Voices of our Nation

4 Essential Tips for Workplace Cultural Acceptance

When working at an environment that is home to people from diverse backgrounds, it is important the workplaces know these cultural and individual differences in order to have programs or diversity. A means to bond rather than wedge a divide between them. It might not seem like much. A harmless holiday celebration without negative impacts on others but these little celebrations of one culture could be a sign of spreading disgruntlement.

Some adoptable strategies:

  • Weekly meetings – not simply a chance for a wonderful work-related update, but also gives a chance to talk and know if there have been issues. This maintains a line of communication with employees.
  • Call out unacceptable behaviour – if you see someone taking an opportunity to put down someone else based on something they do not have any control over (e.g., race, sex, gender, age, skin colour, hair type, and so on), then call them out on it. If the management does not see it and correct it, then it could perpetuate.
  • Encourage your employees to report potential instances of workplace discrimination – this perpetuates a healthy employer-employee relationship and creates an environment where employees feel heard, respected, and treated with dignity.
  • Try encouraging acceptance of all cultures by having a team potluck lunch/dinner – it will encourage them to know each other and one another’s their culture, and provide a chance to bond over something that has worked like a charm for centuries: food.
  • It is difficult to change cities, maybe start a new job in a new field, a career away from home, or have other woes, no matter what problem one might face, non-acceptance by fellow workers could be the worst of them all. Imagine spending 8-9 hours in the company of fellow coworkers who do not accept you probably silently judge you as well.

    It is important for the management to step up and bridge the divide between the employees and let acceptance seep into the core of the company’s structure. Once it’s a part of the foundation, the company will emerge stronger than ever.

    This article was written by volunteer blogger Riya Prem Raaj and edited by volunteer editor Scott Douglas Jacobsen.

    Voices of our Nation

    11 Tips on Respect & Inclusion in the Workplace

    It has become a lot easier since back in the day, to express gender and sexuality issues in the workplace. When one could not express a fundamental part of oneself, it tended to hamper the outflow of work. However, with that being said, it does not mean that it has been easy for our current generation. There are still problems that one faces at the workplace in the aspects of respect and inclusion. A ‘closed’ environment can significantly impact an individual’s involvement in the organization, potentially resulting in low staff morale, increased absenteeism, decreased productivity and retention difficulties.

    When employees have been working together for a long time, it is likely that they become a tight-knit group and it can make it difficult for new employees to become part of that group. New employees aren’t aware of the group’s internal dynamics yet and can feel left out if everyone is calling out ‘Pepperoni’ at 4pm and you are the odd man out. Therefore, Human Resources departments have come up with techniques to help new employees or an existing employee who is not quite settling in yet to feel included at the workplace. Almost 45% of the employees who leave the workplace do so because of their seniors. That can be a large factor in deciding whether to stay with the company or not.

    Here are some Human Resources techniques to help new and existing employees:

    i) Open and Effective Communication – provide open communication channels and feedback. This optimizes the opportunity for discussion of issues related to inclusion and discrimination. Having complaint boxes or walk in policies with one’s supervisor would encourage individual’s to open up about the issues bothering them, which would in turn lead to employees feeling more comfortable
    ii) Political Differences – everyone has different opinions and they must feel comfortable sharing them with their colleagues, as long as they are work appropriate. This can help build bridges with people who may share similar opinions
    iii) Build Relationships – learn about the cultural backgrounds, lives and interests of employees outside of the workplace. Building relationships through increased understanding and trust helps to foster inclusion. (Who knows you may even find someone who you have a lot in common with and could help you move up the corporate ladder)
    iv) Get Involved – be creative, flexible and look for new opportunities to join events the company is having such as the annual company picnic
    v) Equal Opportunity – This is geared towards employers, as they have to ensure all employees have the equal opportunity to take part in decision-making and planning for social activities
    vi) Special Days and Events – it is important to recognize and acknowledge special days and events such as International Day of Persons with Disabilities, International Day to End Racism, Gay Pride celebrations, etc
    vii) Create Intranet-based Multicultural Calendars – this helps avoid scheduling important meetings on major cultural holidays so that everyone feels respected and heard
    viii) Permit Flexible Schedules – this helps employees who observe religious practices can arrange their schedules around their beliefs. This ensures that the employees know that you respect their faith and also being accommodating
    ix) Acknowledgements of Faiths – there are many different faiths in a workplace and the employer needs to respect them. This does not mean employers have to throw parties at every religious holiday but acknowledging it and giving the leeway for a day off will go a long way in building rapport between the employee and employer
    x) Accommodating for Employees with Disabilities – for employees that are blind, in a wheelchair or have visual impairment, the employer needs to be accommodating. Have signs in Braille, audiocassettes, make the office accessible with a ramp, elevators, handicap washroom and parking spot
    xi) Mental Health – it is important for employees who are suffering from mental health issues to know that they can talk to someone and that they are not alienated. Keep communication doors open and ensure them that they are in a safe environment and provide them with people they can talk to if they need it.

