly offending people have been maximized, and this behavior is slowly becoming the norm.
At work and in life, leaders are the ones to demonstrate exemplary behavior when dealing with people from different backgrounds. They have to be emotionally and culturally intelligent.
Wondering how to adjust yourself with different cultures, to become more culturally sensitive and create a healthy workplace?
What is culture?
Culture is a dynamic and complex system of shared values, norms and symbols that distinguishes groups of people from others and that bound them together. It is demonstrated most often in literature, art, religion, language, traditions.
Furthermore, culture is learnt, and shapes one’s personal behavior, values, thoughts, experiences. for example, it defines one’s reaction to conflict or our problem solving skills.
Culture lays the basis for purpose, a higher calling and meaning in life. It is built on morals and a set of unspoken rules. It also conditions our perception for failure and success.
What is cultural sensitivity?
Cultural sensitivity is being aware that everyone is not the same. It means being able to learn from different people, to understand their backgrounds, to collaborate and cooperate with them, without being judgmental.
Cultural sensitivity means viewing everyone as a unique individual. It promotes unity and has become a skill that is most useful in the world of today.
Why is cultural sensitivity important?
Cultural sensitivity is detrimental because it introduces the concept of identity, of cultural appreciation, of cultural differences. It consequently increase the feeling of belonging and of safety. It improves communication, the quality of work in multinationals or when dealing with coworkers from different backgrounds. In addition, it removes the idea of cultural superiority.
Contrasting cultures bring a diverse set of knowledge, competencies, perspectives and ideas. If positively and purposefully harnessed, culture differences can trigger innovation, creativity and improve job satisfaction.
How to become a culturally sensitive leader?
Work is a part of an individual social identity. Corporate has its own culture, with its norm, its rules, its own values and own systems of beliefs. If the culture is healthy and positive, people easily feel empowered, valued and give better results.
In the corporate culture, managing people with different backgrounds is complex and full of challenges. Regardless of the laws in place, there are a lot of micro aggression towards diversity.
To create culturally sensitive environment, and subsequently a healthy workplace:
- Encourage self-awareness and self-development. Change is an internal process that requires self-analysis and self-respect beforehand.
- Stay authentic and don’t try to appropriate or claim someone else’s culture.
- Be mindful, be open to new experiences and don’t hesitate to explore and learn new things.
- Remember, with every interaction, that every person from a different culture is a human-being.
- Embrace people who are different from yourself. Get to know the person’s background to understand their behavior, how they operate in society and how they experience life.
- Listen actively and respectfully to people and when speaking, choose your words carefully.
- Avoid imposing your ideas on people and forcing them into a box of stereotypes.
- Take the initiative and learn other people’s dynamics through personal experience or prolonged exposure.
- Identify some idioms and sayings. Also, pronounce their name correctly and accept silence as an act of communication. Learning their language will consequently improve communication.
- Show appreciation for someone else’s culture. On one hand, demonstrate empathy and avoid judging them. On the other hand, don’t pander too much to someone else’s culture.
- Ask probing open-ended questions. Avoid asking too many questions as not to overwhelm your interlocutor.
- Help your employees to understand the company’s culture, expectations, goals and code of conduct.
- Work on your social skills. Focus on building healthy relationships.
- Effectively navigate conflicts brought by cultural differences.
- Pick up on emotional and non verbal cues during conversations.
- Take and provide diversity trainings.
- If you are part of the majority, seek understanding before seeking to be understood. opening up to minorities will help them accept yours faster, to face challenges better and will increase their work performance.
- Respect that other people won’t want to integrate your culture.
- Allow people to express freely their values. This will increase their interactions with others, their work performance and their well-being.
- Learn to compromise.
- Encourage your team to travel more and to approach diverse group of people outside of work.
Adjusting or understanding a culture is a long process. Learning and adjusting to someone else’s culture doesn’t mean that you have to deny your own. It just means that you are able to work and collaborate with people from diverse culture.
Hope that I’ve helped you get it together on your way to leadership!
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