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Workplace behavior based on race differences Part #4

Workplace behavior based on the race differences

Some Effects of Discrimination in the Workplace

There are seemingly endless numbers of behaviors that meet the definition of discrimination in the workplace when they’re used as a result of someone’s personal characteristics or an employee reporting the incident to management. Here are a few of the most common:

  • Denial of employee compensation or benefits
  • Denial of disability leave, maternity leave, or retirement options
  • Termination
  • Loss of shifts or less desirable shift
  • Suggestion of a preferred candidate on a job advertisement based on personal characteristics
  • Denial of use of company facilities or benefits
  • Favoritism when issuing promotions or company restructuring
  • Exclusion of candidates from the hiring process
  • Off-color comments or inappropriate jokes that cause stress to an employee

While these are just a few of the types of discrimination, it’s also important to note that it can come in many ways. Discrimination can be indirect, direct, unintentional, or intentional.

A number of cultural aspects influence the way we interact with other people, including national culture, gender culture, corporate culture and various communication styles. All these elements influence;

  • how we conduct work
  • our behavior and style
  • our use of language
  • how we solve challenges, problems, and conflicts
  • How we negotiate and how we go about creating relationships.

The Importance of Values

Diving a bit deeper on that, all of the above is driven by our values. Values and beliefs are learnt in a national culture, and they may be unconscious. You may not be aware of your own values and beliefs until you are confronted with someone different than you, e.g. working with a colleague from another country (and it may be quite a challenge). Values vary enormously, especially across national cultures. We have a tendency to judge other’s behaviour based on our own cultural norms, the “lens” we see through. And here we have lots of opportunities for potential conflict, misunderstandings and miscommunication. Different values lead to different behavior, behavior you may not understand. It is important that we try to learn and appreciate these differences in order to work effectively with people from other cultures.

Individual vs. group values and behaviors

According to Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner (two cultural “gurus”), individuals are either self-or community-oriented. Which community or group, we identify with differs enormously. E.g. the French identify with country and family, whereas the Japanese identify with the corporation, and the Irish with the Roman Catholic Church.

It has been argued that individualism is the trend of the modern society, but is it really? How often does someone invent a new product all on his own? Or how often do we achieve something only out of own efforts (no help from friends, partners or family)?

Concerning our values, most likely our individual values don’t change in a group. It is very likely that we adapt our behaviors to fit in with the group. This does not always happen, but it does occur more often than you probably think. You can still stay authentic to yourself, at the same time as you try to understand the other and flex your behavior to create a win-win situation for both of you. This is behaving in a “culturally intelligent” way.

What about adapting to a national culture as an expatriate or immigrant, is it a threat to you? Will you forget your origins? You will probably adapt over time, which could mean forgetting some cultural codes and habits (have had some funny situations with that myself). This is in fact practical and it makes sense. It is “survival of the fittest”. We humans have historically been masters at adapting to our environments. Your values will likely stay the same, though.

Building understanding

There is no “one size fits all” on this subject. Creating a successful environment with people from different national cultures working together requires that you make an effort to build a common understanding, trust and commitment. It is advisable to connect with what is important to people, what is below the surface of the person’s “iceberg” (what you cannot see), or the inner layers of values and beliefs. Also consider;

Is this person task or relationship oriented? Can you send an email with the tasks you would like help on, or do you need to build a relationship first?

Does s/he come from a high-trust or a low-trust society? There are differences on how easily one would build trust with someone. E.g. in high-trust countries like Denmark, Japan and Germany, you need less time to “prove” yourself than in low-trust countries like France, China and Mexico.

  • What about sharing information? Is that done willingly or not? It varies.
  • What is “clear instruction” in a direct communication country versus an indirect communication country?