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Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Managing diverse teams

It is fun and exciting to work in a diverse working environment. There is so much to learn, understand and grasp. A whole new world of possibilities, different points of view, wisdom and experience is open to each one of us who are willing to receive it with an open mind.
Go into the work environment with a focus on behaving, interacting and working in a professional manner, while respecting people in the way they want to be respected.
People come into professional work environments with three to seven different language backgrounds, with English as the common language. Chances are that miscommunication, the inability to translate words correctly into English, and the wrong context of tone and language can cause unnecessary barriers and tensions.
In these situations where there are diverse issues, never take sides based on your own personal understanding. Always clarify what was meant, expected or discussed. In many cases, it is very easy to misunderstand, blow a simple matter out of proportion and make it an inequality issue. 
What are the problems that you are likely to face in a diverse environment?
The challenges you are likely to face will be human interaction issues. Some of these include fear, personal feelings, beliefs and emotions related to past programming, anger and misconceptions based on our political and personal histories and experiences. 
People are bound to be in conflict regardless of what their personal characteristic/ background is because each person has a different personality, experiences, expectations, leadership style, communication style and values:
1. People of different diverse cultures, religions/beliefs and  backgrounds also greet each other at various times of the day. This allows them acknowledge each other’s presence and humanness. If you do not greet people in the way they wished to be greeted, then they feel hurt and withdrawn. 
2.  One of the common challenges facing employers is that people are not catered for at work functions in terms of what they can, can’t and sometimes eat according to their dietary, religious or personal beliefs. This makes them feel left out and not valued.  

Remember that we are working with human beings with feelings. Learning how to adjust our behaviour to be more inclusive also improves professional interactions tremendously. 
New and different ways to solve challenges in diverse working environments
  1. Create an environment that allows you to listen thoughtfully and resolve potential issues amicably without it becoming a personal issue
  2. Learn communication skills that will assist you to adjust your personality type, learning style, body language, eye-contact and tone of voice to suit the person you are interacting with to achieve better results.  
  3. Greet people in their own languages as appropriate. It’s fun and incredible how you warm their hearts and improve your working relationships. 
  4. When you have work functions, be aware of religious or traditional backgrounds and adjust the dates and catering accordingly. Otherwise, people feel isolated and rejected. 
  5. Don’t judge entire groups of people based on your limited knowledge of other peoples’ experiences. Research, question, experiment, visit and find out as much as you can about diversity and difference in groups and individuals so that you can connect at a deeper level. 
  6. Steer clear of stereotyping. Rather speak to a person directly and ask the relevant/appropriate question with the intention of really learning. 
  7. Interact on a social basis. This breaks a lot of fear, builds relationships, removes gossiping and allows you to connect with the person as a human being who is valued for their personal qualities, skills and intelligence. 
  8. Above all, respect the person in front of you and treat them as a person, not a colour, nationality, age or religion.

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