How to Effectively Communicate in a Diverse Workplace

by: Paul Vann

The United States of America is one of the most diverse countries in the entire world. With a population of over 309 million people, it is becoming more diverse by the day.

With the diversity of people from different cultures its eventually going to transition to the workplace, therein lies the challenge. There is a great need for honest and open communication in the workplace and the sooner employers provide systems to incorporate with workplace diversity, the better.

American born citizens will need to be educated on diversity along with newly arriving and hired immigrants from other countries. Diversity training with an emphasis on effective communication is the order of the day because without it, an organization will not be as productive.

As an employer, your objective is to raise awareness about issues of language in the workplace. You also need to increase empathy and understanding about dealing with language difference and last but not least, generate discussion about dealing with language differences.

I highly recommend employers hire diversity experts to lead and facilitate the following audiences:

- Participants in cultural diversity awareness session.

- Employees working on multilingual team or serving multicultural customers/clients.

- Managers of a multilingual work group.

Suggestions for using an interactive workplace diversity exercise titled: "Have You Ever"

Been in situations where no one spoke your language?

Ever had a friend who was a non-native speaker of your language?

Ever learned another language?

Not been able to communicate because of language differences?

Spent time around people who spoke another language in front of you?

Asked for directions from someone who did not speak your language?

Ever tried to learn a foreign language?

Have you ever watched a foreign language television program?

Taught a language to someone?

Had trouble understanding someone with a thick accent?


I recommend the facilitator of the exercise take 30 minutes for this exercise. They should handout copies of "Have You Ever."

The facilitator should introduce the activity, state the objectives, distribute worksheets and give directions. On the worksheet, participants check off any of the behaviors that they have done based on the list above.

Participants should be paired up and discuss their responses, sharing similarities and differences, and discussing their reactions. The facilitator leads a total-group discussion, starting off by getting a quick hand-raise tally of numbers of checks participants had. Facilitator elicits discussion about insights, awareness, and applications.

A partial list of questions for discussions consist of the following:
Which if the behaviors have you done/not done?
Which were surprising to you?
Which were hardest/easiest?
Which would you be willing to do? Not willing to do?
What have you gotten/learned from doing those you have checked? What might you get/learn from doing those you did not check?

Effective communication in the workplace is achievable as long as leadership is willing to invest in their greatest asset, their employees. I highly recommend employers hire a diversity expert to facilitate diverse communication in the workplace, it will improve your bottom line.

Paul Lawrence Vann is an inspirational speaker, author of the book, Living on Higher Ground: How to live with passion, motivation and joy. He is a certified workplace diversity train-the-trainer and works with organizations such as John Hopkins University, Health & Safety Canada, Texas Behavioral Health Institute, United States Air Force Academy and many more. http://www.paullawrencevann.com, http://www.blogtalkradio.com/paullawrencevann, (240) 416-5077.

Article Source: Ezine Articles



Feb 6