“If you understand the underlying causes of why people behave the way they do, you are a little more likely to be able to anticipate how they may react in a variety of situations…” 

Have you ever been abroad and either tipped or not tipped the waiter, then instantly felt like you should have known better? And by better, we mean – you should have done some research before visiting the country? In some cultures, tipping (as an example) is seen as not only polite but commonplace. Whereas this act in other countries or cultures can be seen as rude and offensive. What you may consider normal behaviour, could be determined differently in another country. 

There are over 3,000 documented cultures on this planet. These cultures dictate societies and how a country is run. By recognising how different beliefs shape cultural backgrounds that are different from ones own, we are allowing ourselves to develop successful relationships with multiple cultures and individuals. Once the respect is there, both personal and professional relationships can grow. 

According to BMJ Journals, the demographic that makes up the US population is made up of approximately 29% minorities. This has been predicted to an increase to 50% in the next 30 years. “This creates a highly mobile and constantly changing environment, revealing the need for new levels of cultural awareness and sensitivity.” For businesses to grow and thrive, they must be open to accepting cultural differences and being proactive about educating themselves and their workforce.

Below are some pointers taken from The Etiquette School of New York’s 10-point guide:

  1. Be open to new ideas, new cultures and new ways of doing business
  2. Project global awareness
  3. Avoid cultural misunderstandings
  4. Adopt global conversation skills
  5. Respect the religion, politics, culture and holidays of your host’s country

Activities for you and your team

In your next team meeting or all hands. Ask each member of your team to bring one piece of information that isn’t linked to the country they currently work/reside in. This can be in the form of a book, news article, podcast, song etc: Create a space where each member can inform their colleagues on other cultures news that they find interesting. This should ignite conversations and discussions within and outside of the workplace.
Re-framing constructive feedback through the lens of bias. Have you ever projected your own assumptions onto a new colleague or team member? If so, were these assumptions correct? Did you feel they limited your judgement on that individual and if so, why?
Think about your last 1:1. Do you feel there is a good understanding between you and your manager? Would you feel comfortable asking for support or asking for time off if it was a cultural holiday for you but not for them?

New habits to make a difference

  1. Act as though you are a global citizen. Be proactive about finding out what is going on in other countries politics, media, music, economy etc:
  2. Listen to podcasts such as Young Changemakers and The Women’s Podcast
  3. Pick up a copy of Culture Map, The Strange Order of Things and Humble Inquiry

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