Singapore is known for being a multi-racial nation with combination of various cultures in the society. It started in the 19th century where immigrants from various countries came to Singapore to seek for better job prospects. These immigrants brought along their cultures with them and contributed to the multi-ethnicity component of Singapore that we have today. Since then, we have our four major ethnic groups, namely the Chinese, Malays, Indians and Eurasians (Your Singapore).
Due to globalization, economies integrate and factors like easier mobilization of labour allow us to observe a fusion of cultures from all over the world. To Singapore, this means there are addition of new cultures to our existing few and it has resulted in pros and cons to our society, and as well as, in our workplace.
Hence, in this post, I would like to focus on the cultures in work domains.
Singapore, being a global city, has welcomed various multinational brands to invest in the country and has also encouraged them to set up branches or subsidiaries, alongside with our small-medium enterprises (SMEs). Eventually, we will all end up working for either multi-national companies (MNCs) or SMEs, or both in our entire working life and it is very clear to us that both MNCs and SMEs have different cultural views where the former takes up a more globalized / foreign perspective while the latter focuses more on localized cultures.
It is inevitable to have cultural conflicts. After all, not every individual has the same set of beliefs. Even 2 individuals that come from the same ethnic group (e.g., Chinese) may have varied opinions, not to mention individuals from different ethnic groups.
So, my question is, how do we react to cultural diversity in our workplace?
What will you do if you are the peacock? Will you choose to change your personal beliefs and values in order to match the others (penguins)? Or you would expect the others to accept and adapt to your culture?
And what if there are some people who refuse to give in and insist that their culture is superior over the others? How do we deal with them? Get into a fight and make the workplace like a warzone, or we should leave and find the “Land of Opportunity”?
Personally, I feel that compromisation would be good and so, both sides would be able to retain their personal beliefs without having anyone forsaking their culture for the others. But in order to do that, both sides would require open-mindedness and the will to accept these cultural differences, which may even be considered offensive or unacceptable within their own culture.
We all know that there is absolutely no way for us to avoid cultural diversity. Rather than avoiding it, why not try to embrace them?
When we are interacting with someone of different cultural diversity, we could consider the following tips:
#1 – Use observation skills
When you are talking to your new colleague, you can try to pay more attention on the other party’s body language and social behaviour. You could also make use of real-life cases and pose several generic questions to test out the type of perceptions or beliefs that he/she has.
#2 – Patience
Don’t get annoyed at people for doing things that are not acceptable to you. Instead, be patient and try to understand why they are doing it.
#3 – Research on various cultures
This is exceptionally useful when you have to deal with important clients of different cultural backgrounds.
#4 – Don’t assume
Not everybody in the same ethnic group holds the same set of beliefs, so don’t assume everyone believes or acts the same way! You can have all the information that you need about the different cultural backgrounds but at the end of the day, observing is the key to have a pleasant collaboration/talk/friendship.
#5 – Appreciate differences
You need to have an open mind when comes to cultural diversity. Never despise, but instead, understand why or how others have a different set of perceptions from you.
Ultimately, there is no one-stop solution to the topic of cultural diversity but I would like to strongly emphasize on the notion of open-mindness as I felt it is the first step to embracing the diverse workforce. What do you guys think? 🙂
Your Singapore. (n.d.). Culture, Language and People. Retrieved from Your Singapore: http://www.yoursingapore.com/content/traveller/en/browse/aboutsingapore/people-lang-culture.html