    This article was written by volunteer blogger Riya Prem Raaj and edited by volunteer editor Erin Murphy.

    Voices of our Nation

    8 holiday issues in the workplace

    T’is the season to be jolly, fa la la- la la, said no employer ever. The holiday season is where tough decisions at the workplace are at their highest. Holiday parties and holidays, in general, can be an opportunity for employers to improve workers morale such as using holiday bonus incentives. However, the holidays can also be a stressful time where efficiency goes out the window and employers need to have a handle on things and prepare accordingly.

    It is that time of year where your office may do Secret Santa or simply exchange gifts with everyone in the office and it can be stressful picking out friendly but appropriate gifts. That is just the tip of the iceberg for employers as they typically will host either an office holiday party or take their employees out for lunch/dinner. As an employer, you hope that your employees know how to conduct themselves, but it is a good idea to make guidelines to ensure things don’t get out of hand. For example, employers could enforce a two-drink limit at a restaurant or simply have the party in the office where drinking would not be permitted. It is important to understand that office parties are not the same as getting together with friends. There may be similar elements such as uncomfortable flirtation or awkward tension between those who don’t see eye-to-eye. What is important for employees to remember is you are still representing the company and any misconduct, especially in public or within the office will reflect badly on you and your company.

    Some issues that an employer needs to undertake and be prepared for are:

    i) After the holiday party or lunch/dinner, making known to all employees that taxi services are available
    ii) Drinking limits are strictly enforced (not allowing someone to give away their drinking ticket to someone else)
    iii) Include all of your employees, invite everyone to lunch/ dinner or make sure everyone knows when the office party is so no one is excluded
    iv) Have a budget set out for holiday parties and know what the company is able to spend
    v) Include other religious holidays, Christmas becomes the dominant holiday while other religious occasions or beliefs are set aside
    vi) Look out for sexual harassment, bullying, and aggression, especially when alcohol is in the mix
    vii) Account for productivity and make it known amongst your employees what is expected of them before December hits. Not knowing how much work will get done may cost the company if shipments aren’t made in time or sale expectations weren’t met
    viii) If an employer needs to fire an employee during the jolly month of December, it is good to try and stay in touch with your other employees. It may induce more stress on your employees if they think they will get fired as well.

    It is important to know that there is a thin line between party and ‘partaay.’ Both the employers and employees must respect this line. Though holiday parties can be a lot of fun, we don’t want to see them get out of hand and end up costing the company in litigation fees.

    This article was written by volunteer blogger Riya Prem Raaj and edited by volunteer editor Erin Murphy.

    Voices of our Nation

    Communication and Other Workplace Barriers

    Communication in the workplace is affected by a number of factors, some of which are recognizable to the worker while other are more complex and require a closer look. For example, there is a co-worker that you feel is unapproachable and as a result, you might prefer to procrastinate and not ask them questions or notify them of certain information. It could be any numerous of reasons that you feel this way, they looked at you funny, said a rude remark or cut you off in a meeting. However, without cutting to the chase of the problem and approaching them, you unconsciously created that barrier that made it difficult for you to approach them.

    Over time, if there is no effective communication, it does weaken the bonds between the employers, employees and the organization as a whole. For example, a newly recruited employee is unsure if their work is up to par and if they completed it correctly, but they are intimidated by their senior. They may choose to go to a co-worker or other senior who may or may not be able to guide them as effectively and could consequently cause the work to suffer along with the credibility of the employee.

    We underestimate the power of communication at a workplace such as sending quick emails, texts, phone calls, memos and of course the coffee breaks. Misunderstanding and miscommunications are common, hence it is important to overcome these barriers to build a healthy working environment.

    Some common communication barriers are:

    1) Distractions – getting distracted during a presentation or meeting and wanting to save face and not admit to these distractions, you don’t ask a colleague on what was said while your mind wandered (we do have an attention span of only 20 mins). Therefore you choose to input whatever you thought they said, which can lead to confusion and mistakes.

