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HR Management and Cultural Diversity in the Workplace

Posted By Administration - Laurie Pehar Borsh , Thursday, April 9, 2015
Updated: Thursday, April 9, 2015

Without sufficient training on understanding culture diversity, managers who are thrown into a diverse workforce can and will inevitably cross a cultural line with employees.


In many cases, this can happen without a manager even being aware of the consequences of their lack of knowledge regarding the individual's culture.


Those managers who are armed with a better understanding of “cultural intelligence” are better equipped to perform their jobs—and be of great value to company as they are able to communicate more effectively with employees.


The story of “Sam” offers a look into what happens when this lack of cultural intelligence leads to the resignation of a valued employee. Sam was a typical young man from Nepal.  He was raised in a blend of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. When something is wrong, these beliefs embrace looking inward for correction before looking outward. Being kind, generous, respectful and helpful are traits of a traditional Nepalese. Sam was not traditional in that he came to the United States to escape persecution from the Maoist. The son of farmers, he was the first in his family to attend college. He had the drive and ambition to better himself and to give back to his family from whom he received tremendous emotional support.


Not only did Sam graduate with a B.S. in Business Administration, he also applied and was accepted into a California State University Master’s program. Sam's family was financially unable to assist in his education. He worked through University to pay for his education. By all accounts, Sam was an excellent employee and manager in several retail jobs. After graduation, he interviewed and was offered a position with a large retail company. Sam loved his job and thrived in his position, and was promoted several times. Yet Sam left his job after experiencing a total lack of cultural intelligence from a new manager the company had brought in.


Read Sam’s accounting of his experience here.

After a period of time, Sam reached out to his university professors for guidance on how best to move forward. He slowly regained his confidence and, subsequently, took his managerial expertise to another company. This company is committed to providing cultural awareness to its multinational employees. Since Sam started his new position, the company has reaped the rewards of increased profit and high morale simultaneously. His story highlights how the understanding of the culture of your workforce is crucial to the success of any manager. With regularity, companies lose some of their best employees because of the lack of knowledge new managers have about various cultures. “Knowing Your Employees” becomes an important mantra for managers in the workplace.


Peter Drucker, the “Father of Management,” said that the most difficult mistakes to overcome are personnel mistakes because, for the most part, the mistake is irreversible. In this instance, the company lost a valuable employee who, by all accounts, would have developed into a management asset. He possessed the knowledge, personality and cultural awareness missing in his manager. Drucker goes on to say that building on the strengths of the employee instead of focusing on weaknesses, perceived or real, is the key to retention of valuable employees. Being educated on the cultural background of the individual employee, coupled with strength building, is a recipe for success. This manager seemed to have a personal, instead of company, agenda in her actions with Sam and never took into account how his cultural background would affect the end result.


What’s the solution? Simply put, training and education. There are several ways in which companies can achieve this goal. Outsourcing, as well as in house seminars and workshops on cultural awareness, can be effective, albeit sometimes expensive and time consuming. For those companies that find outsourcing an onerous solution, there is an excellent alternative. Hybrid Management is a company founded on the Peter Drucker principles of management. It offers an online 2-way review process based on the assumption that both employees have different views and cultures but need to collaborate with one another in the workplace. More information on this online resource can be found at A company who recognizes the importance of cultural intelligence as a necessary component in hiring managers, and takes the necessary steps to train and educate its employees, will reap immediate tangible results. The benefits are manifested simultaneously in the increased morale and profitability of the company. 



About the Authors

Vikki A. Adams, Esq.
Over the course of her legal career, Vikki Adams was an International Trade & Immigration partner in three AmLaw 100 law firms.  Subsequently, she served in the Office of Foreign Missions, US Department of State before re-entering the private sector.  She is the founder and President of UnicoConcepts, a globally recognized international business and cultural intelligence consulting company. She is currently authoring a book on cultural intelligence in international business.  Vikki resides in San Rafael, California. Connect with Vikki on Linkedin.


Suroj Maharjan, MBA StudentSuroj Maharjan was born into a family of farmers from Kathmandu Valley in the Himalayan kingdom of Nepal. He is the first in his family to obtain any kind of formal education.  Due to unrest in his country, and with the support of his family, Suroj came to the United States and pursued his education.  He currently is an MBA student and resides in Rohnert Park, California. Connect with Suroj on Linkedin

Tags:  cultural  culture  diversity  employee  HR  human resources  leadership  management  NCHRA  workforce  workplace 

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mary Graves says...
Posted Friday, April 10, 2015
Excellent! this article is so rich with the real situations of the need for cultural diversity training. I joined NCHRA today.
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