5 Practical Tips On Promoting Cohesion In Culturally Diverse Teams

 

Diversity and inclusion may be industry buzzwords today, and for good reason: diverse teams make for greater diversity of thought in the workplace and encourage more nuanced out-of-the-box thinking.  

 

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With a growing number of cultural perspectives working together in the same room, though, the challenge for managers is in leveraging the benefits of this diversity while maintaining and promoting cohesion at work. Here are 5 practical tips to help you do just that.

Take SSA Academy’s WSQ course on managing cross-functional and culturally diverse teams now, and equip yourself to reap the maximal benefits of workplace diversity.

 

1. Address your own prejudices on a personal level.


The first step to addressing any challenge in any situation is to acknowledge the problem in the first place. Without this, it’s impossible to proceed with attempting to tackle the issue either in the short-term or the long-term.

Examine yourself closely:

  • are you consciously or unconsciously biased against members of a particular cultural background?
  • If yes, in what ways does this translate into unfair treatment of different members of your team?

If you prefer a more structured approach to detecting those unconscious biases, consider using tools like Harvard’s Implicit Association Test. 

 

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2. Don’t presume to know everything about every culture in your team


Condescension from superiors might be something that almost every working adult has come to terms with as an inevitable aspect of working life, but when it comes to cultural issues, presuming to know everything about a culture that isn’t yours can be particularly aggravating.

  • Be open to having your beliefs and assumptions corrected
  • Adopt a positive and respectful attitude towards cultural differences at work
  • Instead of telling someone about their own culture, ask

 

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3. Engage in your team in dialogue about differing cultural experiences

 

One of the best ways to create a solid foundation for improved intercultural understanding is also one of the easiest: to start talking about it in a healthy, non-toxic environment.

When it comes to matters such as cultural blind-spots and a lack of awareness about intercultural differences, the default is often relative ignorance about these disparities.

Having it out in the open goes a long way in fostering empathy and understanding in multicultural teams.

A good way to get the ball rolling is to start with carrying out The Privilege Walk amongst team members, then following up with a discussion afterwards.

 

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4. Be wary of exacting or enabling cultural micro-aggressions


Carelessly spoken words and remarks have the potential to offend others without you realising.

It may be relatively easy to gloss over one or two micro-aggressions in the workplace, but if they persistently occur, it can make coming to work a dreadful experience for those on the receiving end of such snubs.

  • Educate yourself on micro-aggressions–what they are, how they work, why they’re harmful
  • Create safe spaces at work that lets culturally marginalised team members feel comfortable expressing discomfort upon encountering micro-aggressions.

 

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5. Celebrate–don’t penalise–difference


When you’ve got a team made up of so many different cultural backgrounds, a one-size-fits-all office culture could be counterproductive to the team’s cohesion and even create mutually hostile cliques in the long run.

This goes beyond surface-level issues like meeting certain religious requirements or having inclusive team outings.

Understand and acknowledge cultural differences in:

  • communication styles
  • confrontational preferences
  • deference to authority (to name a few)

It can go a long way in reducing communication breakdowns, building rapport and trust in a multicultural team and giving each team member room to excel, as opposed to expecting each team member to conform to one rigid status quo.

 

 

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