Magazine article Supervisory Management

Communicating with a Diverse Workforce

Magazine article Supervisory Management

Communicating with a Diverse Workforce

Article excerpt

If there was one word to characterize the workforce of the '90s, that word would be "differences". The workforce of the '90s is composed of more minorities, recent immigrants, and women than ever before, and this diversity is expected to continue and increase considerably by the year 2000.

With their diverse cultures and backgrounds, these employees bring different perceptions, different value systems, and different languages to the workplace. This makes the task of communicating with this workforce more difficult. To communicate effectively in such an environment, you, as a supervisor, need to be aware of the diversity and to understand and value it. Become aware of the workeforce's diversity in terms of gender, color, nationality, and culture, and be aware that these differences will have important implications for you as a communicator. Learn to treat each employee as an individual with different needs and goals.

Developing a Sensitivity

to Differences

Increase your sensitivity to the effect that gender and cultural differences have on the way people perceive and interpret messages. People interpret messages based on past personal experiences, and you need to be aware of the emotional overtones related to an individual's background and experiences. Try to anticipate the meanings that may be attached to your messages.

Using Appropriate Language

The same words may mean different things to different people because of cultural differences. Additionally, if English is not a person's native language, that person may interpret your messages differently from what you intended. Consequently, become aware of employees who have difficulty with English. Even individuals who speak English well may have problems reading and writing it. Try to identify those employees who have poor English skills and offer training to improve their skills. In the meantime, avoid the use of jargon and idiomatic expressions as they are often the cause of misinterpretation.

The Place of Body Language

The interpretation of body language, such as gestures, eye contact, handshake, and facial expressions, varies according to culture. Be aware of how your body language may be interpreted, as well as how you interpret the body language of others. While your culture may stress the importance of eye contact, for example, in certain other culture, employees may have been taught to avoid eye contact. …

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