Do you have a multicultural workforce? Are you working in a company with multiple nationalities? Do you find it difficult to manage people from different cultures?
Managing and leading a diverse team can be a very difficult challenge for leaders.
I had a co-manager before that when we spoke about the multicultural team that we’re managing, we always thought of if we can handle this, there is nothing else we cannot handle. We would be invincible once we have the team stable.
A multicultural workforce is very abundant in countries where expatriates are part of the workforce of every company. Those countries, for example, are Singapore, EU countries because of the freedom of movement and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.
Managing a multicultural team is no different than any other team only you have to be very keen on details and pay extra attention.
Here are the essential tips that can help you efficiently manage a multicultural workplace:
Treat Everyone with Fairness and Equality
While this should always be the case but sometimes, managers tend to favor those who share the same culture with them. Do not do this. You can’t be lenient on one and strict on the other.
Avoid this at any point. I’m sure you’re not the nicest person on a bad day. You do not represent your whole nation. Your employees do not as well.
Not to be confused with the stereotype but some people may take something bad while some do not. Note how your employees communicate with you mostly and make that your baseline when speaking to them. I’ve known some culture where they appreciate it if you curse or swear while you’re discussing something. Surprisingly good, they like it. It made my job easier.
Limit Language Barrier
Create and enforce a policy that everyone should speak in a neutral language. It is rude conversing in a language that not everyone understands. By enforcing this policy, not only you ensure that all your employees do not get paranoid when somebody speaks with a language they do not know but it also promotes them at getting better at what language they’re supposed to communicate with.
Always Be On Your Toes
Always be on the lookout for a potential risk. If someone is being a problem especially if it’s towards a certain culture, pull him out as soon as possible. Speak to him and ensure it doesn’t go from bad to worse.
Plan A Team Building Exercise
A team building does not necessarily mean you have to take your team outside. You can do it within the office. Plan an exercise that would let the team bond more. For example, let them form groups with someone from a different culture and let them ask one another about each other’s culture and see if there are similarities.
The best team building outdoors exercises. Let your team see each other when they’re not in the office. This can create a whole new perspective for everyone about each other.
Conduct A Survey
This is one of the sure ways how you can manage any employees regardless of culture. Prepare general questions that would let you know how each and every employee’s preference. Ensure to only enforce a rule when it does not go a long way from the company’s policy.
Say you have employees that work from home and you have a rule that there must be a weekly coaching session. Instead of a weekly in-office coaching session, do 1 week for online coaching session and the other for in-office.
As much as we’d like, there would be times that a non-native speaker will have a hard time retaining information especially if the pace of the conversation is fast. Say you’re going to do a performance review. Give general information beforehand so your employee will have an ample time to come up with questions or would not be in the dark once the coaching begins.
Ask Their Opinions
Especially if you’re expanding globally and you’re tapping a market which you have employees that are more familiar with that culture, ask their opinions. They’d be more than happy to provide feedback on your course of actions and can make suggestions on how you can achieve your target market easier.
I once worked with a boss that told me a story that whenever we get a meeting with a client whose from his home country, he gets to participate in the meeting and is always given a task to establish a common ground to make the client feel that we have someone who can understand his needs from all aspects.
This helps a lot in building rapport with a potential client.
Know Enough Knowledge About Your Employees’ Culture
Since your workplace is diverse, you must know some basic information about everyone’s culture. In some culture, women are not allowed to shake hands with men. If you know this, you will not put your staff into a certain awkward situation which she’s given two choices: Shake your hands and put up with it or find a way how she can refuse you without being offended.
I have worked with people that complain about others from different nationalities. Perfect examples are food and hygiene. Some food may have a strong unpleasant smell to others and some are used to not taking a shower before going to work. Come up with a plan or send out a memo that will make everyone meet halfway and compromise. Explain the importance of being presentable before going to work and bring food that does not leave the pantry smelling like it for hours.
Respect the religious holidays of your employees by knowing which days are considered sacred to them. If you work in a Non-Christian country, let your Christian Employees take a day off or two on Christmas. Same with Muslims during Ramadan and Jews’ Yom Kippur and more. If your business demands they meet the work hours, let them offset the hours on different days.
Avoid Negative Comments
Granted that you’re curious about someone else’s culture and you want to ask a lot of questions about it. Most will be happy answering questions because it shows interests in their culture but never comment how it does not make sense to you. The same can be said to your own culture. Respect is the key here, friends.
Emphasize The Importance Of Teamwork
Emphasize teamwork all across the board. Let them know that everyone is a part of the company’s success.
Accept The Differences
Embrace the fact of the presence of cultural differences. Make the extra effort to understand it. I once worked in a country in which I researched each and every meaning of the local’s gesture so I won’t misinterpret it as something else. By practicing this, it will form a habit that you’d just subconsciously follow and lets you ease thru managing a diverse workforce.
Having a diverse workplace and making everyone feel accepted is one great sign of business doing good and attracts clients globally. There will be internal difficulties every now and then but that’s a part which every company deals with. How to handle and manage it is what makes you stand out from others.