Have you ever been in a situation where someone is expressing some seriously bizarre behavior? Well, did you stop to consider that their behavior might not be “weird,” but actually normal? Businesses need to take in to account the cultural differences of others in an ever-expanding global workplace. There are many ways to get in trouble when being ignorant to customs and behaviors of different cultures.
Here are a couple of things your business should keep in mind when dealing with employees or clients with different cultural backgrounds than yours:
Basic understanding of the varying cultural customs is key to a healthy relationship. It probably doesn’t come as a shock to be told that other cultures do things differently than yours, however customs often go unrecognized as a point of contention in business proceedings. Take the concept of time for an example. Spain takes siestas in the middle of the day, but if someone took a nap during lunch in the United States there might be an issue. Some cultures value time differently, so being late or taking naps isn’t considered rude like it is to others.
It can be easy to have a little slip of the tongue and say something you didn’t mean, but it’s even easier to do with an unfamiliar culture or language. While it’s important to research keywords or phrases that might be offensive to the other culture you’re dealing with, there are also other aspects about speech that need to be taken into consideration. Sometimes it isn’t about what you say, but rather how it’s said. Volume and intonation are two examples that can be easily misinterpreted. In the U.S., talking loudly and quickly usually means someone is excited and passionate about a subject. In another culture however, this might come across as aggressive and threatening.
Body language and gestures
Nonverbal communication is a major area of trouble. Eye contact, gestures, touch and even body position are all things that can be easily misconstrued and make the unknowing party uncomfortable, or even angry. For example, Study.com explained that in Asian countries, eye contact can be a sign of disrespect. This is especially important to consider when interactions between superiors and subordinates. While Western cultures might believe indirect eye contact means lack of attention, really what is being displayed is a sign of politeness. Some cultures are close talkers, some cultures use more hand gestures than others – little things like these vary across the world.
Overall, the most important take-away is to understand that your business will be more successful when being appreciative of other cultures. The good news is that there are HR services that are available to help your business identify these differences.