Canada is rich in cultural diversity and mining is a global industry, so it's no surprise that many mining and resources operations are culturally diverse.
Many companies work hard to ensure there's no clash of cultures. But if you find yourself working in a culturally diverse workplace for the first time, here are a few pointers on improving teamwork and building positive relationships.
Our brains use stereotypes as a shortcut to efficiently process information. (Can you imagine how long it would take to get through the day if you encountered everything as if you were seeing/doing/thinking it for the first time? You’d never get anything done!) So, our brains find ways to make things more orderly and efficient. The flipside is that stereotyping often reduces the members of a particular group or culture to a preconceived set of ideas or a set of attributes, which marginalizes them. In doing this, we make sweeping statements and negative generalizations about a particular group of people or a culture, which are often untrue.
Let's take an example of a made up stereotype: "all people born in January are incompetent". Now let's break it down: have you met every single person born in January? If not, how can you say that all people born in January are incompetent? You can't. Exactly the same logic applies to stereotypes about cultures. Unless you've met every single person from that culture, how can you possible say that all people from that background are loud/hard-working/lazy/intelligent etc.
Put yourself in their shoes
Anyone who's traveled to a different country will understand how overwhelming it can be to arrive in a foreign land. Sure, you speak enough of the language to get by, but you’re not really sure of the customs, you make a lot of hand gestures to get your point across, and you probably do/say something that offends somebody at some point. Showing a little understanding and tolerance of co-workers in this situation will help you both get along.
Be patient and curious
Frustration and anger will make communication more difficult. This is especially evident when people start to raise their voice at co-workers from a non-English speaking background. They’re not hard of hearing, it's perhaps just taking some extra time to process your message. If you're unsure about a cultural difference, simply ask. You might want to do this away from the team, though, to ensure the person isn't offended by your question, or embarrassed about discussing it.
If you catch up with colleagues outside work, make an effort to invite new recruits from different cultures. Even if they decline, they'll appreciate the offer. Assimilating into a new culture is tough at the best of times. Challenge your thinking and listen. Learning more about where they’ve come from, their background etc will help you to work together more effectively.
Keep communication uncomplicated
Finally, when you're communicating across cultures, make sure the conversation is clear, concise and can't be misunderstood. This doesn't mean belittling the person or insulting their intelligence, but just ensuring you do your best to have the other person understand your message. Unless you have a great understanding of the individual and their culture, avoid humor initially. It can be easily misunderstood and might even offend.
As our world becomes more connected and our workplaces more multicultural, a little respect, patience and questioning of perceptions will go a long way to working harmoniously across cultural lines.