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How do we work?: Different Working Cultures in The World

Written by Kayla Karmawan

"Strength lies in differences, not in similarities." - Stephen R. Covey

When we talk about the different working cultures across the globe, it is interesting to see how prominent the role that culture plays in affecting them. In today’s globalized world, cultural diversity is a defining feature of working environments, organizational dynamics, and university settings. Whether you are living abroad or not, most likely you are surrounded by international people of diverse backgrounds. And when these individuals come together to collaborate and innovate, it becomes essential to build an inclusive and vibrant community. In multinational companies and international teams, employees bring unique perspectives influenced by their cultural backgrounds. Although it makes for a culturally rich environment, it also presents challenges such as language barriers and cultural misunderstandings. Not until too long ago, most of us would work in settings that were largely local. This means that we interacted with colleagues, friends, and clients who most likely were culturally raised in a similar way and therefore have the same style of thinking, communication and making decisions.

In a local working environment, people understand each other in a way that is already familiar. People can read each other’s body language, and understand views and opinions, even something as small as the kind of jokes that are socially acceptable and not. The challenge started when companies, universities and organisations began to expand internationally. When we work with people from a different culture, the more different it is, the higher the risk that conflicts may arise.

Cross-Cultural Challenges in Organizational Settings

Navigating cross-cultural challenges requires sensitivity and cultural competence. In multicultural workplaces, stereotypes and biases may affect interpersonal relationships and decision-making processes. Effective communication strategies, cultural awareness training, and inclusive leadership practices can help mitigate these challenges and foster a sense of belonging among employees from diverse backgrounds.

Diversity in University Environments

Universities serve as an environment of cultural exchange and intellectual inquiry. With diverse student populations and faculty members from around the world, academic institutions offer unique opportunities for cross-cultural learning and collaboration. International student organizations, cultural festivals, and academic exchange programs contribute to the rich tapestry of university life, fostering friendships and connections across borders. By embracing diversity in all its forms, we can create inclusive learning environments where everyone feels valued and empowered to explore new ideas and perspectives.

These are a few ways that multinational companies have practised to create a more productive environment in an attempt to include all people of different cultures:

Cultural Sensitivity Training: Offer training sessions or workshops to raise awareness about different cultures, customs, and communication styles. This can help employees or students understand and appreciate diversity, reducing misunderstandings and conflicts.

Promote Inclusive Policies: Implement policies and practices that promote diversity and inclusion, such as equal opportunities for career advancement, flexible work arrangements to accommodate different cultural needs, and zero-tolerance policies for discrimination or harassment.

Create Cross-Cultural Teams: Forming diverse teams can encourage collaboration and creativity by bringing together individuals with different cultural backgrounds and perspectives. Encourage team members to learn from each other and leverage their unique strengths.

Provide Language Support: Offer language training or support services for individuals who may face language barriers in the workplace or classroom. This can help improve communication and integration among culturally diverse members.

Feedback and Adaptation: Regularly seek feedback from employees or students about their experiences with cultural diversity in the workplace or university. Use this feedback to identify areas for improvement and adapt strategies accordingly to create a more inclusive environment.

Continuous Learning: Encourage ongoing learning and self-awareness about cultural diversity through resources such as books, articles, online courses, or guest speakers. Promote a culture of continuous improvement and openness to learning from diverse perspectives.

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