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Cross Cultural Differences in the Construction Industry

By University Alliance
Cross Cultural Differences in the Construction Industry

As workplaces across the country become more diverse, construction managers are seeking intercultural management skills to positively and appropriately address workplace issues that arise from a lack of consideration and understanding of co-worker diversity. Cross cultural issues that typically come up in the workplace relate to: gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, generational differences, and other cultural factors such as socio-economic background and international upbringing.

Conflicts decrease productivity and lead to worker dissatisfaction and in some cases litigation. Savvy construction managers can respond to today’s changing business environment proactively by setting up best practice protocols for responding to conflict beforeit is needed. Cost-effective online programs such as Notre Dame’s Advanced Specialized Certificate in Intercultural Management may be one important tool for building a more inclusive and respectful corporate culture. Consider how increased cross cultural awareness could impact the following areas:

Gender Bias

All employees on a team share common work goals. An effective manager takes the responsibility of knowing how employees need to be addresses in order to feel the respect necessary to reach optimum productivity. Incorporating self-assessment cross cultural surveys as part of a systemic review process underscores the company’s commitment to fostering a safe and comfortable workplace for all employees and also provides a means to document employee progress in meeting cross cultural goals.

Gender bias on the job can refer to the way a person is verbally referred to, or “jokes” that are made, or the way promotions work that may favor one group over another. Even differing communication styles can inadvertently lead to bias. A manager well-versed in intercultural communication and other best practice cross cultural tools will be able to address changes in corporate culture systemically and without any one person or group feeling singled out.

Sexual Orientation

Misunderstandings, religious beliefs, class status, education level, people skills, and personal experiences all overlap when a person responds to co-worker cultural differences. Managers who lack intercultural management skills may neglect to respond, or worse yet, inappropriately respond to workplace tensions which then escalate to a full blown HR issue.

In today’s workplace it is vital to develop an infrastructure that holds all team members accountable for words and actions partaken on company-related time. Despite all the qualities that build common ground between people, some employees will still fixate on an individual’s differences. An educational program to inform employees about changing corporate culture needs to be tailored to each group’s needs.

Active team building and group goals help to build cohesion and deemphasize focus on difference. Much of the workplace bullying, name calling, teasing, gesturing, and misunderstandings can be quelled by proactive training, on-going self-assessment as part of the seasonal review process, and clear protocol that the company will follow if a person lodges a complaint or makes another person’s words and actions negatively affect another person’s ability to perform his or her job.

Socio-Economic Background

Managers with strong cross cultural skills can help promote team productivity through clarifying the misunderstandings that sometimes arise from socio-economic issues. The words we all choose to use, our manners of walking, addressing one another, and interacting professionally are influenced by a variety of experiences.

When management takes the time to survey employees about how they prefer to be addressed, recognized and reviewed, ongoing communication can be tailored to provide maximum clarity for each employee. Different individuals have different levels of normalcy when it comes to food choices, personal space, hygiene, style of communication and other perceptions that all play out at the workplace. Based on factors such as socio-economic considerations, people will respond differently to those differences. In order to reduce conflict and transform cultural difference into a competitive advantage, managers need to have engaged in the self-reflective educational process that brings about lasting change. The complex interplay of cross cultural issues in workplace settings demand that excellent managers have diversity training programs in place to build team cohesion and reduce workplace tensions.

Building Bridges

In addition to setting budgets, managing projects, juggling deadlines, hiring employees and all the other tasks effective managers complete every day, the current fluidity in the complex cultural landscape of today’s workforce demands that managers also build cross cultural awareness among employees. Learning about the nuances of cultural differences can open up new pathways to creative business solutions and problem-solving processes. A savvy manager sees the competitive advantage in a workforce that is committed to respecting differences and building a work environment conducive to success for all employees.

One strong advantage of pursuing a formal training program like an Advanced Specialized Certificate in Intercultural Management to help you reach your goals is that you will also have access to nationally and internationally recognized intercultural communication experts, an extended opportunity for networking, and online resources available to you even after the certificate program is complete. Strong leaders are always in high demand. Augmenting your current skill set with fresh intercultural management skills shows an employer you are both highly marketable and are committed to securing the competitive edge for the organization.

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Category: Intercultural Management