Workshop discusses cultural differences in the workplace

Diane Crocker
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Laura Walbourne, left, of Go Western Newfoundland, and Cindy Andrews of Western Health participate in a group discussion during a “Successfully Managing Culturally Complex Workplaces” workshop at the Greenwood Inn and Suites on Thursday.

CORNER BROOK  Despite the best intentions, Lionel Laroche said having different cultures in a workplace means it’s inevitable that there’s going to be misunderstandings.

“People brought up in different parts of the world think, react and communicate differently,” said Laroche, the founder of Multicultural Business and Solutions Consultants.

As a specialist on cultural diversity in the Canadian workplace Laroche, of Markham, Ont., presented two workshops on “Successfully Managing Culturally Complex Workplaces” at the Greenwood Inn and Suites in Corner Brook on Thursday.

The workshops were offered by Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland. The first session was for staff at Grenfell and the second one was open to the community.

“There’s no silver bullet,” said Laroche, when asked following his afternoon session about how to prevent those misunderstandings.

“There’s no one single thing you do it, you’re done, the problem is solved.”

He said it’s more like a thousand little things and that each of them accumulated will create a better communication.

However, he said there are three key things that will help. The first is to be patient, which is especially important in the early stages of a working relationship.

“The second one is to remember that communication is not just about sending messages. It is also about making sure the message is received the way it was meant,” said Laroche.

And the third is that awareness is 50 per cent of the solution.

“What I mean by that is there’s many, many circumstances where if we don’t know we’re dealing with a cultural difference we will end up taking it personally when no personal attack is intended.”

To make sure the messages you are relaying are clear, Laroche said to monitor if the other person understood it the way you intended.

He said to ask them questions, to paraphrase what was said or to write meeting minutes.

“You can see from the questions they ask you did they understand you or not.”

Organizations: Multicultural Business, Greenwood Inn, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Geographic location: Markham

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