Have you ever been in a situation where you arranged an appointment with a colleague, customer or supplier from a different country? Did you both understand time in the same way? Not always. Your customer may have arrived extremely early and considered your on-time arrival late or vice versa. That’s simple cultural diversity.
As a leader, it is very important to provoke necessary interactions in the workplace to create a positive environment. We must respect each other’s differences and work together. Employees from different cultures can vary in how they interact with others and their environment. At the end of the day, people are often a result of their culture.
It’s important for you to be able to discuss and understand your team’s differences and do what is necessary to adapt your behavior as more and more companies continue to enter our globally expanding world. You should not let these differences cause someone to miss out on an opportunity or to lower his or her productivity.
Cultural DiversityEven if you’re from countries that both speak the same language, for example Mexico and Spain, it is not enough to compensate cultural differences between countries.  Some years ago when I worked in my company subsidiary in Mexico, my General Manager and I had a strong discussion. After some minutes, I noticed that we did not understand each other. How could this be? We spoke same language. Finally I asked him: “How is possible that we speak same language and we do not understand each other? I am asking you one thing and your response is related to a very different topic!” He looked at me with such a surprised face! He really didn’t understand what was happening.
Culture as a whole is influenced by the entire environment and at the same time, culture influences can change the meaning of the words, expressions and phrases. As managers, we all are responsible to embrace diversity, taking advantage of coworker similarities and accepting the differences.
Cultural misunderstandings can be costly; clarifying emails can waste precious time; sales can be lost if we don’t understand customer values; and productivity can decrease when global communication breaks down. We can find different situations where respecting religion, race, gender, age and language is key. Stereotyping is part of our life, but we cannot treat coworkers differently because of these group characteristics. Instead, we need to treat each coworker as a unique individual. Don’t make assumptions!
You should take advantage of cultural differences to make your teams even more successful. To do that, it is necessary to make an effort to identify each situation when colleagues, subordinates, bosses, customers or patients don’t feel respected and try to turn that situation around. Being open to learn why and how others react and respond in certain situations will go in long way to improving relationships, solving problems and increasing productivity.
We live in a global market place where it is necessary to understand both verbal and non-verbal cues for effective communication. Many times what is not said is more important than what is said. Emotions are common, so why don’t we try harder to find what we have in common? This could help bring us together.
Successful teams truly benefit from diversity. Therefore, showing respect for a diverse world is the same in all languages. Tolerance and understanding are key.
In the end, are you and I really that different?


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