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Negotiating Workplace Cultures


In the practicum you are likely to come across cultures that are different from your own. Firstly, your host organisation has its own culture to which you will have to adapt. Secondly, you will probably need to communicate with others (co-workers, clients or customers) from a wide range of cultural backgrounds.

This module is divided into five sections: workplace cultures; diversity in the workplace; barriers to communication; dealing with diversity; and diversity and client rights. In completing this module you will:

  • Consider the nature of workplace cultures and how you might engage with them.
  • Become aware of the diversity of worldviews and reflect on how to communicate more effectively with people from a wide range of backgrounds.
  • Explore your own cultural identity and values (including biases, prejudices and stereotypes) and understand how this might affect your communication with others.
  • Understand what it means to provide fair and equal treatment to people from diverse backgrounds.

You may like to make notes or comments (personal reflections) while reading through this module and completing the activities. You can add these notes to your Portfolio together with the completed activities for assessment and/or for use as a placement resource.

Workplace cultures

When you begin your practicum you are a bit like an explorer entering a foreign country. Not only are you taking on a new role as a student in an occupational setting but you will encounter unfamiliar workplace social and organisational rules. To help you think about these issues, read the discussion of workplace etiquette and complete the chart, then read about workplace culture and complete the activity about differences between university and workplace cultures.

Diversity in the workplace

As well as acclimatising to the workplace culture while on the practicum, you will need to communicate with people whose views and customs differ from yours. Learning to recognise, respect and negotiate these differences will assist your professional development as well as benefit the organisation and the people you deal with. An important (but often overlooked) aspect of cultural difference is to do with gender. To help you think about these issues, read this discussion of cultural diversity in a workplace or professional setting, then complete the activities on race and ethnicity, and gender.

Barriers to communication

Your personal cultural assumptions and biases can be one of the biggest barriers to communication. Communicating with people who have different customs and values can be challenging, especially if you have grown up in a world where you have been insulated from others’ views. Read this discussion of communication issues, then complete the activities on cultural competence and ethnocentrism.

Working well with diversity

You will need to develop ‘cultural competence’ skills to communicate effectively with people whose views and customs differ from your own. Read the discussion about working well with cultural diversity and complete the activities about cultural safety and cross-cultural communication. This will help you to understand and get along with people from diverse backgrounds.

Diversity and client rights

Cultural diversity is also important in terms of rights - for both clients and employees. In Australia legislation protects people against discrimination because of their gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion or race. It is important that you understand and comply with this legislation as part of your preparation for the practicum. Read the discussion about cultural diversity, discrimination and rights, and complete the activity.

Further resources

For further insights into, and advice on cross-cultural issues, consult this list of additional resources.

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