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Creating Workplace Diversity
LA - County Multicultural Conference '07

Published in: Career, Education, Business
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  1. 1. Work Place Diversity May’ 07 Eva Georgia - Keynote Speaker LA Multi-cultural Conference We base our lives on seeking happiness and avoiding suffering, but the best we can do for ourselves and for the planet, is to turn this whole way of thinking upside down. On a very basic level, all human beings thinks that they should be happy . When life become difficult or painful, we feel that something has gone wrong. This wouldn’t be a big problem except for the fact that when we feel something has gone wrong, we’re willing to do anything to feel ok again. We believe that there could be a lasting and security and happiness available to us if we could only do the right thing. When suffering arises we can use the opportunity to motivate and look for answers. Many people including myself came to this spiritual path because of deep unhappiness. It is human nature to seek God our darkest moments individually or as a society such as in the case of events like 9-11, the sjunami, Katrina and more. It is in times like this that color, creed or race don’t matter because people bind together in the face of suffering. Suffering teach us empathy for others who are in the same boat. Furthermore, suffering can humble us. Even the most arrogant and strongest person can be softened in the face of losing someone dear. It's going to take a jump-start, which requires four essential components: supportive and committed leadership, an understanding of what a diversity issue is, a challenge of the status quo, and a firm-wide assessment. A diversity strategy and plan is about creating a better firm for all staff, not just minorities and women. The diversity journey is a long one, with a destination that may at times seem elusive. But the rewards are well worth it: a productive, passionate staff; a strong, growing bottom line; and recognition and admiration by clients and competitors. Jump-starting a diversity program ensures that a law firm's goals do not stall out in neutral. There are issues you know you have, issues you suspect you have, and issues you have no clue you have as a firm. Until you conduct some kind of audit or assessment of the firm, you don't have your bearings. Acknowledging the firm might have diversity issues is the first step to challenging the status quo. Adhering to the status quo-doing the same things the firm has always done, yet expecting better results-is organizational suicide. Firm leadership must understand that acknowledging and addressing diversity issues will take an unyielding effort and an unwavering commitment to long-term change. Leadership must admit the firm needs to change certain policies, procedures, and business practices-both those that are formal and, more importantly, those that are informal (written and unwritten rules of the firm).
  2. 2. Change the Organizational Culture It is more difficult to change the culture of an existing organization than to create a culture in a brand new organization. When an organizational culture is already established, people must unlearn the old values, assumptions, and behaviors before they can learn the new ones. The two most important elements for creating organizational cultural change are executive support and training. Recognize that true communication is a “conversation.” It is two-way and real discussion must result. It cannot be just a presentation. • Leaders need to listen. Avoid defensiveness, excuse-making, and answers that are given too quickly. Act with thoughtfulness. Understanding Cross-Cultural Communication (30 minutes) A WORLD OF DIFFERENCES explores 14 different ways--verbal and nonverbal--that two people from different cultures can fail to understand each other. Some of these differences reflect language and translation problems. But many others involve subtle differences in etiquette, gestures, values, norms, rituals, expectations, and other important cross-cultural variations. Cultural Awareness in the Multicultural workplace “Understand the differences; act on the commonalities.” - Andrew Masondo, African National Congress The nature of our workplaces has changed. We have moved away from the monochromic make-up of our offices to one that is now colored by team members from all over the world. With this new multicultural make-up come differences in cultures which in turn bring differences in areas such as communication styles, approach to time, managerial styles and a plethora of other cross cultural differences. Cultural awareness is now crucial if multicultural teams within businesses are going to maximise their potential. Although cross cultural differences do not always cause obvious problems, it is their more subtle manifestations that can and do lead to a lack of clear communication and poor performance. Why is Cultural awareness necessary? Cultural awareness is important to help members of a multicultural team identify where things may be going wrong or how to best leverage their differences. Without some sort
  3. 3. of formal cross cultural awareness training it is difficult for multicultural teams to identify areas that need attention. Cultural differences manifest in many ways. Within a multicultural team, a person’s cultural background will impact how they act and behave. There will be differences in areas such as communication, attitude to towards conflict, approaches to task completion and decision making styles. Unless people come to realise these differences between them through cultural awareness, problems can continue and even intensify. Cultural awareness in a multicultural workplace Building real cross cultural synergy is only accomplished through properly considered cultural awareness training. However, below are some tips for people working in multicultural workplaces who wish to implement some basics. Build your cultural knowledge: Try and learn a bit more about other cultures and countries. Information is easily found on the internet and in books. You can also ask your colleagues. Start to build some sort of cultural awareness. Treat people as individuals: Information in other cultures is usually based on generalizations. This means that the information will not apply to every single member of that culture. Be aware of this and try and deal with people as individuals. Implement your cultural knowledge: If you have discovered some useful information about a culture that is represented in your multicultural team put it to the test. It is only by putting these things into action that you will come to see the benefits and learn more. Withhold assumptions: Try to avoid jumping to conclusions about people. One of the first rules of cultural awareness is refraining from assuming one way is wrong and one is right. Avoid blame: Blame is simply not constructive. When you see a situation break-down rather than apportion blame, pick the situation apart with your ‘cultural awareness glasses’ on and see what the cultural mechanics were. This helps resolve issues and act as a precedent for the future. Listen actively: Active listening is another cornerstone of cultural awareness. Rather than listening to people you should really pay attention to the words used, the way it is said, the context and also read between the lines. Relay your knowledge: Work with colleagues in your multicultural team to relay knowledge to one another. Help build up the skills set of the team. Although not an exhaustive set of tips on cultural awareness, these simple pointers offer some sort of guidance on how to go about realizing change in the multicultural workplace.
  4. 4. Cross Cultural Awareness Briefings It is sometimes the simple mistakes we make, like showing the soles of our shoes or giving a thumbs up, when dealing with different cultures that can ruin a relationship or months of hard work. Learning the simple cultural do's and don'ts can avoid this and help generate respect and understanding. Cross Cultural Communication The advent of the global economy is changing the fundamental nature of our governments, businesses, organizations and populations. In short, we are no longer constrained by state boundaries but have all become part of an interdependent international network. One of the key changes this has triggered is the need to communicate effectively with different people in different languages and from different cultures. It is now recognized that linguistic and cultural knowledge are two of the most vital areas of knowledge that organizations must come to acquire if they are to integrate, progress and succeed in the marketplace. Cross cultural communication is a must! Cross-cultural communication can be difficult, inaccurate, and highly stressful. When we are immersed in an environment where the language, attitudes, values, and behaviors are alien to our own experience, we may suffer disorientation and frustration--an experience known as "culture shock." This is because culture affects almost all behaviors. Culture governs how close we stand while talking with another person. Culture governs how we use (or avoid) eye contact. Culture governs how we express (or suppress) powerful emotions such as joy, disapproval, and anger. Culture even governs the expression (if not the actual experience) of love, because culture determines whether we feel free to express love in public settings by holding hands, hugging, or kissing the person we love. Cross - cultural communication is a must!