Cultural Barriers in the Work Place

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Cultural Barriers in the Workplace by Chris Blank, Demand Media American workplaces in the 21st century must deal with several personnel challenges, including increased cultural diversity and a range of ages in their work forces. These factors often produce cultural barriers between co-workers that can have an adverse effect on productivity and morale. Demonstrating awareness of these cultural barriers often reduces their detrimental impact. Verbal and Language Barriers With the increased influence of globalization, many workplaces feature individuals who have moved from other areas of the country, or who are from other countries entirely. Regional differences in informal language and communication style can produce misunderstandings that are often amusing, but sometimes result in serious consequences. Workers who speak with a strong regional or national accent may find their colleagues have difficulty understanding them. Minimizing the use of slang and including visual aids with oral presentations can reduce the impact of language barriers. Nonverbal Communication and Personal Space Nonverbal communication often has a significant impact on interpersonal interactions, and presents another area where misunderstandings can occur. For example, many women from non-Western cultures find it difficult to act assertively with men, even when they hold equal or supervisory positions. People from Latin cultures maintain less personal space than many American, German or Japanese individuals find comfortable to maintain. Many Americans take an informal approach their colleagues, referring to nearly everyone by their first names, a practice that people from more formal cultures may find disrespectful or even offensive. Generational Barriers Many offices and factories in the 21st century include workers from four different generational groups: mature workers near or
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