When I started my first job after college, I knew almost nothing about the company. In fact, I didn’t even know that day-to-day life was going to be different from what I had experienced in college. My first week on the job, however, taught me two things: how to make coffee and how not to be culturally insensitive at work. Here are some tips for being more culturally sensitive at work:
A great thing you can do is introduce yourself to your coworkers and try to remember everyone’s names when they introduce themselves to you.
When you do introduce yourself, be polite and brief and avoid nicknames and slang, which can be offensive.
Learn about the other person’s cultural background
Ask questions! Try to avoid asking leading questions that assume you already understand their culture. Instead, ask them how they identify themselves and what that means to them.
For example, just because a person’s last name ends in “Li” and thus has a foreign sound to it, doesn’t mean that all Asian Americans must be from China. It doesn’t hurt to share information about yourself either—it’s likely that your colleagues will reciprocate eventually if you open up first!
Look for commonalities between your two backgrounds as well as differences between both cultures generally speaking (rather than just focusing on one specific cultural aspect). This can help build rapport between coworkers who otherwise might not connect very easily with each other otherwise based solely on where they’re coming from culturally speaking (especially since these types of interactions tend not have much room within which they could naturally occur organically during daily life outside work).
I feel like many people believe that being polite about another person’s culture means ignoring its existence. We are different and that should be okay. It should be more than okay – it should be celebrated. Feel free to discuss cultural differences with your coworkers. It could be a great learning experience for you!
Be aware of your own culture
Being culturally sensitive is not just about being aware of other people’s cultures, but also your own. You can start by using your own cultural background as a point of reference and asking yourself if it makes sense in the context of what you are doing or saying.
Fostering a culturally sensitive work environment can help everyone be at their best. That’s because cultural sensitivity is good for business, employees, customers, and the community. It’s also good for the world and our planet as a whole.
I hope you take these tips to heart and use them in your workplace. The more we understand each other’s cultures, the better our work environment will be!