Cultural Differences In the Workplace
Workplace Cultural Considerations: In a workplace, we recognize situations where misunderstandings may arise from diversity.
- Language – different languages will instantly case misunderstanding.
- Gestures – for example hand gestures like the ‘ok’ sign with your thumb and index finger, means something offensive in Iran, France and Brazil. In Thai culture, it is rude to pat someone on the back.
- Body language – showing the soles of your feet or shoes to Muslim’s is a sign of disrespect, whereas keeping your shoes on in some cultures such as Thai is also a sign of disrespect. Understanding the culture of your client before working with them is very important.
- Forms of cultural address and cultural terms: Make sure to understand how different cultures like to be addressed and what is most culturally respected. For example, Indigenous People do not like being referred to as ‘Aborigines’. Using disrespectful terms of address can cause offense. Another example is Aboriginal People like to identify their belonging to their spiritual relatives as their ‘mob’ or ‘community’. Inappropriate alternatives to ‘mob’ are ‘tribe’ and ‘clan’.
- Stereotyping and Prejudice: not treating people as individuals and finding out a person’s individual needs, abilities, and beliefs. Not jumping to assumptions, such as ‘because you’re American you must love Donald Trump.’ This could be taken very offensively due to it being a political stereotype.
Once we recognize this, we use appropriate responses when misunderstandings do arise.
- Remaining calm, open body language
- Be respectful, listen and show empathy
- Show no prejudice or discrimination
- Take the misunderstanding seriously and understand that you have caused offense and that a misunderstanding has arisen.
- Have open communication with open-ended questions – make sure you get to understand what the client would like to feel reassured, safe and respected.
How Can Cultural Consideration Improve Workplace Relationships
In a workplace, we recognize situations where misunderstandings may arise from diversity.
- Get feedback from a colleague on how you handled a situation.
- If the misunderstanding was something like using the incorrect form or address or cultural reference, ensure you make a note of the correct cultural reference and inform/educate other colleagues who would be working with the client.
- Education – do some more research on the root of the misunderstanding / or learn more about that specific culture and situation to educate yourself.
- Professional Standards and Code of Conduct may vary between between states. When working for any organisation, it is important to understand your legal and ethical duties in the role you take on.
- Reporting requirements may also vary between states and with different diversity groups. For example, working with children I would need guardian/parent approvals.
- Different services will be available for diverse groups. These will vary in different states and countries.
For example, in Australia:
- The NDIS is available to provide funding and services for people with a disability.
- There are Aboriginal specific services for health, education etc.
- LGBTIQA+ people have specific counselling and support lines available.
4. There are varying laws in different states and countries.
- There are over 40 countries where being gay is illegal.
- In North Korea it is illegal to believe and practice Christianity.