Skills to Be Culturally Responsive in the Workplace

I once saw a bumper sticker that said, “We are all connected.” Such a simple phrase, yet with so much more depth than just those four words. This year more than ever, “we are all connected” is a reminder that in a time of great unrest and disruption, our actions and words have far-reaching and lasting effects on those around us. Our world is more culturally diverse than ever, which calls for greater responsibility to tolerate others. Therefore, empathy, acceptance of diversity, and the ability to treat others with respect and dignity are crucial. All skills that can be learned.

Diversity or cultural diversity is all around us in our daily lives, from families and communities to businesses and workplaces. How we connect and interact with each other is of the utmost importance to creating harmony in our daily lives and the world. Cultural diversity is a living and breathing thing, but what does it really mean?

A global community requires compassion for connectionWhat Is Cultural Diversity?

Cultural diversity or diversity is the differences in cultures, abilities, ideas, philosophies, backgrounds, and histories that exist among individuals. No two people are the same, nor do any of us share identical experiences or backgrounds. We are all unique, and that uniqueness is a tremendous gift and strength that can be embraced, even in a brief interaction on the street. Friendships, families, and businesses are all richer with diversity. Similarities naturally exist among family members and communities; however, the workplace can have larger cultural differences, especially in our global economy.

 

The Nature of Diversity in the Workplace

We choose our communities and have commonalities with our families; however, we don’t have much say about our co-workers or bosses. Our workplace is a melting pot of cultural diversity that requires us to communicate and collaborate with people with opposing perspectives and backgrounds than our own. The skills needed to relate and navigate cultural differences among co-workers are as vast as the differences among people. Espousing diversity is about a willingness to be humble, inclusive, and responsive to others in a respectful way that greatly benefits businesses.

Cultural Diversity in the Workplace Is an Asset

Cultural differences create opportunities, fresh perspectives, and exceptional skills that can influence creativity, productivity, and solutions. When differences are welcomed and celebrated, collaboration becomes a powerful force to create dramatic success for employees, teams, and companies. Google’s massive success is an excellent example of a business that is widely diverse. Creating supportive environments where employees are eager to share is crucial. Employees must be allowed to give feedback and work together, bringing their experience and perspective to the fore. Cultural responsiveness is imperative for the cultivation of these synergistic interactions in the workplace.

 

When we listen and celebrate what is both common

and different, we become a wiser, more inclusive,

and better organization.
~Pat Wadors

Diversity and cultural diversity makes a company stronger
Why Cultural Responsiveness?

Cultural responsiveness is “the ability to learn from and relate respectfully with people of your own culture as well as those from other cultures.”  Cultural responsiveness in the workplace ensures an inclusive, accepting, and supportive environment for employees, teams, and leaders, extending to a company’s clients. Building a flow and ambiance requires responding to and getting curious about others’ cultures, responding versus reacting based on your own set of experiences. Responsiveness is a part of empathy that is crucial to understanding others. This magnified resonance is contrary to reacting; reacting stems from judgment. Labeling and judging others cause misunderstandings as well as an uncomfortable and unproductive work environment.

Related Reading: Successful Businesses Are Led by Solid Empathetic Culture

Three Skills to Build Cultural Responsiveness

Responsiveness arises from a safe space where people are not only accepted for who they are; they are encouraged. We need to take the initiative to proactively learn about others’ cultures different than our own. Next, intentionally choose to break down the barriers and biases that prevent us from connecting with others needs to be a high priority in every company. These intentional actions can help us be more responsive to our leaders, peers, and customers, fostering a work environment that welcomes all backgrounds. Here are some ways to enhance cultural responsiveness skills. 

SKILL #1 - Increase Your Awareness by Discovering Your Current Level of Tolerance and Understanding of Others

We are a product of our experiences and environments. There are cultural aspects, biases, and perspectives that we may not realize exist inside us. Objectively looking at our experience with an understanding of other cultures paves the way for change. Curiosity and openness to new ways of thinking can help you identify biases. When we heighten awareness, a lack of knowledge or blindspot is often highlighted. Now you are empowered to stretch and grow, eliminating blocks to communication.

SKILL #2 - Educate Yourself on Other Cultures

Take time to learn about cultures and varying perspectives. We all make assumptions due to too much or too little familiarity. You may be basing your conclusions on current cultural experiences or limiting perspectives. Travel is a wonderful way to increase exposure and understanding of cultures.

SKILL #3 - Ask Questions to Learn and Understand Others

Understanding others' perspective can help us to be more compassionate by providing a window into another’s reality. One way to accomplish empathy for others is by asking questions to get to know them: their viewpoint, experience, values, and beliefs. Be interested. Don’t assume you know how another person thinks, feels, and believes. Open yourself to new ideas.

If someone senses that we are genuinely curious about them, they are more likely to volunteer information about themselves and their cultural knowledge. Acceptance fosters connection and encourages opportunity to learn from one another. Seek out those who disagree with you and have lively (and civil) conversations.

Related Reading: "The Most Grievous Mistake in Communication."
A design and engineering company consulting a contractorCultural responsiveness is at the foundation
of who we are at Heartmanity.

Our name, Heartmanity, is derived from the intersection of Heart and Humanity, the core of our values. We believe that each of us innately deserves to be unequivocally accepted for who we are. Therefore, we strive to heal relationships and foster unconditional love through skill-building and education at home and in the workplace. Acceptance also means challenging each person, team, and company to be better—to be their best.

If you would like to build emotional intelligence skills, increase acceptance of cultural diversity, and build responsiveness, Heartmanity is here to help!

Check out www.heartmanity.com/business or contact us. We offer customized support and executive coaching along with leadership and team training to help employees, leaders, teams and businesses thrive.

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Christina MaxwellChristina Maxwell
Christina has a B.S. in Business Administration and two decades of management experience across multiple industries. She was first introduced to Heartmanity as a coaching client in 2013 and quickly fell in love with the work. After experiencing significant transformation in all areas of her life, she became deeply committed to the Heartmanity mission. Christina joined Heartmanity as COO in early 2020. Christina brings tremendous expertise and is an invaluable asset to support the growing demand for Heartmanity’s business programs.

Posted in Business and Leadership