    2) Shyness and Discomfort – these are real things that do hinder a conversation at a workplace. You have a great idea that you want to contribute but every time you are about to speak, the thought of having ‘all eyes on you’ and actually articulating this idea is too much and uncomfortable. Being too shy and uncomfortable in a workplace doesn’t allow for the worker to show what they are capable of doing and hinders the production of work overall.

    3) Trivial Doubts – you might be thinking to yourself ‘why must I ask my senior such a trivial doubt such as rounding off one digit in a transaction’ and end up costing the firm thousands of dollars. Prevention is better than cure. It is a good idea to ask co-workers or management even a trivial doubt question (it may be a big deal and you’ll be grateful you asked) to prevent any further issues.

    4) Body Language – I cannot stress enough how non-verbal body language speaks louder than words. Mixed signals (are they listening or not, should I repeat myself, how much have they understood) all cause confusion and work may suffer because of it. It is important to make sure (as my teacher used to tell us in class) that you are there both in body and mind. If you miss something because you got distracted for a few minutes, make sure you catch up either with a colleague or just ask them directly. They might appreciate the honesty (no one can pay attention 24/7 and the mind is bound to wander).

    Some other barriers that one may face are:

    5) Cultural Barriers – how people think, react and see the world can vary widely because of culture. This might give rise to stereotypes and other preconceived notions and sometimes make the person feel uncomfortable. For example, telling a person of Asian origin to handle the finances just because they are known to be good at math, is a gross violation of an employee’s personal merit.

    6) Multitasking – with access to technology at work, employees feel that it’s necessary to check e-mail, answer customer calls and send text messages at the same time. Multitasking is a barrier to productivity because it can prohibit an employee from remembering important information and not being able to perform their job satisfactorily.

    7) Stress – the amount of stress an employee feels when faced with many uncompleted duties prevents one from actually completing said tasks or opening up to a superior about it for fear of repercussions. Please speak up if you think your plate is too full. It is not healthy with regard to mental fatigue and physical health.

    8) Physical Barriers – the closed doors and cubicles can be a subtle hindrance to communication. People in open rooms tend to talk more and walk about more freely.

    These are just some of many different barriers that arise every day at one’s workplace. At the end of the day, open and effective communication between employers and employees goes a long way in solving issues and prevents new ones from cropping up.

    This article was written by volunteer blogger Riya Prem Raaj and edited by volunteer editor Erin Murphy.

    Voices of our Nation

    Causes and Solutions to Workplace Stress

    “You are allowed to be human”

    According to a number of surveys, a common type of stress that we see in everyday society is workplace stress. The files piling up on your desk, the phantom phone rings and the constant humming of the computers is a few of many parts and parcels of the workplace. These coupled with nepotism, ready to climb up the corporate ladder but being held back because of competition, lack of incentive and longer work hours all seem to be common causes of workplace stress.

    We all have been at that job where we had a boss we were terrified of making a mistake in front of or wanted 25 hours of work in a 24-hour day (sleep was for the weak). The one who wanted you to put in all your waking hours on the job and still withheld that promotion because they “did not feel you were up to the task.” Those bosses are now responsible for half of the psychologists’ clients all around the globe.

    Some of the common workplace stressors are increased responsibility, higher production demands, fewer benefits, pay cuts, layoffs, etc. Even bosses and senior management face workplace stress because they need to keep productivity levels high in order to keep the company running successfully and meet certain demands. They face hard tasks such as laying off employees that may have been with the organization for years, making cuts (budget and salary) and doing what is best for the company even at the cost of being called a tyrant. Some common workplace causes are:

    • Overload of tasks – Heavy workload, infrequent breaks, long work hours and shift work. Hectic and routine tasks with little inherent meaning, lack of skills required, and little sense of control

    • Management style – Lack of participation by workers in decision-making, poor communication within the organization and lack of family-friendly policies.

    • Interpersonal relationships – Poor social environment and lack of support or help from coworkers and supervisors

    • Work roles – Conflicting or uncertain job expectations, too much responsibility and too many “hats to wear”

    • Career concerns – Job insecurity and lack of opportunity for growth, advancement, or promotion and rapid changes for which workers are unprepared

    • Environmental concerns – Unpleasant or dangerous physical conditions such as crowding, noise, air pollution, or ergonomic conditions*

    If you are feeling overwhelmed by the causes of stress mentioned above, don’t worry there are solutions to these causes. Below are some of the solutions we think could help you adapt and get a better outlook. Something for supervisors and company management to keep in mind to help reduce workplace stress are:

    • Recognition of employees for good work performance

    • Opportunities for career development

    • An organizational culture that values the individual worker

    • Learning to give them free time for personal life, as they might have families that require them too.

