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How to Deal with Cultural Barriers for Communication in the Workplace

Сultural barriers for communication
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Being a part of a multinational company with coworkers of different nationalities, religions and beliefs can be tricky. The upper management is usually oblivious to the everyday happenings that occur in their offices until such time comes when they can’t do it anymore.

Coworker misunderstandings, rivalries or even resignations aren’t just a figure of speech when it comes to boiling office relations. There are certainly ways to avert such things from happening but you should always act preventively instead of waiting for something bad to happen.

What are some of the ways in which you can deal with cultural barriers in your own workplace in order to improve team communication at work?

Introduce a bottom-up culture

Giving voice to your colleagues and office workers is a good way to show some appreciation and understanding towards them. A bottom-up culture consists of listening to team members and office staff that doesn’t necessarily have a managerial position of power in their workplace.

This means that everyone cooperates with everyone else without exception, listening to ideas, giving constructive feedback to one another and simply working as a team instead of an office full of people.

Bottom-up cultures are present in some of the most powerful companies in the world and their employees simply don’t want to leave due to the sense of appreciation and loyalty they have.

Organized teambuilding

While the notion of having a CEO that plays football or pool with their office staff isn’t something you see every day, such examples do exist in the corporate world. Being acceptant of other cultures and beliefs sometimes means stooping from the throne and playing with others.

Cultural barriers exist due to a lack of communication and understanding of people that are different from us – not because they are evil or threatening. Teambuilding exercises in a controlled environment are a great way to bridge those barriers and have everyone play along with each other.

There is no better way for people to bond than by talking and doing something other than work.

Coworker presentations

Imagine working in the same office with people from different continents and those people having vastly different religions and daily routines. It can be stressful to even spend some time with those people at lunch break, let alone work together full-time.

Organizing presentations in which coworkers are given an opportunity to introduce themselves in a non-formal fashion is a great way to alleviate some of those concerns. It’s doubtful that you or any of your coworkers will individually look up details about new employees and their cultures, let alone the language and tradition of those individuals.

Participating in these small events will not only give you a glimpse into their world but also make it much easier to cooperate and befriend new coworkers.

Promote verbal clarity

Your new colleagues might be from Germany, China, India or even Russia or Greece – these countries have vastly different cultures and languages. Promoting verbal clarity in a multicultural company is extremely important if you want to satisfy your employees, colleagues and clients alike.

This clarity should be respected and practiced across the board – from corporate emails to team meetings and written reviews. A verbal (and written) clarity will ensure that new employees are eased into the corporate vocabulary and introduced to a new language in a more steady way.

Tossing them into an unknown environment with language barriers to boot will result not only in them being scared of their colleagues but potential mistakes as well.

Avoid using slang or lingo

While using lingo isn’t advised in the corporate sphere, people still do it out of habit or necessity. Corporate correspondence and official documents should always be free of lingo, no matter if you are a multinational company or a small startup – there are some rules that need to be followed.

Using a service such as Online Writers Rating is a good way to ensure that such errors are fixed ahead of potential issues that may arise. Some of these issues can include misunderstanding or malpractice of corporate instructions and rules due to a language barrier that might exist among your colleagues.

Make sure that all office correspondence is as professionally written as possible in order to ensure clarity and understanding.

Delegate important projects

Depending on the position you hold in your company, you can delegate important tasks to your colleagues in the minority. This type of trust often bears fruit thanks to the feeling of inclusion that coworkers feel when trusted with important tasks.

While these projects shouldn’t involve managerial or team leader positions, trusting your coworkers with such work will show them that you truly care about their wellbeing in the company. The same effect will be felt by the others once that particular colleague (or colleagues) finishes a task with flying colors.

There is no better way to bond people that work together than by showing them that everyone on the staff is equally capable of contributing to the bigger picture.

Accommodate minorities

You shouldn’t avoid hiring professionals from other countries or those of different beliefs than your own. Expanding into different territories and markets brings with it a need to change the way you do business, especially in the internal culture you cultivate.

Make sure to include people of different mentalities, religions and native languages in different departments and project teams. This type of inclusion is a great way to bolster morale and promote good office communication.

Separating people based on their beliefs or origins is the worst thing you can do to your office which will sometimes lead to unavoidable conflicts or even failed projects.

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Confront confrontations

Don’t wait until uncomfortable situations become unbearable for everyone in the office. As people spend more time together, conflicts of opinion are bound to happen. Your job as a manager or a coworker is to keep an eye out for potential “ticking bombs” and defuse these situations before they escalate.

Confronting issues head-on is the best way to avoid unpleasant situations and move on to more important topics such as work and ongoing projects. This doesn’t mean you should punish or ignore people who might be involved in an office misunderstanding.

Communicating with these people and overcoming their problems is important for everyone in the office, not just themselves. Don’t lie to yourself by thinking that your office atmosphere is perfect and try to see things more objectively if you have people of different backgrounds and countries of origin present on staff.

Be open to change

Being a professional translates to being open to new opportunities, opinions and people in general. While our upbringing dictates most of how we perceive other people and their differences, we can still put extra effort into trying to understand our colleagues a bit better.

Don’t scoff because your Muslim colleague doesn’t eat fatty foods or that your German colleague’s English is rough around the edges. Their professional development and life decisions have brought them to the same office space you work in and are trying to make a living same as you.

Think about whom they are as people and ask them how they are before raising an eyebrow and turning your back on people of different cultural backgrounds. You may find yourself on the receiving end of the stick if you choose to migrate to a different country or a continent down the line – think about how you would feel in their position.

The bottom line

Having a colleague that needs to pray during lunchtime or someone who brings their own food from home because their culture dictates them is normal. We are all guilty of being afraid or confused by someone different than us, whether in an office environment or on the street.

Keep an open mind towards your colleagues and you will soon realize that they are no different than anyone you’ve met before. We are all meant to be unique in our own way, and learning to adapt and overcome cultural barriers in a workplace can only make that office a more productive and comfortable place to work in.

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Jessica Fender

Jessica Fender, passionate marketer and head of content team at Online Writers Rating , a legit writing reviews website. I am fond of developing my management skills and creating awesome and innovative content with my coworkers.

1 comment

  • Hi Jessica,

    Thanks for these advices. I think team building is always a good way for better understanding each other.

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