How to embrace cultural diversity in the workplace?

February 5, 2021

The trend of cultural difference management

Business are becoming increasingly global, and cultural difference has become an issue that people face daily. While diversity may lead to fantastic outcomes, misunderstandings and conflicts still exist everyday around the world as people may lack awareness of cultural differences. But instead of running away from this problem, it must be viewed as a challenge and opportunity for the company. Learning to manage cultural differences helps us understand various perspectives within the world we are living in and encourages the elimination of negative stereotypes and biases.

According to the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion journal¹, diverse teams are normally up to 20% more productive than non-diverse ones; and companies with diverse teams have 10-12% more market value than those who do not. Today’s successful companies are critically realized by their mindset of diversity. From a recruitment perspective, an organisation that embraces cultural differences can attract many applicants for job vacancies; hence, increasing the chances of finding an exceptional candidate. In addition, it helps with employee retention as people want to work in an open and equally promoted environment.

For any companies that plan to do business on a global level, cultural difference management is undoubtedly pivotal to the bottom line. Culture is complex, it lives in words, actions and thoughts and workplace culture is something that needs to be continuously nurtured, shaped and managed throughout the organisation.

How to successfully implement cultural difference management

Despite the importance, cultural difference management can be difficult to implement as it is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and each company has their own unique circumstances. Below are three of the most effective approaches to successfully managing cultural difference, according to some of the most seasoned managers at NashTech:

The “intuition”

At NashTech, we see ourselves in a situation where simply speaking the same languages is not enough to manage the cultural-diverse gap between people. Instead, you need “good intuition”. The trickiest part of cultural difference management is that there are no clear guidelines to follow. For instance, according to the The Palgrave Handbook of Linguistic (Im)politeness, the British are relatively indirect communicators, they may act politely and strongly avoid any conflict while the Americans prefer clear and direct communication. Using your senses to read the room, identify the signal and clues and react accordingly to each working style are considered an effective way to manage the impact of cultural difference in the workplace.

Be observant

One of the techniques that NashTech managers use to deal with cultural differences is observation. Being observant is more than just looking, it means you are aware of yourself and your surroundings. When you take time to observe people and changes in the environment, you are one step ahead to detect any misunderstandings or conflicts, and also find ways to help others out. For instance, you may realise when someone feels uncomfortable by observing their attitudes, actions and provide them comfort. Observation enables you to analyse how people react, what types of behaviour get results and what does not in different cultural context, which creates valuable lessons to embrace and put into action. Many managers admitted that being a good observer translates into being an empathetic person, someone who can adapt quickly to differences and show respect to other people’s culture.

Common goals

Many of the managers we spoke to at NashTech agreed that one of the pillars of effective culture difference management is aligning culture and success. When people share a common set of values and goals, it helps transcend the cultural borders and allows them to overcome any cultural barriers, whether with colleagues or clients.

At the end of the day, our ultimate goal is to succeed in our professional lives and find meaningful working relationships with others. Learning, managing and embracing cultural differences is considered invaluable experience leading to personal growth, lifelong collaborations and even friendships, both inside and outside of the organisation.

  1. Bernstein, R.S., Crary, C. and Billimoria, D. (2015) “Working effectively across differences – diversity and inclusion at the individual, team and organisational levels”, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol.34 No.5.
  2. Culpeper, J., Haugh, M. and Kádár, D., n.d. (2017) The Palgrave Handbook Of Linguistic (Im)Politeness.