GNcareers, from Gulf News

Develop intercultural competency

Develop intercultural competencyImage Credit: Supplied

Every group has a distinct culture. Culture fulfills needs and creates a feeling of kinship. Culture is what enables a group to function smoothly. It is the filter through which people view the rest of the world, i.e. those outside that group/world.

Group culture gets formed primarily from the specific country, communities and society people are born and brought up in. It is influenced by roles defined by gender, marital status, and one’s place in the family – as parent, child, brother, sister, grandchild, uncle, aunt. Then followed by associations with professional groups, friends, social interests, hobbies and abilities. It is, lastly, defined by the organization one works in – its vision and way of doing things.

Behavioral norms and actions too gets defined with reference to these influences. These norms get acquired at different phases of our lives, starting from childhood (before puberty) as children learn social skills. In this phase of life, people have an incredible capacity to absorb information and follow examples from their social environment – parents and elders, role models, siblings and playmates.

In the workplace, some conflicts arise from lack of intercultural misunderstandings. Some people develop feelings of ‘we versus they’ based on ethnic backgrounds or perceived cultural groups.

Intercultural competency is critical not only for managers but also for all members of a team. In an organization where people work together, it is too much to expect that employees will imbibe the organizational culture by sheer presence. Even written policies may prove insufficient. HR has to take the lead in getting people to mingle in order to understand how each team member interprets the work culture in his day-to-day work activities. Effective teamwork can only happen when there is clarity and understanding of each other’s strengths, and clear interpretation.

Handy Hints:

• All groups at various levels develop some form of ‘culture’

• Conflicts at work can arise from intercultural misunderstandings

• Intercultural competency is critical for both managers and staff

Source: Geet Mala Jalota, Special to Jobs & Careers,

The writer is an Independent HR Trainer and Consultant