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Diversity In The Workplace: How To Deal With Language Differences?

One of the most challenging tasks that fall under a manager’s attention is making sure the workplace is an enjoyable environment for everyone. A difficult task to begin with, when you deal with diversity, this task becomes even more difficult. The manager must make sure every employee has the possibility to unleash his/her full potential and this means allowing everyone to manifest their cultural heritage without upsetting the ones around.

According to recent statistics, in 2014, there were 42.4 million immigrants living in the US. The number of citizens who live, study and work in the US on a visa is increasing annually and the possibility to have a co-worker or employee from another country and culture is very high. Actually, due to an increased possibility to develop globally, employers are looking for people who can speak different languages fluently. So how do you accommodate cultural and language diversity in the workplace?

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Go the extra mile

Language barriers are more difficult to overcome if the employee doesn’t speak English well. It’s difficult to give directions and explain what you actually expect from a person who doesn’t understand you completely.

Even more, there are cultures that don’t share the same gestures with the western civilization. For instance, in some parts of the world, nodding your head yes, actually means no. That’s why is very important to go the extra mile and take your time to understand your employees’ culture and language. You don’t have to learn a new language, just learn enough to understand the main differences between your culture and the one of your employees.

Hire the right people

If you are in the situation to hire people who speak English as a second language, you must make sure you get the right person for the job. For instance, if you are looking for a person who speaks French fluently, you should also take into consideration their desire to connect with the rest of the team. When hiring bilingual or multilingual people is very important to look for a person who is motivated to evolve with the team and put in the extra effort to accommodate to their new work situation.

Assess all the risks

Any manager must make a risk analysis when it comes to hiring people from another culture. There are certain differences that you must accept as they are and attempting to change your employee’s opinion on this could be disastrous for both your relationship and the tasks at hand. Just like any risk assessment strategy, you must calculate how much a certain behavior would affect the workplace environment.

As a manager, you must identify if you can accommodate the cultural differences to the work environment and vice versa. For this, you should follow these steps:

  • Always try to keep the communication lines open and ask people about their culture.
  • Be sensitive and aware of cultural differences when you have diversity in the workplace.
  • Learn to recognize when communication difficulties are real or an attempt to manipulate you into giving a person fewer tasks.

In conclusion, diversity at the workplace is an amazing opportunity to open up to new cultures and practices. It’s a way to learn more and try to understand other people better and shouldn’t be an attempt to change and format people who are different to the general standards.

 

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