Today’s workplaces are more culturally diverse than ever and the trends indicate this will only continue to grow due to demographic conditions in advanced economies. This matters to you, your colleagues, and all young people who will be entering this new labour force.
A common understanding that involves coding and decoding the messages we communicate at work is critical to effective communication. Communicating effectively is challenging enough, even when it is between individuals who have a shared cultural background.
There can be tremendous positive or negative impacts on communication in environments where two or three or many different cultures are represented. The way to make sure those impacts are positive and not negative is to develop a common understanding of the underlying dominant style of communication.
Find out how strong your intercultural communication skills are with this easy test. Write down three off-the-wall criteria for what you think make for a good handshake. Your criteria could include shaking both hands starting with the left first, eyes closed and yelling “Yip!” at the end. Now, go find a close colleague and ask them to shake your hand. Ok, based on your criteria how did they do? They likely didn’t do as you had hoped or expected simply because they didn’t know what you’re expecting for this handshake, which was in a format unfamiliar to them.
This is precisely what happens so often in professional interactions between people from different cultural backgrounds. To really see the benefit of strong intercultural communication skills, explain to your colleague how the handshake should be done as you designed it and try again. Most likely the handshake will be much improved and that is because you each knew the rules and what was expected.
This demonstration highlights the difference that intercultural communication makes. These skills can reduce conflict and improve performance and job satisfaction. This does not come naturally and it’s virtually impossible for a person to figure out on their own because our cultural worldview is so deeply rooted. Deliberately developing intercultural communication skills can more help us to more effectively use all of our wonderful unique talents in the new culturally diverse labour market.
Hear from Dr. Lionel Laroche as he shares his experiences and insights around intercultural communication, expectations, and how to find a job in Canada.