How to Work With People from Different Cultures

Since Canada is so multicultural, the ability to work effectively in a diverse environment is a necessary workplace skill.  However, if you haven’t had much exposure to people from other cultures, it may be difficult for you.  Here are some tips that will help you succeed in a diverse workplace: 

Make a decision to be more open to other cultures.  If you embrace the opportunity to connect with different types of people, it will make it a lot easier for you.  Try to seek out people from a variety of cultures and learn about their customs and traditions.  As people see that you are open to connecting with people from all types of backgrounds, you may find that they will seek you out and want to spend time with you.

Become aware of your own biases.  We all have biases, but they may be less visible to you if you are part of the dominant group.  Your biases affect how you perceive the world and how you view people from other cultures.  Consider your religion, ethnicity, nationality, occupation, socioeconomic status, gender, family views and anything else that may impact your perspective.  Try to identify any blatant or hidden prejudices that you may have.  Think about your behaviour; is there a type of person that you avoid or mistrust?  Why?  Once you are aware of your biases, you remove their power over you and you allow yourself to make deliberate decisions that are based on facts.   

Be curious.  Make an effort to talk to people from different cultures and ask them about their traditions, customs and values.  Give them the opportunity to tell you their story and listen to what they are saying.  As you learn more about where they are coming from, you may find it easier to understand them.

Relate to people as individuals, not as stereotypes.  Never make assumptions about people based on their religion, ethnicity or nationality.  It is offensive and your assumptions could be dead wrong.

Be positive about diversity.  Diversity shows us different perspectives, creates stronger teams, and makes the world more interesting.  Canadians have the opportunity to interact with all different types of people.  If you want to be successful in the Canadian workplace, it is essential that you embrace diversity.

Working with others is tough enough when everyone is coming from the same place, but when you throw different languages, values, and customs into the mix, it is a wonder that we can get any work done.  However, if you are open-minded and you treat others how you would like to be treated, you shouldn’t have a problem in any workplace.

(Written by: Karen Bivand)

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