While surviving the differences in a cross-cultural workplace generally comes down to sincerity and good manners, it really is difficult surviving in an environment where nothing is as it seems to be. Imagine this, you happen to be in a managerial position and are talking to this Arab junior and in the process, you cross an ankle over one of your knees and display the sole of your shoes.
You can see where this is headed. In another instance, you cross your thumb and first finger and lift the other fingers, the American way of saying “OK”, then the colleague you are talking with, Brazilian, walks out on you. In yet another instance, while giving instructions you see one of the employees, the Japanese, vigorously nodding his head up and down and you think he has agreed.
1. Learn and Master Many Languages
The first secret surviving in any cross-cultural workplace whether you’re coming in as a manager or junior is to try learn and master as many different cultures as possible, especially the dominant one. This includes various elements; language, mannerism, pleasantries and work ethic. To foster better understanding, you could attend language classes, translate your messages and use visuals.
2. Learn and Master Many Cultures
As for the other aspects of culture, there’re several books, journals, and articles that can help. The internet is also a very important tool. Being sensitive to the unique cultures of your colleagues is a great step in knowing how to relate well with them and an important tool in forming successful teams within the organization. You could also openly ask your colleagues their cultural insights.
3. Focus More on the Task if Need Be
It also helps to be honest with oneself. It’s not easy to develop a good working relationship with everyone in a cross-cultural workplace. Other than language barrier, there’re cultural differences that may not just go down well with you. While you must not show contempt for your colleagues and their unique cultures, it helps to just focus on the task. Americans are more familiar with this
4. Better Your Skills To Stay Relevant
A characteristic nature of most cross-cultural workplaces is a high skill-set with someone trying to beat you at your own game (abilities) every day. The truth is that most of these organizations are international and they tend to hire only the best. For you to survive in such a workplace, you must better your skills every day and keep up with the most current ideologies and technologies.
5. Openly Communicate With Others
While it helps to simply focus on the task at hand when working with some colleagues, the same should not be misunderstood to mean you should be passive in a cross-cultural workplace. Being passive in such settings generally, reflect incompetence and lack of confidence. You would rather be the employee who expresses him/herself more openly than be one who’s difficult to approach.
6. Be Discreet Disagreeing with Seniors
Level of disagreement with seniors and colleagues is a common cultural difference. Whereas it is very common for Germans and French to disagree forcefully heedless of the audience, Brazilians and Africans would hardly want to do the same in front of colleagues. In the former cultures, it is an invitation for more thoughtful discussion. In most workplaces,however, it’s best to be discreet.
7. Be Careful About Formed Alliances
Also, while it’s good to be open and in good terms with the right people within an organization, you may not want to place too much trust on someone from a different culture and background. The truth is that the value of trust is different depending on an individual’s own set of past and cultural experiences. The tip here is to show openness and stay friendly but not get too involved.
8. Always Come Prepared for the Worst
As is the case with most competitive workplaces, you’re likely to get disappointed and betrayed in a cross-cultural setting. You should be also ready to detect and deal with those who’ll want to take advantage of your unique cultural differences to frustrate you. These could be colleagues or bosses at work. Therefore, it helps to come prepared. Learn the dominant cultures, up your skills.
Finally, besides sincerity and good manners, you’ll also need to be flexible and humble. In spite of your level of experience you cannot claim to know it all when it comes to cultural differences. It’s good to be humble. Cultures, on the other hand vary widely. With humility, you are not only able to learn but also encourage others to work with you. When you’re flexible you’re more open