Increasing Cultural Awareness in the Workplace

As America continues to become more and more culturally diverse, it is our responsibility to stay aware of societal changes and adapt to the modern times. Expanding our cultural awareness not only benefits those around us but can help us better communicate and connect with neighbors, acquaintances, family members, and colleagues. Increasing our cultural awareness in the workplace encourages teamwork, produces more productive meetings, improves our workplace environments, and increases chances of successfully conducting international business. The following are a few ways to educate yourself and integrate cultural diversity into the workplace:

  1. Understand that culture extends beyond skin color. Darker-skinned persons are not exclusively identified as “black.” Some people may identify as Jamaican, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, or other backgrounds. The term “culture” includes religious preferences, gender, sexuality, age, or other demographics.
  2. If you are unsure about someone’s cultural background, it is always better to ask than to guess. Assumptions can easily lead to offensive statements, even if they are unintentional. Asking questions can clear up ambiguity and teach you more about the other person’s culture.
  3. Practice developing good communication skills. Both your verbal and non-verbal actions can infer a lot. Mannerisms may vary from culture to culture, so do you research. For example, direct eye contact, eating habits, and physical touch may mean different things depending on the culture. When conducting international business conversations, learning simple phrases like “please” and “thank you” shows respect and effort, and improves your chances of conducting business.
  4. If you have other colleagues or customers who don’t speak English well, be patient. When communicating, stick to the point, use short sentences, and avoid humor or colloquialisms. Ask for clarification to prevent misunderstandings and mistakes.
  5. Celebrate traditional holidays native to other cultures and acknowledge them in the workplace. Increasing cultural awareness includes staying informed about cultures’ traditions, foods, and yearly celebrations.

If we want to improve the quality of our relationships and interactions, it is important to improve our cultural competence. Developing an adequate understanding and respect for other cultures increases the chances of others reciprocating acceptance towards our own culture. For more guidance on improving cultural awareness and relationships, contact one of our professional MFTs at Counseling California. Our therapists can develop solutions and improve relationships related to cultural differences. Visit our directory and get connected today!

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Donna J. Shanahan M.A.

Donna J. Shanahan, MA

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist 
Pasadena, CA 91101

I am a Marriage and Family therapist in private practice. I work with individuals, couples, and families in short and long-term psychotherapy. We work together to explore memories of the relational dynamics of the individual’s family, the feelings those dynamics created for the individual as a child, and how the individual now relates to those feelings and memories.

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