Cultural sensitivity: 3 things not to say or do in a multicultural setting

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Manitoba is a province of many cultures

  1. Diversity is welcome in Manitoba. This is one of the best things about living and working here.
  2. There are more than 200 ethnic origins here.
  3. Around 100 languages are spoken in Manitoba aside from English and French.
  4. About 22 per cent of the population in Winnipeg are foreign-born.

Clash of cultures

  1. It is exciting to know different cultures, views, and beliefs. It can also be difficult.
  2. Differences make your workplace interesting.
  3. Differences can also cause conflicts or misunderstandings.
  4. Everyone has to be flexible to maintain harmony and stay productive.
  5. You have to keep an open mind.
  6. Respect differences.
  7. Develop cultural sensitivity.

3 things not to do or say in a multicultural setting:

Stereotyping people by race

  1. This is assuming that people share certain traits based on race or nationality.
  2. Stories we watch on TV or movies make stereotypes popular.
  3. There are positive, negative and neutral racial stereotypes. For example, “All Asians excel at math” or “Mexicans are illegal immigrants”.
  4. Stereotyping is harmful because it limits a person. It is not accurate.
  5. It prevents us from really getting to know one another.
  6. It is often the root of racism.
  7. It can lead to prejudice or discrimination against certain groups.
  8. Stereotyping is not good especially in the workplace.

Example situation: Choosing to work only with a certain racial group. You choose them because you think that they are the best at a certain task based on a stereotype.

Why this is not productive:

  1. It prevents the organization from fully benefiting from the skills of each employee.
  2. It excludes people from other races who may have better skills for the task.
  3. Workers who are excluded can become resentful.

Making ethnic jokes

  1. Joking with co-workers is good. It helps establish closeness.
  2. But there are limits.
  3. Never joke about race.
  4. Everyone is loyal to their race.
  5. Racial jokes offend people. It also offends their family and generations before them.
  6. It is not a good idea to try and see if it a joke will offend someone. No racial joke is harmless.
  7. How would you feel if a co-worker made fun of your people?


  1. Copying the accents of certain nationalities.
  2. Laughing at co-workers’ accents.
  3. Making fun of a co-worker’s national dress, food, or traditions.

Why this is not productive:

  1. Mocking people is always wrong.
  2. It is degrading and rude.
  3. They will think you are uncultured. They may avoid you.

Criticizing another person’s country or culture

  1. We all compare ourselves with others. This is normal.
  2. But remember: There is no superior culture or country.
  3. There is no better or best. We are just different.
  4. Always respect differences.
  5. Cultural values and traits develop due to many factors.
  6. It will be hard to understand values of certain societies if you did not grow up in it.
  7. Ask respectfully if you want to understand a practice or behaviour of a certain race. As poet Walt Whitman said “Be curious, not judgemental.”
  8. Try to understand rather than put down.

Example situation: Three members of your team come from the same country. They talk loudly in their own language during breaks. You complain to your boss about them. You say “Those (nationality) are just so loud. These people have no respect for others.”

Why this is not productive:

  1. This called a sweeping generalization.
  2. Three people do not represent an entire race. This is stereotyping.
  3. Complaining will make the issue bigger. It will create a gap between you and the other members of your team.
  4. It can cause resentment that can last a long time. This will make it hard for you to work with them.
  5. Just tell them to keep the noise down. Ask nicely. This is the simple solution.

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