No matter where you work or what you do, you’re going to come across someone who has a different way of doing something, a different way of thinking or maybe just a different way of pronouncing something. Especially here in Cincinnati, with our numerous multinational companies, we’re bound to run into these situations.
Our culture is something that we have learned and passed down from one generation to the next. It shapes our beliefs, perceptions and attitudes. We cannot just change our culture; it is embedded in us. It gives us a standard for what is “right” and what is “wrong.” Occasionally, your right and wrong matrix won’t match someone else’s. This culture clash often brews up the perfect office conflict storm.
Something as simple as a thumbs up hand gesture or a one-word e-mail such as, “Gotcha,” or “OK!” can be offensive to someone from another culture that thinks any form of communication, even an inter-office e-mail, is a serious matter.
There is no set approach to working with people from other cultures, but Carol Turner, the director of human resources at Tuttle Plumbing in Trenton, OH, shares a few suggestions:
Find some common interests you share. Although co-workers or clients may be of a different culture, both of you may have similar interests or experiences. It could be a shared hobby, favorite TV show or even color! Sharing these interests can help bring diverse cultures closer together. If finding common ground is difficult, talk about your differences. Knowledge about differences is one of the ways to successfully work together.
Know that your culture is not the only culture, and what you perceive to be right and wrong is not always true for other cultures. When you are working with other cultures, take a step back to see how you are behaving. Keep in mind that you are not the only person affected by your attitude and think before you speak.
When You Assume…
I don’t think I need to finish that old saying. But it’s true, especially when dealing with cultures other than your own. Different cultures have stereotypes associated with them that are not always correct. Do not assume that you know what another person has gone through. Chances are they are assuming some things about you as well.
Be accepting of what other cultures believe in. You may not agree with what someone else believes, but that doesn’t mean you have to tell him or her it is wrong. Do not judge people without getting to know them first.