Today’s organizations encourage employees to “bring their whole selves to work,” but then are not prepared to handle the authentic selves of their workers.  Cultural tension becomes an every day occurrence because team members are trying to work out their issues and concerns, and without the right words, they make the workplace even more divisive. Your use of language can increase cultural tension or decrease cultural tension!

Words impact the workplace and shape relationships. Words can threaten to undermine your workplace office culture. Your employees are battling it out on Facebook. They are tweeting with the best–and worst–of them. Cultural conflicts, politics, societal values–these things are at the forefront of our minds just as they’re on every news channel every single day. What can you do? How can you promote cultural awareness while, at the same time, decrease cultural tension? Given these divisive times, it won’t be easy, but employers must be prepared to manage these tensions before they derail productivity and detract from an overall positive workplace culture.

Know Your Team

Cultural differences don’t just exist between political camps. Workers of different races and educational backgrounds will have cultural differences. Workers from different socio-economic backgrounds will have differences. Religion and sexual orientation may play a role in some cultural conflicts as well. First, if you have a diverse team, that’s a good thing as studies show that diverse workforces demonstrate increased productivity. But to develop sound policies, it’s important to understand your workforce and the cultural differences among workers.

Support Everyone

Although your policy book may have all the ‘correct’ language, you’ve got to model that you are opposed to discrimination of all kinds and support all your employees equally. If you have ingroups and outgroups, you have a problem. Your support of one group over another could inflame cultural tension. Be sure that you do your best to be inclusive. Inclusivity is your best defense against an office culture that is rampant with cultural tension.  Promote appreciation for all of the cultural differences around you.

Curtail Political Discussions

This is a tricky piece of advice so view it that way. As employers, we know that clamping down on what employees can or can’t discuss in the workplace is going to meet with some dismay or even backlash. However, as so many issues in politics reflect cultural values, these types of discussions can erode respect among colleagues. It may be worth discussing at a group meeting. Does your team agree to avoid speaking about major political/cultural issues? There’s no doubt that the “I say what I think” employee can make others uncomfortable and cause problems for your positive workplace culture.

Watch Your Words

Often, there are confrontations between employees, and they may stem from one or more persons saying the wrong words. When someone’s language crosses a line, call them on it, or there will be no line and the dominant individuals (with the dominant mouths) will walk on others.

We all have in common one thing: we want the words we hear to make us feel respected. All team members must be continuously alert and vigilant in ensuring that they use their words to acknowledge, affirm, include, trust, support, and listen to others. That’s the type of culture you must foster or you are apt to reap some negative consequences. How can we help foster an inclusive workforce where employees know how to decrease cultural tension? One starting point is by understanding the power of your words to increase or decrease cultural tension.

Learn More About How Our Decreasing Cultural Tension Training can help your organization.


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