Not a Member? Get access to HR news and resources that you can trust.
Standing desks and other innovative workstations can help counterbalance the negative health effects of sitting.
Is your employee handbook ready for the New Year? With SHRM’s Employee Handbook Builder get peace of mind that your handbook is up-to-date.
Get the HR education you need without travel expenses or time out of the office.
Elevate Your Talent Strategy. Join us in Chicago, IL – April 24-26, 2017.
Foreign-born workers numbered 24 million in 2008, or 16 percent of the U.S. civilian labor force age 16 and older, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. These immigrants are different from those of a century ago: More foreign-born professionals today come from Asia, they often hold graduate degrees, and they quickly land high-level jobs.
U.S.-born managers often make the mistake of thinking that these highly capable, highly educated newcomers need little help assimilating to the U.S. business culture. As a training consultant working primarily with men and women born and raised in other parts of the world, I have seen this cause morale and productivity problems.
I often meet engineering superstars, computer experts and financial whizzes who say they feel completely lost in this strange country. They don’t know where to turn for guidance. Corporate diversity efforts target training at the immigrants and overlook needed training for their managers.
If you find yourself managing foreign-born professionals, use these tools to guide the relationships:
Learn cultural differences. For example, according to cultural expert Gerte Hofstede, people from outside the United States differ in their perceptions of time. U.S. workers, in general, adhere to schedules, whereas those from many other cultures do not. Read about the cultures of every person you deal with internally and externally. Books such as Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands (Adams Media, 2006) offer fundamentals about cultural differences and work ethics.
Play the name game. Learn to correctly pronounce your employees’ names. Consider whether your name is difficult for them to pronounce.
Show warmth. More than one employee new to the U.S. workplace has told me that Americans are like peaches—soft on the outside, hard on the inside. Immigrant employees may think you are friendly upon introduction but hard to penetrate for long-term friendships. With workers from socially oriented cultures, this lack of connection can impede your ability to manage their work.
Share food. Eating together deepens any relationship.
Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Few U.S. citizens move to other countries with the intention of staying permanently. So, they lack the experience of the grief that accompanies such uprooting.
Listen without multitasking. It’s hard enough to catch the meaning of a cross-cultural conversation when you’re giving it complete attention.
Find mentors. Empathetic camaraderie can help.
Expect missteps. Accept human shortcomings and apologize. Don’t let an occasional error throw off your commitment to improve communication with people of all shapes, sizes, colors and accents.
The author is a communications trainer and owner of Write Company Plus, based near Philadelphia. She can be reached at KBegley@writecompanyplus.com.
You have successfully saved this page as a bookmark.
Please confirm that you want to proceed with deleting bookmark.
You have successfully removed bookmark.
Please log in as a SHRM member before saving bookmarks.
Your session has expired. Please log in again before saving bookmarks.
Please purchase a SHRM membership before saving bookmarks.
An error has occurred
Recommended for you
Exam Late Application Deadline: April 14
SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 3,200 companies