5 Ways To Overcome Cultural Barriers At Work

By Shatavisha Chakravorty

For a country that is as multicultural as India, it is obvious that any workplace will have people from different ethnic and racial backgrounds. Some of these groups may be present in greater numbers as compared to that of others. This will make that group dominate others. In some cases, things like this might even make it difficult for a person from a different culture to settle in the organisation. This will not just hamper the individual's productivity, but also that of the overall organisation. This type of situation gives rise to cultural barriers at work.


As sad as it sounds, it is not possible for us to do away with cultural barriers in Indian workplaces. In such a situation, the best way out for you would be to learn a couple of tips and tricks to tackle the same. At the end of the day, the situation at the workplace is nothing short of 'survival of the fittest'.

Overcome Cultural Barriers At Work

To help you through challenging situations like this, where you need to make a perfect blend of adjusting yourself and holding your stand in the organisation (while maintaining professional ethics and diplomacy all the way), this article talks about 5 tips that will help you overcome such cultural barriers.

1. Learn A Few Key Phrases

This is one of the easiest ways to gel with others in the workplace would be by catching up on a few commonly used words and then incorporating the same in your daily language. A very good example of this would be the usage of words like 'macha' in the South, 'lyadh' in the east and 'yaar' in the North. Having these words in your vocabulary will make your colleagues think that you are one amongst them and that will foster a feeling of mutual understanding.

As a result, people will cooperate much better and the work will get done much faster. Other than the words discussed above, every state or region has its own colloquial terminologies. You do not really have to master a particular language completely.

Merely picking up of a few words here and there and making conscious efforts to adapt to the same will suffice. This point holds true in the case of a multilingual country like India.

2. Learn About The Different Cultures

These days, thanks to the Internet, gathering information about any particular thing is not difficult. If you find that there is a particular person in your team (or for that matter a vendor or client) who belongs to a completely different culture, try to take time out of your busy schedule to learn about their culture.

Try to find out some details about their dietary practices, rituals, greetings, the way of formal interactions and other things like that. Once you have done your fair bit of research, you can go ahead and include the same in your interactions with the other person. This will make them feel at home in your presence which will, in turn, make them respect you all the way more.

The cumulative effect of all of this is that there will be a healthy environment in the workplace and as a result, you can expect better productivity from the team.

3. Promote Appreciation Of Cultural Differences

In any workplace, a team will not be at their productive best during all the office hours. There will be times when the team will just sit down over coffee and catch up on things that are not related to work. Try to encourage your team members to speak about their culture and practises during such times.

You can do so by initiating conversations about your own culture and ethnicity. It has been proven that an understanding of the other person's background and ethnicity will make you respect the other person more. This is what will foster better team building and cooperation within the organisation.

4. Accommodate Cultural Differences

The situation may so arise that some members of your team might want to adjust the work schedule in such a way that there is room for certain prayer hours, religious festivals or some other customs. As much as possible try to accommodate the same.

Try to put yourself in the other person's shoes and try to imagine how you will feel if the same is done to you. Understand that by accommodating the religious beliefs of the other person, you are actually doing a favour to yourself.

5. Be Open To Trying Out New Things

These days, corporate set-ups are such that they encourage employee interaction beyond that of the workplace. In such a situation, being flexible and open to the idea of trying out new things (that would include food, clothing, etc.) will take you places.

If you find that consumption of a particular item (like pork, beef or alcohol) is a part of your colleague's culture but it is clashing with that of your personal beliefs, you do not have to go for it.

However, make sure that you are polite while declining something. If possible, explain the reason for the same as well. This will make the other person be more compassionate towards you and as a result, they will connect with you better. Needless to say, this will promote a feeling of universal brotherhood and a better workplace.

Now that you are armed with these five powerful weapons, go ahead and cast your magic in the workplace. We are sure that if you put in the required amount of effort, you will not just easily survive in the organisation, but will also help in making the workplace a more productive one by breaking the walls of cultural differences.

We wish you the very best in this regard. Cheers to a unified workplace that is devoid of cultural barriers.

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