Today it is a global business arena- it is no longer those times where you worked with those from similar background and cultures. This does not apply to only international businesses or those that are involved in cross-border trades. Because of extensive migration of people over centuries, it is always a global workplace scenario!
After all the so-called modern-day culture of North America (USA and Canada) as well as Australia and New Zealand have had western European settlers for the past couple of centuries. Then following world war II, there was an influx of people from eastern Europe and then since then there have been settlers from several countries in Asia and the middle east.
Why this becomes important is that even though many of the original settlers consider these regions to be a reflection of their original (the first ‘migrant’) scenario- in the true timeline of that region, it is merely a way of doing things!
At each stage of people influx, societies and cultures have shifted to accommodate the varied way of the new entrants. After the first settlement, which typically happened through invasion, the second movement of new settlers typically came in as refugees and so, the absorbing culture felt some kind of ‘superiority’ over the incoming groups.
In the later years, the influx has been for many varied reasons including special skills, better opportunities, persecution for beliefs in their land of origin etc. But one thing is for certain- the developed regions of the world were able to advance by the contribution of all these various groups and cultures that have come into that region.
Fortunately, in the past, there was time for the absorbing region as well as the new entrants to come to a level of true acceptance and balance.
But, given our current global connectivity and the constant inflow and outflow of people across several regions, it seems there is no-time which exists for the absorbing region to truly assimilate the new people. This leads to apprehension and confusion.
So, even though you may be a manager working for the local municipal government in Illinois, it is very possible that your team comprises of second and at times even third generation Americans of Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern descent or even recent migrants from these and other regions in the world!
In such a scenario typically- people resort to ‘political correctness’. Though at an apparent level it leads to cordiality of interaction, the reality remains that without genuine understanding and respect, the one whose culture is least represented in the team, is going to feel slighted and at times even bullied into adhering to the ‘societal norms’ which unfortunately are not defined in clear terms. The only definition that exists is ‘assumption’ of each person’s interpretation of what ‘real culture’ means within that region.
So, if you truly want to rise in today’s times- it is important to expand your cultural awareness. Do not view each new culture and its customs with a reference point of your own way of doing things- but genuinely make an attempt to understand what, how, why different people in the world do things in their way.
Of course, you do not need to agree with it and you definitely do not need to imbibe that new way (though we all can always learn and grow) in your own life, but by and large at the very minimum; what is necessary is true respect- which is then reflected in your actions and interactions.
And remember- like our workplace; our towns, our cities and our nations are ultimately made up of individuals. When we are truly aware and respectful of each other as individuals, then at some level we are contributing towards bringing true equality and balance into our society.
About the author:
Sandhya Bhat MSc, CSSMBB, CSSE has developed several new (under patent filing) and enhanced existing strategic methodologies to improve technology and human capital utilization, produce greater ROI on investments and streamline service delivery. She is an acclaimed author, speaker, a sought after thought leader and an avid world traveler.
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