    Some things you could try to alleviate your own stresses are:

    • Prioritize – you are allowed to step back and evaluate your life, to say no to additional work, to say no if you will be missing your anniversary dinner (but you need to understand when to exercise this option)

    • Talk to someone – Talk to a friend, family member or a counselor/ psychologist when you need some guidance or just want someone to vent to when you see yourself burning out (common signs include being irritated, frustrated, feeling depressed, withdrawn from friends and family)

    • Exercise – this helps clear the mind and gives you the necessary focus to get through your day (healthy body = healthy mind)

    • Get a regular sleep schedule – Whether you work the night shift or regular day hours it is crucial to allocate time for your body to rest (as difficult as this sounds, less sleep causes more health problems in the long run)

    These are just some of many solutions to help reduce workplace stress. Find what works best for you and apply it. You are only human after all.

    * Helpful list by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

    This article was written by volunteer blogger Riya Prem Raaj and edited by volunteer editor Erin Murphy.

    Voices of our Nation

    The Pros and Cons of Hiring Older Employees vs. Younger Employees

    Ever thought you would one day be in a position where you would have the decision on your hands to make or break someone’s career? Well if you are, here is something that you might come across depending on the nature of your job. This article aims to analyze some of the main factors to consider while picking the right person for the job. At the very outset, I must make it clear that I am referring to older as in more experienced professionals and not just being ageist.

    What are the things one could consider? We have tried to lay down factors that could influence one’s decision below in a concise format. Hope it helps you come to a conclusion about your Sophie’s choice.

    I have tried to first evaluate the pros of hiring older employees as opposed to younger employees before proceeding to the cons.

    1) Experience – for certain jobs, job experience is a huge factor. Experienced employees bridge the gap from teaching from scratch to jumping right into the thick of things.

    2) Less supervision – they definitely do not need as much supervision as a just out of college hire.

    3) Fewer chances of mistakes – they have made their mistakes and hopefully learned from them.

    4) Takes lead – having probably worked at other places before, they feel confident enough to take charge and lead the team.

    5) Mentorship – older employees are able (and willing) to mentor younger, less-experienced employees.

    6) Clients – older employees might just have a list of contacts and networking that will be useful in the growth of the firm.

    7) Patience – apart from the odd temper tantrum, they display more patience to teach and to communicate with the team.

    8) Loyalty – it comes with the package.

    9) Punctuality – this is one of those old tradition school things but punctuality is common and important to their generation.

    The pros of hiring younger employees as opposed to older employees can be listed as follows:

    1) Adept at technology – younger employees have grown up in the lap of technology and are therefore much more proficient at it than the older generation.

    2) More risk-taking – they just might be more open to the idea of risks (this might not necessarily go down well for the company but they at least had the courage to take that chance. Older employees are more cautious and less open to something and who knows, the risks might pay off).

    3) Dynamic – I do know of 60-year-old CEO’s who have been nothing but dynamic all their lives and that is why they are at the top. But younger blood with more ideas, fresh out of college and enthusiastic might be just what is needed to revitalize the company.

    4) Flexibility – older employees tend to have their own set of ideas and notions and cannot adapt easily to the changing mindset. Younger employees generally have a flexible attitude because they are more adept at changing (it’s a millennial thing maybe) and can pick up on such changes sooner (without grumbling).

    5) Expectation of Salary – the older employees come with some experience and want to be compensated for the fact that their previous skill has saved some training of the employers and therefore they must be compensated for the same. Younger employees are more than happy that they are being paid as the job is a place where they start off and learn (they know that their salary is not going to be through the roof).

    6) Physical attribute – though it sounds ageist, it is true that older employees do face certain physical drawbacks as compared to younger employees and the strenuous work can take a toll on their health.

    Several more pros and cons could be listed. However, the important take away from this article is that at the end of the day, the circumstance, the company and the post being recruited for is what will ultimately decide as to who stays and who does not.

    This article was written by volunteer blogger Riya Prem Raaj and edited by volunteer editor Shan Simpson.