You already know multicultural women bring a mix of know-how, perspectives, and ideas to the workplace — change for the better. And I know having a multicultural team brings these skills to better problem-solve. And our influence is growing, too — for black women, the number of firms owned by them has grown by 164% Since 2007, according to research by American Express.
But it’s important to get everyone on the same page by breaking down differences, breaching language barriers, and respecting everyone’s culture.
Watch out for political divisions. Sometimes divisions in politics can come down to racial lines. Then it becomes almost impossible to avoid the elephant in the room. It’s especially important today because, as I have found personally (read my story here), even if you go out of your way to avoid discussions like these, someone else can draw you in. So use caution when discussing world politics.
Do your best to be nonpartisan — avoid talking about controversial or politically charged issues. When you have a multicultural team, focus on the work at hand and relationship-building.
Other cultures may not always welcome a dominant force. Remember — the government in the United States can be pushy at times, and even offend other cultures. Err on the side of caution — make the workplace a safe and neutral area.
Here’s how to handle the language barrier. Let your team know inclusiveness means supporting everyone’s views and objectives. That means asking someone to repeat themselves is not offensive, especially when it comes to those who have a heavy accent. Ask members to avoid colloquialisms and slang, or words that can confuse without context. Always be straightforward to ensure your team works together and learns to communicate openly with one another.
Celebrate cultural differences! If there are behaviors in the office that even appear to uphold cultural stereotypes, address them head on. Be open about it. Break it down so offenders realize why stereotypes are offensive. A good starting point is to figure out where any disconnects are coming from. If the group isn’t sure, or is reluctant to open up, ask about the aspects of cultural diversity at which they excel. That’ll get everyone talking.
Make time to learn about the different cultures of your team members and relate to them on a personal level. This can take away some of the stigma associated with different cultures. Encouraging openness is crucial and can really make a difference in morale.
Make cognitive diversity work for you. Cognitive diversity is the key to maximizing productivity in your workplace. It refers to the unique, diverse viewpoints individuals bring to problem-solving for your team, according to the human resources website HR Technologist. These viewpoints are supported by the different experiences, cultural backgrounds, and gender identities that employees bring to the workplace.
Make sure everyone in the office knows that inviting contributions from a diverse talent pool when solving business problems gets the job done.
Hire the best! Let your prospective employees know what you expect. Tell them about your great team and how you see the best way they can fit in. Be sincere, otherwise you risk creating a situation where no true mixing of the minds instead of having an integrated, synergistic team. In the worst scenarios you risk creating an “us versus them” environment.