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The Impact of Ineffective Cultural Workplace Relationships 
Volume 2 Issue 6 Article by Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D. January, 2010


Managers can reduce employee disciplinary infractions by eliminating ineffective workplace relationships.

Many workplace relationship challenges stem from the differences in the way managers and employees interact.

Employees from different cultures have different ways of communicating and interacting. Interactions between managers and employees include nonverbal and verbal communication processes which can complicate workplace relationships.

For example, Blacks, Hispanics, and Whites have different verbal communication requirements. During a conversation Blacks may speak over the voices of others. Some Hispanics prefer to communicate in a group discussion that allows all participants to speak at the same time until a  decision is finalized. Whites place a premium on allowing one person to speak at a time to indicate respect for an   individual.

When verbal communication requirements are violated the manager may resort to speaking to employees loudly, rudely, or become perceived as one sided which will result in unresolved misunderstandings and arguments. Employees may then react by complaining that the manager is unfair, hostile, and has a bias when issuing discipline and promotions. Employees who decide to endure this type of environment may retain a negative attitude which will impact the morale of the entire organization and therefore jeopardize the overall organization’s productivity. Employees who decide not to endure this type of environment will ultimately leave and the organization will suffer loss resulting from the cost  employee turnover.  

While the scope of this article is not to cover all the complications that can arise from a lack of understanding of cultural differences, it is clear how those differences can complicate workplace relationships and therefore reduce the organization’s effectiveness.

Overcoming ineffective cultural workplace relationships begins with an objective evaluation of disciplinary trends along cultural lines. Even though a manager may be able to justify disciplinary actions, if the data indicates a cultural bias then the manager must initiate an appropriate transformational process to overcome the cultural challenge.

As a remedy, most organizations refer managers and employees to workshops that focus on            communication, conflict, anger management, negotiation techniques, labor relations, etc. Even though this information is beneficial, information alone will not bring the benefits of an appropriate organizational transformation process that eliminates ineffective workplace relationships.

Overcoming ineffective cultural workplace relationships involves:

   Conducting an organizational analysis to determine cultural trends and patterns.

   Soliciting a small team of  “connected” managers and  employees to implement the organizational change.

   Developing a team shared vision based on individual personal visions.

   Team evaluation of  the organizational analysis with a focus on developing strategies that improve manager-employee workplace relationships.

   Periodic team meetings which focus reporting the progress of developed strategies.

   Team reporting beneficial strategies to the entire organization and solicit involvement from the entire organization.

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