As our world grows smaller through technology like television and the Internet, we find ourselves working with people of cultures with which we are unfamiliar. Some adjust well to different cultures in the workplace, but it takes a little "getting used to" for others. Numerous games and techniques have evolved to smooth this change in the workforce.
Clear a space in your office. Have your co-workers walk around the space. Tell them to group themselves according to arbitrary things like hair color, eye color, shirt color, trouser and skirt color and so forth. While doing this activity, the participants must remain silent, so participants cannot tell another participant that she does not belong in the group; they must group themselves according to their own judgment and silently. Finally, ask them to group themselves according to skin color. Explain to your group that no two people have the same skin color at any given point in the day. Skin color can change with hydration levels, blood levels and other such activity within the body. All of us are individuals. Have your group come together and reflect.
Make labels with sticky notes or index cards to tape onto the backs of your co-workers (for example: nerdy, studious, slacker, hard worker, boss's favorite, party girl). Instruct them not to tell one another which label will go on their back. Have others read the label and then talk to them as if they were that label. Come together and deconstruct what you have learned. Please note, these labels should be applied to co-workers randomly, as this exercise is not to reinforce existing stereotypes in the workplace.
Rainbow of Desire
The "Rainbow of Desire" exercise was created by theatre practitioner Augusto Boal. Make some space for your co-workers. Mark an area designated as "Agree", "Unsure" and "Disagree." Make statements to your group such as "I believe cultures working together is crucial for business," "I believe it is important for people of all races to get along", "I believe women and other minorities should be paid equally to their counterparts." Tell your co-workers to move to the areas designated "Unsure", "Agree" or "Disagree" when they hear the statement. Their movements should be reflective of if they agree or disagree with the statement personally. Have each person then make a statement on his choice, but let him know that he has the power to say "Pass". Remind your group that this is a safe space and nothing said in the room can be taken outside.
Have your group partner up. One person will be #1 and one person will be #2. Have #1 hold out her hand and #2 put his face about 6 inches away from #1's hand. Instruct #1 to move her hand and #2 to follow the hand physically with his face. After a few moments, have #1 and #2 switch so that #2 is "in power". Deconstruct and have your group discuss how this relates to issues of power and racism in the workplace.
Draw two outlines of people with butcher paper and stick them to the wall with some tape. Using a marker, label #1 as a "racist person" and #2 as a "new minority," someone who is new to the workplace and is the sole person of his culture. Give these characters names. On the outside of the bodies, write what the person might do outwardly. On the inside of the bodies, write what he may feel that prompts his behavior. Is the "racist" person scared of change? Is the "new minority" uncomfortable in the workplace or feel as if he must "prove himself"? After you finish, discuss with the group.
- Interplay Game Archive
- Games for Actors and Non-Actors 2nd Edition; Augusto Boal; 2002
Writing since 2008, Fiona Miller has taught English in Eastern Europe and also teaches kids in New York schools about the Holocaust. Her work can be found on Overstock.com, ConnectED and various other Web sites. Miller holds a B.A. in French from Chapman University and an M.A. in educational theater from New York University.