As globalization has skyrocketed in the past decades, one must consider the multitude of intercultural interactions taking place on a daily basis. The share of migrant workers increases at the same time as communication technology improves the means of cross-country cooperation. Interactions with colleagues, customers, or managers with international backgrounds are very common and it can be harder than you expect, even if you speak the same language.
Your cultural background impacts your way of thinking, communicating, and what expectations you have of your surroundings. These differences can generate misunderstandings and conflicts which could damage productivity in the workplace. With many interactions being virtual these days, it is even harder to pick up on subtle cultural norms and behaviors.
But why can’t we just see people for the individuals they are? Why do we have to care about culture? Well, if we assume that culture does not matter, then we will judge others’ behaviors based on our own cultural ideals and values. We may misjudge something as a character trait that is actually a cultural norm. You may think that your colleagues from China seem shy but, in reality, they just have high respect for seniority and wait until they are addressed. Your Italian boss may seem disrespectful when often arriving 10 minutes late but actually, that is normality for business meetings in Italy.
At the same time, it is very important to not judge an individual based purely on their cultural background. There is a healthy balance where learning about other cultures will create awareness of your own cultural bias and make you look at situations differently. Most, importantly, you will have better tools on how to handle misunderstandings as you now know where they originate from.
Giving these tools to employees will be crucial for company success in multicultural environments. We at Swedish for Professionals aim to create the best possible business climate for global teams through engaging intercultural training. Let’s talk about how we can tailor our solutions to your specific company needs!