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How To Overcome Cultural Barriers At Work

How To Overcome Cultural Barriers At Work

In today’s world, we see a lot of cultural barriers at the workplace. Thanks to globalization, people work in increasingly diverse environments, which means a mixture of cultures under the same organization. Sometimes, this can do more harm than good if people choose not to get along.

Cracking the code to cultural barriers however is as difficult as counting all the stars in the sky; there will always be something that goes unnoticed. Cultural barriers also exist pretty much everywhere, from the workplace to school and the local gym. Even at your local café, the act of tipping can be seen as necessary or something to be avoided depending on which country you live in.

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Although there is no single answer to cracking the code of cultural barriers, there are some practical things you can try out in order to make the most out of your time at work, and even gain some useful skills along the way.

1. Do Your Homework

It has become even more important to appreciate and learn about different cultures in order to fully appreciate the place you work in. Understanding is a big part of successful communication – for example, knowing that there are over 10 language dialects spoken within China, or that being British could mean coming from England, Wales or Scotland. Don’t even get me started on how many dialects and sub-cultures there are within Great Britain alone.

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Do as much research as you can on the city or country you currently work in, and there are a wealth of online resources to use, and friends and family to ask. Knowing whom you are getting into bed with, as they say, is one half of the equation to overcoming cultural barriers at work.

2. Use The Pantry

But research is not enough to help you. The other half is to live out your understanding in practice. There is no better way to immerse yourself in a new culture than to meet the people currently living it. Using the pantry, so to speak, is a way to informally meet and get to know colleagues during work. For example, British workers love drinking tea throughout the day and so, often frequent the pantry to make a cuppa. You may find a great chance to bond over small chat about weekend escapades in this setting. If no such common room exists, having informal meetings in your office, at your desk or the local coffeehouse is also a great way to get to know others.

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3. Speak Their Language

If the cultural barriers at work are language related, this does not mean you have to take ten-hour lessons a week and learn to speak like a native. However, it always helps to know some basic phrases that you can use with a smile. Even a simple “¡Hola!” can make a whole lot of difference, because others will appreciate your sincerity in being approachable. However, if not using the local language is seriously hindering your ability to work with your colleagues, then it may be worth finding a tutor or language exchange group after work.

4. Try Everything Once

There are bound to be certain foods and activities that are commonly location specific, such as heading to a karaoke bar after work in Japan or a pub lunch at work in England. If you aren’t accustomed to these practices, go and try it out. Likely, you will enjoy it or you will hate it. Either way, you’ve gained a greater appreciation of what your colleagues enjoy doing and perhaps learn to love it or live with it as you continue working alongside them.

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It is also important to remember your own values and limits however – if you are a vegetarian then politely refusing meals with meat is fine. Or if you don’t drink, but work where work relationships are sometimes made alongside heavy drinking, as with some Chinese companies, you can refuse to join. Make your values known in a firm yet respectful manner, by accepting these practices with a nod, smile and a polite ‘no, thank you’.

Remember that ultimately whatever cultural norms exist, you are not bound to conform. Rather, appreciating your differences and building on things you have in common is the key to working alongside any culture in the world. Not everybody will want to befriend you but at least you will have gained a first-hand understanding of a different culture, at both your workplace and city.

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Published on September 18, 2018

17 Proven Tactics for Motivating Employees and Building a Stronger Team

17 Proven Tactics for Motivating Employees and Building a Stronger Team

Have there been instances when you noted a drop in your team’s productivity or observed a behavioral change in someone who used to be an excellent performer?

Before you blame the team for not being motivated enough or worse still, choose to ignore these warning signs, look inwards and ask yourself if YOU are doing enough to keep your team motivated in the first place.

Motivating employees is extremely crucial. As the leader of the pack, it is your responsibility to ensure each and every member of your team feels valued, driven and motivated.

After all, you cannot expect a bunch of disengaged and demotivated people to deliver results and grow your business, can you?

Here are 17 surefire tactics for motivating your employees and building a productive team:

1. Show your appreciation

In the whole race to achieve external business goals, leaders often forget to value their most important assets — their employees.

The least you can do to boost performance and morale is to appreciate your employees, recognize their efforts and give them credit when it is due.

Whether it’s sending a personalized note, recognizing achievements publicly during team huddles or even rewarding top performers at the end of every month, you will be surprised to see how these small acts of appreciation can go a long way.

2. Communicate effectively

Effective communication can do wonders in motivating employees. Who is a strong communicator? Someone who knows what they are talking about and are able to convey their message accurately.

Communication is a lot more than just language and talking. Factors such as eye contact, active listening, hand gestures and postures also say a lot about a person’s communication skills.

3. Be open to dialogue

Gone are the days when leading through fear and putting on the tough, distant leader act would work.

New age leadership is all about instilling trust by being accessible and encouraging discussions. Your team needs to feel comfortable speaking to you and you need to set the tone for such a camaraderie.

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In spite of having a busy schedule, you can still show you care through simple, effective acts.

For instance, having an open door policy, showing genuine interest while interacting with your employees or even greeting your team members helps breaking barriers and projects you as an accessible leader.

4. Provide constructive criticism

Giving negative feedback is always tricky — you don’t want to hurt feelings nor do you want the feedback to be taken lightly.

