Stereotypes, discrimination, and both verbal and physical harassment, can lead to potential lawsuits in the workplace and cause a hostile work environment. Teams in these workplaces find unity with their negativity and hate which is contagious. Successful companies have professional work environments which are positive and welcoming for employees to thrive within. Accepting other people is not that difficult. Here are factors that can cause friction:
Stereotypes are beliefs about a certain person or group of people that classify one as “the way they all are”. These stereotypes might have some truth to them, but most times there are quite a lot of lies tied into them as well. People who form stereotypes are close-minded and rather form an opinion based on a consensus. These are harmful to the workplace because they indicate performance ability, personality traits, or race, are reasons to outcast a person. The person is different and therefore, is not accepted and not capable. They severe a team rather than unify it by pointing a person out labeling them as an “oddball”.
Isolating a person based on stereotypes can be hurtful. Discrimination follows through with stereotypes. Based on the criteria that a person is different and odd, the person must then be treated differently. Usually this means treating them unfairly, causing more hardship, or not including them at all. When discrimination occurs, a team has lost a member. The rest of the members congeal together while at the same time repelling another person away from functioning as part of the team. Similarly, favor-ism can also be a form of discrimination where one person is favored over others. This also is not a sign of a team. What often happens is one person ends up working harder to keep their place as part of the team jumping through hurdles discrimination may cause. Others may find their morale is struck so hard that they start to become lackluster about their work. The solution is to strive for equality where everyone feels welcomed and accepted. This happens in a positive work environment.
Conflict can occur without even meaning to. People can easily become offended when poor communication is used. Notice your own style and see how you can improve your communication. Be clear in what you have to say. Think ahead of time as you construct your statements as to what other meanings can be derived that you don’t want to communicate. Be aware of misleading statements which can be confusing. People of different cultures all differ with their type of communication style. Each culture brings these to conversation. Even within American culture, there are ways communication may be misinterpreted. One person may feel they are boldly expressing themselves clearly, while another person may find an expression to be too offensive. Reconstructing the same message in a gentler tone might be more welcoming and be more receptive. Be sensitive with how you communicate. Gauging what you have to say, considering who you are talking, can help communication go more smoothly. Also avoid taboo topics which automatically lead to offense. These include talking about anything sexual in nature, political, religious, medical, or belief orientated. If it is personal or private, it is best to avoid speaking about it.
Physical harassment can also stem from different cultures. When it comes to the workplace, this needs to be steered away from. Some cultures naturally to want to touch other people. While this may be an expression of warmth, it can be unwelcome. Think before touching another person, even on their arm or giving them a hug. It is always best to ask until you really get to know someone whether it is ok to hug them. Read body expressions and ask when in doubt. What may be communicated by a simple warm touch might be understood entirely differently. Further sexual advances have no place in the workplace. Likewise, the way different cultures dress may be entirely different and send messages that physical advances are welcome. Women who wear shear shirts, short skirts, and unbuttoned tops, can be a distraction in the workplace. It also offensive to see the same-sex that reveals so much and leaves one wondering why this exposure is needed in the workplace in the first place. It is the message that is being signaled by it. The same can be said for t-shirts with messages on them and and sloppy dressing which can be offensive. Dressing appropriately is a way to command respect and communicate you are there for business and are professional.
HR polices are in place for a reason. Employees who “try to see what they can get away with”, may not see past the rules. However, managers that allow this are welcoming sexual misconduct in the office, lost work time for HR concerns and distractions, and are opening the door for a lawsuit toward the company. Coming to work should be for work, and sexual pursuits and any opinion-biases left for off work-time outside of the workplace.
Here is a list of Best Practices for Working Together:
- Fight Stereotypes
- Be flexible with schedules
- Host Team-Building Activities
- Practice Empathy
- Connect diversity to your brand
Read more about Best Practices for Working with Different Cultures in the Workplace by NYC Office Suites.
People who work internationally must also learn to accept differences and find compromise in what they find as tolerable. “Your way” is not always the only way. Being open-minded to other cultures, learning about what they believe, understanding through a first-hand approach of asking why they do what they do, practicing adaptability, and always being polite and considerate is the path to success and higher revenue.
The world is a big place. When you think about it, we are each just one person in the universe which is so big. Wouldn’t it be better to understand someone’s world, rather than decide to be a judge of who belongs and who doesn’t?
“Feeling completely comfortable in another culture can take months or sometimes years…to acclimate yourself to a different culture and avoid offending your host or business colleagues, try to blend in, dress conservatively and appropriately keep your voice low, refrain from showing strong emotions in public, and behave in a pleasant manner no matter what happens…be a good sport!”Business Etiquette for Dummies, by Sue Fox
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