Curb Your Ethnocentrism

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From Seattle to Singapore and from Copenhagen to Christchurch, communication over the globe has unquestionably become a common practice. Latest innovations and incorporation of technologies into our daily life has successfully cleared the road blocks for intercultural communication and made information available within a click. These changes, particularly in the international arena, have successfully brought us into contact with people from various background and cultures. Consequently, we often find colleagues from different cultures behave in a different way that seems abnormal to us. At times, this puzzles us and thus we wonder about the strange behavior and doing things out of our normal practice. The situation may get worse if colleagues within a different culture act strangely and may lead to clashes due to differences and misinterpretations.

As far as the business is concerned, the critical challenge is to get the job done across the globe. What are the underlying challenges in accomplishing assigned tasks despite all these differences sitting right in front of us all the time? Ultimately, what are the skills needed to handle the cultural diversity and communicate effectively with the respective counterpart? And how can an employee ensure he or she has the required and desired skills to survive in the global environment?

Cultural diversity is becoming increasingly important with local businesses striving to penetrate and establish strong presence in the ever-changing international market. With businesses crossing borders day by day, there is an enormous demand to understand and respect different cultures. There tends to be a fear among employees who are new in cross border assignments. There is a definite lack of knowledge, experience and blatant insensitivity towards cultural diversity, which all lead to a major collapse of businesses. In this case, ignorance towards cultural difference and a major shortage of cultural sensitivity are the key to failure in business. Undoubtedly, organizations’ tremendous growth worldwide opens more doors to intercultural communication and businesses should fully utilize this exposure and opportunity to enhance affiliation with multicultural employees under a single entity.

What would be the approach of right mindset for an employee to work effectively in a multicultural environment? In the midst of this, the methods below may serve as a solution to strengthen cross-cultural working relationship.

Ethnocentrism is an individual’s obstinate belief that one’s own culture is superior to the rest. It is the inclination to look at the world primarily from the perspective of one’s own culture. The negative mindset of establishing cultural superiority needs to be erased and undoubtedly this destructive approach contributes to needless clash at workplace.

Seeking similarities among colleagues with different backgrounds and identifying common interest among employees leads to stronger relationship. More productive outcome can be generated through this approach both on work-related matters as well as social interaction. Avoiding disagreement related to cultural differences helps for two parties to shake hands and work without any grudge. Nevertheless, healthy arguments with colleagues can be beneficial if handled in an appropriate manner. Identifying common interests amongst culturally different employees ensures closer relationships and promotes a healthier rapport.

Ethnocentrism fuels misunderstanding amongst colleagues from different backgrounds and beliefs. Knowing the primary reason of certain cultural practices helps us to understand the rationale behind one’s behavior and to accept their beliefs. Also, misperception or narrow-mindedness worsens the working relationship and may lead the way to complete disaster. Being culturally sensitive is crucial to enhancing pleasant interactions amongst colleagues and creates a win-win situation for business.

Separate people from problems and practice professionalism at work whereby in most cases, employees carry a personal grudge, dissatisfaction or on-going conflict with colleagues. At this point, employees turn out to be prejudiced, create a mental barrier and tend to be doubtful towards colleagues’ commitment and performance in the team. In this case, practicing professionalism at work and elimination of personal clashes produces a positive outcome.

Cultural differences exist in all organizations geared towards globalization. Do employees initiate and put in more effort to indulge in a conversation with colleagues, or do they choose to isolate themselves due to the cultural divergence? Can employee strive to strengthen their relationship with colleagues of different cultural backgrounds? If so, does this help or do we need to seek a new approach? Is there sufficient initiative taken to understand and respect our colleagues who come from a different culture?

Understand, respect and appreciate are the magic words in cross-cultural communication. Strong practices of these principles are highly desired in a multicultural atmosphere. Obviously, to succeed in a culturally diversified environment, it is highly essential to know not only one’s own cultural rules, but also the cultural rules of the person with whom we are interacting. If employees understand the rules and practices of another person’s behavior, it will enable them to control and modify behaviors to conform to others expectation. In a way or another, find an appropriate path to understand and respect the cultures of colleagues for the betterment of the organization.