So, what do you do? The idea is to offer criticism such that it inspires change and delivers results.

Firstly, take criticism behind closed doors because nothing breaks self esteem the way calling out employees in public does.

Have a one-on-one discussion with the concerned person and make your feedback very specific. Be clear about your expectations and offer guidance on how they can improve.

Most importantly, give them the chance to explain their side of the story too instead of jumping to conclusions.

5. Conduct one-on-ones

Yes, you conduct weekly meetings with the team but how well do you know them on a personal level?

While you may think this isn’t an important practice to follow, it is one of the best ways to engage with your employees and identify what drives them.

Conduct a one-one-one session every month and use it to understand how your employees are doing and if they are facing any roadblocks.

More than reviewing performances, consider this as a relationship building tool to ensure you are aligned with your team and are working towards a shared, common goal.

6. Build training programs

In this ever-changing business landscape, it is important to ensure your employees are updated with the latest, relevant skills that can help boost productivity and performance.

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From imparting technical and soft skills to offering mentoring programs – investing in training and development significantly helps in motivating employees and keeps the learning going.

While conducting training programs, remember to keep them engaging and interactive. They need to ultimately drive value and reinforce learnings.

7. Offer growth opportunities

Every employee envisions a different career path for themselves and demotivation strikes the day they feel they have reached stagnation. As a leader, you need to first be aligned with their goals and offer ample growth opportunities that constantly keeps them engaged and motivated.

Growth opportunities go beyond just financial growth. While money is a huge driving factor, what makes most people tick is making progress in the company and going up the career ladder.

Being faced with new challenges and responsibilities lets them push the envelope and broaden their knowledge and skills.

8. Reward them

Go beyond verbal recognition and reward employees for their notable work. You can start an incentive program and reward top performers. This ensures increased productivity and brings out the best in them.

If you don’t have enough budgets for that, you can also reward top performers with movie tickets, a paid vacation or something as simple as giving them the option to work from home.

Rewarding employees promotes healthy competition and motivates them while meeting business goals.

9. Encourage team outings

Employee motivation also stems from how connected the team is. Invest time in team building because a team that works collaboratively is likely to deliver better results.

From bowling nights to hosting team dinners – team outings are a great way to get to know each other and bond. Assign someone from your team to be in charge of organizing these monthly outings and make sure you join them too!

10. Involve them

Involve your employees in decision making because when they are involved, they feel more valued and part of a larger cause.

Seek your team’s opinion and encourage healthy debates within the team. This boosts employee morale and challenges them to work harder as they know they are in a position to make an impact and will be taken seriously.

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11. Set meaningful goals

In the beginning of the financial year, make sure you sit down with each employee to set meaningful and realistic goals. The goal-setting conversation is an extremely crucial one and needs to be a two-way street.

Whether your employee feels burdened or doesn’t feel inspired enough by the assigned goals – this is the time to come to a consensus and assign goals derived from business objectives that foster individual development while keeping in mind their strengths and weaknesses.

12. Empower them

You cannot expect employees to be motivated for long if you micro manage the team and do all the talking.

Trust your employees and empower them to take decisions. Mistakes will happen but that is the only way they will learn.

Be open to discussions, delegate effectively, set your expectations and give your team the freedom to do it their way.

13. Deal with conflict

A conducive work environment is one wherein there is open communication and trust, but every once in a while, you do encounter people in the team who indulge in office politics and spread negativity.

How much ever fulfilled an employee feels with their work, gossiping co-workers are bound to ruin it for them. Workplace gossip if not tackled hampers productivity and soils working relations.

As a responsible leader, you need to maintain a conducive work environment and act as a mediator in such cases. Don’t be the leader who is locked up in his/her cabin and is unaware of what is brewing within the team.

14. Implement a flexible work culture

Flexible work cultures are a growing trend and are here to stay.

Whether it is offering flexible working hours or allowing employees to work from home once in a month – a flexible work culture promotes work-life balance and aids in employee satisfaction.

It shows that the management is sensitive to employees’ schedules and is thereby highly appreciated.

15. Host engaging activities

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and we cannot agree more! So, why not devote one day of the week to employee engagement activities?

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From hosting baking competitions to introducing wellness programs in the office – let your team have some fun beyond work. This keeps the environment engaging, light-hearted and interesting, giving them all the more reason to look forward to coming to work.

16. Maintain a positive work space

Your employees spend more than half their day at work and in order to keep them energized and motivated, it is important to maintain a positive and inspiring work space.

Have a recreation center where employees can unwind after a hard day’s work, offer free snacks and beverages and invest in an open office design that promotes socializing and conversations.

These are simple yet effective ways to create a space your employees will love coming to.

17. Avoid discrimination

Any kind of discrimination, be it due to age, gender, religion or race hugely impacts employee motivation and performance.

In order to avoid such cases, you must lay down rules against discrimination and take strict action against accused employees. Lead by example and make sure no one in the team is a victim of bias and discrimination.

The bottom line

Don’t underestimate the power of motivating employees. Understand that the more engaged and motivated they are, the better their performance will be.

It is also a good idea to send out a survey and get feedback from your employees on the company culture, work environment and their motivation levels.

This will help you be more aligned with their expectations and further improve your efforts in building a stronger, engaged team.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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