17 May 2015

Cultural Diversity in the Workplace

I enjoyed the introduction sessions whenever we had an onsite regional meeting. As many of our team members were new to the organisation, and had only met with one another face to face probably twice to thrice a year, my boss suggested that we took turns to gave a 10-15 minute introduction about ourselves. The presenter would prepare a few PowerPoint slides that would often include family photographs and pastimes, which give us greater insight to our fellow colleague on how he/she is outside work.

During one such session, a colleague from China wrote her name in Mandarin characters. Almost instantly, a colleague from Taiwan stood up and shouted 'That is not Chinese!'

The multicultural audience gasped and fell to an awkward silence.

Those who understand Mandarin in both simplified characters and traditional characters quickly explained the difference. While the presenter was offended, she proceeded professionally with her introduction.

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Cultural sensitivity is of utmost importance, especially with globalization. Ignorance is an excuse, given much information is available at your fingertips at an instance. When in doubt, it is not difficult to ask. Open communication in a workplace should be encouraged.