Examples of Cultural Problems in the Global Workforce
Because of globalization and emerging technologies, the search for the most suitable staff extends to locations across the globe. Like their larger counterparts, small businesses can search for talent anywhere in the world. Employees, therefore, come from diverse backgrounds and cultures. While bringing people from diverse backgrounds can be advantageous, cultural differences can produce tension, which can lead to problems that hinder your business productivity.
The common language is English in most American companies; however, this may be difficult for people whose first language is not English. Expressions or figures of speech might be difficult to pick up if the employee is not a native English speaker. Additionally, accents and connotations might add to communication problems. For example, phrases used in British, Australian, American or Jamaican English might not be interchangeable, and an ESL employee might have difficulties understanding the various English colloquialisms. Additionally, in a workplace where another language is dominant, employees who don't speak the dominant language might feel left out.
In some regions of the world, employees are expected or allowed to take a break from their workday to fulfill their religious obligations. For example, observant Muslims must pray to Allah five times a day, and when they work abroad they practice this tradition. As a business owner, you'll need to make accommodations to allow your employees to practice their religion, and you'll need to stress respect for all religions to avoid conflicts. At the same time, however, you can't jeopardize your company's operations.
Culture plays a huge role in gender conflicts in the workplace. In some cultures, women don’t interact openly with men and may feel violated or uncomfortable when men interact with them. Physical space and the amount of eye contact between a man and a woman matter in some cultures. Furthermore, some women might find it offensive when men offer them help in simple tasks, and some male employees in certain cultures might not want female employers to ask them pointed questions. Differences such as these can make it difficult to manage a global workforce.
Because of America's traditionally Christian culture, businesses often observe holidays such as Easter and Christmas. Globalization, however, makes it necessary to accommodate other religious holidays, including Ramadan for Muslims, Diwali for Hindus and Yom Kippur for Jews. Allowing one group of employees to observe their religious holiday while denying another group theirs could cause conflicts among your staff; however, observing every religious holiday, in addition to national holidays, can put a strain on production and thus can affect your profitability.