Multicultural Staff: I Speak Your Language

By Akhil Shahani

One among the many attractions of any cosmopolitan city is cultural diversity. Therefore, it is only to be expected that businesses located in such places would have multicultural staff. Having people with different backgrounds work for you can be an advantage, but at the same time, this may give rise to greater conflict and misunderstanding. Therefore, the key to managing your multicultural staff is to be sensitive and sensible.

How do you manage a set of vastly different people with differing values? Most of the work must be done at the time of recruitment itself. Play your part thereafter, by creating an atmosphere where racial identity has no relevance when it comes to measuring merit and performance.

Looking for the right values: Different countries have different business cultures. However, accommodating them all, in a single cosmopolitan setup, might prove difficult. Hence, outline your corporate culture as well as the skills you need in your employees and zero in on those who fit the bill. At the same time, if you expand operations to other countries, be more accommodating of the business culture out there, setting your expectations accordingly.

Breaking the ice: Throw an induction party for the new team members. Let them get familiar with each other. You could even ask them to share something about their own cultures, something they are proud of, or a funny anecdote arising from cultural differences. This could help them feel comfortable in their own skins. Further, try and make the atmosphere as friendly as possible. Simple things like using a language that everybody understands, is very important.

Cultural clashes: The responsibility of maintaining a sociable environment for multicultural staff rests with you. Outline a policy against discrimination and let your employees know about the same. Should incidents of clashes due to cultural differences emerge, communicate strongly to the parties involved that such behavior is not acceptable. If the problem persists, consider taking some serious action.

Watch your step: There are a couple of things one must be careful about when dealing with multicultural staff. Check for anything that might be offensive to a particular community at the workplace. What might seem perfectly harmless to you could hurt somebody else immensely. Oriental cultures are known to be more reserved, and less direct in their manner of speech. Likewise, certain cultures frown upon the consumption of alcohol, so take care not to force a celebratory glass of bubbly down the wrong throat!

Keeping them happy: When you have multicultural staff you need to be sensitive to different customs and traditions. While giving each one a day off on their respective festivals or national holidays might get complicated, you could institute some flexibility in the leave policy, which allows them to work on another holiday instead. Even better, a small scale theme party celebrating the occasion could help them feel more at home.

“Creating the Multicultural Organization: A Strategy for Capturing the Power of Diversity”, by Taylor Jr. Cox, can be of help. “Multicultural Management 2000: Essential Cultural Insights for Global Business Success (Managing Cultural Differences Series)” by Farid Elashmawi and Philip R. Harris, could give you a hint or two.

Managing multicultural staff isn’t all that difficult. Deal with your own prejudices first. Learn to deal impartially with people irrespective of their racial origin. Have adequate policies in place and ensure that cultural sentiments are not violated. Once the potential problems are dealt with, enjoy the diversity!

About the Author: Hi, I’m Akhil Shahani a serial entrepreneur who wants to help you succeed. If you like to work smart, check out http://www.SmartEntrepreneur.net . It’s full of articles and resources to help you start and grow your business successfully. Please visit us & download our special “Freebie of The Month”.

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