Battling Cultural and Language Barriers in the Workplace?

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Good communication is essential if you want an efficient, productive workforce. While many employees, managers, and company leaders will have little issue understanding one another, cultural and language barriers can hinder communication in the workplace.

Language barriers and cultural differences may lead to misinterpretations or misunderstandings. When these happen, confusion may occur, causing members of your workforce to take undesirable actions. It may also hinder the flow of information through a workplace or could even increase incidents of discrimination or harm inclusivity goals.

By understanding the types of language and cultural barriers present in your workplace, you can find opportunities to improve communication. If you’re battling cultural and language barriers, here’s what you need to know.

Cultural Barriers in the Workplace

Cultural barriers relating to communication usually involve specific types of core differences. For example, idioms and slang aren’t universal, and various hand gestures or body language may have varied meanings, so using them in the workplace can lead to misunderstandings. Similarly, while some cultures value blunt communication, others find it disrespectful.

Another common difference involves speaking up and volunteering ideas. In some cultures, actively contributing without an explicit invitation is deemed appropriate. In others, speaking up without being directly asked is impolite or rude, leading employees with those cultural backgrounds to avoid interjecting even if others do so during conversations.

In these situations, diversity training is often effective in helping avoid missteps that lead to communication challenges. By increasing awareness, your workforce can learn what to avoid to prevent miscommunications or other poor outcomes.

Language Barriers in the Workplace

Language barriers typically occur when the level of fluency varies within an organization. This is most common when some workers have a primary language that differs from those most frequently used within your company by other workforce members and for internal communications, such as memos, employee handbooks, and more.

Language barriers aren’t uncommon if you have a diverse workforce or operate internationally. Fortunately, it’s possible to accommodate these communication differences, leading to better communication. For example, publishing internal communications in several languages ensures the workforce understands information. Hiring interpreters or bilingual staff members with proven fluency in both languages can also help.

However, communication barriers can still occur in a workforce where everyone shares a primary language. Not everyone has the same communication capabilities. For example, the extent of one person’s vocabulary may be above or below other workforce members.

Ensuring straightforward communication can help organizations overcome language barriers relating solely to skill-level variances. Keeping the information simplistic makes it easier to ensure that everyone understands the core message.

Finally, certain language-oriented conditions or disabilities can impact communication. Dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia can make communicating difficult in various ways. The same applies to auditory, language, and visual processing disorders, along with other conditions.

With conditions like those, employers are typically required to make reasonable accommodations based on the requirements outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Often, speaking with the employees to determine how best to meet their needs is wise, along with offering disability diversity training to all staff members to improve awareness and ensure everyone’s doing their part to facilitate better communication with every employee.

Ultimately, cultural and language barriers can impact communication, but the tips above give companies critical direction to overcome them. If you’d like to learn more or need to fill an urgent vacancy, UCP can help. Contact us today.