How to Handle Different Cultures and Backgrounds in the Office

by Cody Martin on November 25, 2012

The great thing about the United States is that it is a melting pot of different races and cultures. You always have a chance to meet people that have different cultures and beliefs from your own but ultimately you discover that you have more in common that you initially thought.

Same goes for the workplace: diversity can only help your company because it gives you different perspectives culturally. Of course, having people with different upbringing from your own do pose some problems because there will be times that other people’s beliefs and cultural practice may be in conflict from your own or some other part of the team.

The key to handling a multi-cultural workplace is open-mindedness, and as the owner of the company, it begins with you.

To help you, here are some tips:

Learn the backgrounds and cultures of your employees

If you want to understand your employees, then take the time to learn about the background and the culture of your employees, especially those whose culture is different from your own. Aside from gaining insight into their perspective, it will also broaden you view of the world, which can only make you a better leader in the future.

Don’t be afraid to ask How to Handle Different Cultures and Backgrounds in the Office

If you are not sure about what your employee means about something, especially if it is about their culture, then ask them to clarify it for you. People are generally accepting that not everyone understands their own culture and they will be happy to answer your question. They can also look at your act of asking them about their culture as a sign of your genuine interest to learn more about their background, which should endear you to them more.

Avoid arguments about religion in the office

Learning and asking about your employees about their culture and background is one thing, but engaging them in debate, especially about their religion, is a different story. You have to remember that wars have been started because of difference in religious beliefs, so time has proven how sticky the subject is. You have to accept that what is right for you is not necessarily right for everyone else, if you decide to impose your beliefs, you might disillusion your employees and you might find yourself with a lawsuit in your hands.

Research the law

According to Article 7 of the Civil Rights Act, discrimination based on race, religion, nationality, age, or gender is prohibited by law. The same law also says that as a business you have to provide reasonable adjustments to employees who have certain practices that they need to follow according to their religious doctrines. As an employer, you would have to give these reasonable accommodations unless you can prove that it will cause you undue hardships. Each state also has its own anti-discrimination laws that you should follow. You better consult with an employment attorney to avoid discrimination claims or lawsuits. By knowing the laws, you know how much adjustment you can give without compromising the production of the company.

(Disclaimer: Content should not to be taken as legal advice)

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