Improving Cross-Cultural Relations in the Optical Work Place


I saw an article about improving cross-cultural relations in Pink Magazine and was very interested in reading about it as I remember a very unfortunate episode at an optical company I worked for years ago which had many different racial groups. The customer service department had several Hispanic members who would like to chat to each other in Spanish and some non-Spanish speakers felt excluded. It created quite a fractious situation when management made the well intentioned but misjudged request that everyone speak English while in the work place.

Picture from Peter Lumpkins
Picture from Peter Lumpkins

Here is an abbreviated version of the article about “Improving Cross-Cultural Relations in the Work Place”:

Looking around during break or lunch times you will often see the different racial groups sitting together separately not mixed in together. Why is this and is it something to be concerned about? Psychologist Beverly Tatum, Ph.D and author talks about it:

“Familiarity, comfort and common interest” – in other words, the dictates of human nature – are at least part of what I observed, Tatum says. “If you are in France and you hear someone speaking English,” she gives as an example, “You’re likely to bond with them.”
The instinct to socialize with others resembling us is very powerful. There are times during the week – lunch, breaks, special celebrations – when we just want to “relate” and feel “familiar”. And those with similar experiences will more often than not share cultural and racial backgrounds as well. People like to speak their own language together even if they all speak excellent English, it is just more comfortable.
So what’s the harm in all this? It is only lunch, after all. But it turns out that those seemingly harmless social situations can be more of a reflection of company culture – and have more of an effect on career mobility – than you might think. For example, the deeper personal understanding found in mentor-protege relationships – the kind that make or break careers – are often forged in social settings. Effective managers of today’s multicultural workforce have to know how to get along with other cultures in a host of different situations – including social ones. It is good practice for improving optical patient relations as well.

First steps improving cross-cultural relations in the Optical work place and beyond starts with each of us but how does a business owner or manager begin improving cross-cultural relations? You can’t force people to socialize together but you can

  • integrate work teams with the hope that social interaction will follow
  • hold formal workshops
  • encourage cultural exchange work events
  • lead by example.

Source: Excerpts from “Cafeteria Crisis, by Kathryn Whitbourne, Pink Magazine

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