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A Guide to Multicultural Communication in the Workplace

Posted on 04/13/23 By Guest Contributor

Most companies and organizations comprise employees from various cultures and ethnic groups. These employees need to speak one language as far as work is concerned. But as a leader, it's crucial to understand and appreciate the different cultures and ethnicities of your employees. 

Communicating with a multicultural workforce can be challenging at times. Because of this, it's essential to understand the challenges and develop ways to enhance workplace communication.

What is culture?

A person's culture defines how they communicate. As a leader, you must understand your employee's culture to enhance communication. But what is culture anyway?

Culture is the way of life of a group of people. It's the behaviors, values, beliefs, and symbols that a group of people accepts (generally without thinking about them). It can also be defined as a collective programming of the mind that differentiates the members of one group from the other. Culture shapes how people (your employees) interact with each other and with you.

Challenges with multicultural communications

Working with a multicultural workforce comes with challenges that can hinder effective communication and collaboration. It's essential to understand these challenges and improve multicultural communication. This helps create a collaborative and productive workforce. Here are some challenges of a multicultural workforce.

1. Language barrier

Cultural differences may create a language barrier which hinders smooth workplace interaction. With English being the global language for business, many international companies have mandated it as the corporate language. 

But some workers can't speak or don't understand English. So when you only accept English for communication within your organization, it will create a language barrier. Some may feel uncomfortable sharing views and opinions, while others may feel unappreciated.

2. Acknowledgment of cultural values

The differences in what your people value and convey can create communication problems within your organization. For instance, those from the Muslim culture have a unique and strict dress code that might create confusion. In China, gift-giving is a norm—in other countries, it may show a negative response in a business environment.

3. Attitudes toward authority and position

Teamwork is vital for any business. However, teams respond to various authority levels differently according to their rank within their organization. This issue affects large and international organizations.

A lack of awareness could create feedback issues and delays for a particular project. This happens when you fail to address cultural differences and instead jump to assumptions.

How to improve multicultural communications

A lack of collaboration and ineffective communication are the reasons behind most workplace failures. It's crucial to understand your employees’ cultures and communicate with them effectively. Here are some tips for improving cross-cultural communication;

  • Have an open mind: Keep an open mind and learn as much as you can about different cultures.
  • Learn and adapt: Be flexible and blend in with people from other cultures. Accept new changes and learn new things each day.
  • Self-awareness: Consider how you communicate with employees. Learn to respond to people differently based on their culture and personalities.
  • Open communication channels: Allow people to voice their thoughts and share information freely.

Of course, there are many other ways to foster communication in the workplace. Find what fits your organization and use it to boost communication.

Benefits of good communication in a multicultural world

Learning to embrace the differences of your employees will enhance communication and boost productivity. Here are some of the benefits of good communication in a multicultural world:

  • Good decision-making: Diverse and inclusive teams make better decisions.
  • Creates more unlikely ideas: People from diverse cultures working together bring out many unique ideas. They draw inspiration from seemingly unrelated places to come up with great ideas.
  • Faster execution: Teams working together in a multicultural environment can make innovative ideas happen more quickly.

Learn More with Lorman

Communication can be challenging for any organization. With a diverse and multicultural workforce, it’s especially important to learn to improve cross-cultural communication.

Lorman can help you improve multicultural communication and boost business productivity. With 14,000+ courses and resources throughout several professional areas, we can support you and your organization in several ways. Contact us today for more information.

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