Jobs in HRINC Cambodia, The Best Employment, Career & Recruitment Site, Working in Cambodia

Are you a Student? Just Finished?

Looking for Experiences?

We have opening internship positions waiting for you right now.

Search Jobs


Eg: accounting, finance, information technology...

Poll

Do you like your current job?
 

SpringBoard4Cambodia

Featured Employers

HRINC Video

Diversity in the Work Place

E-mail Print PDF

"Workplace diversity" or "Crossing the cultural divide"

DiversityOne of the features of Cambodia's working environment is the presence of many expatriates from across the world including other Asian countries. This mixing of cultures is one of the great things about working in Cambodia. Each culture brings their own attitudes, ideas and experiences to the workplace, which combine to produce a uniquely Cambodian workplace culture. Many Cambodians and expatriates feel they benefit tremendously from being exposed to different ways of doing things. For our Cambodian workforce and our economy, it gives us a positive advantage in terms of working in a globalized world.

For many Cambodians entering the workforce for the first time, previous dealings with Westerners might be fairly limited. Similarly, many western expatriates working in Cambodia have never worked in an Asian country before. It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that both sides experience their share of frustrations and misunderstandings when dealing with each other. After all, interpersonal relationships at work can be complex at the best of times, let alone when people come together from very different cultures and backgrounds.

Interacting successfully with people from other cultures does not mean that we leave our own culture at the front door when we come to work. Workplace diversity should be celebrated; not ignored. We need to recognise and appreciate our cultural differences, and to understand how they impact on the work environment.

So, what are some of the main challenges that Cambodians and expatriates face?

Language is an obvious source of potential misunderstanding. In a mixed cultural environment, conversations typically take place in English. While many Cambodian professionals speak English very well, there may be times when the precise meaning of what is being said is not fully understood. For example, if an expatriates manager says, "It would be good if you could do some research on this", they are actually saying, "Please do some research on this". However, a Cambodian might misinterpret this to mean they have the option of doing the research or not doing the research.

To avoid language misunderstandings, both sides need to think carefully about the way they express themselves and ensure understanding. Just as importantly, neither side should feel embarrassed about seeking clarification about what is being said. It is much better to spend a few minutes clarifying a request than to misunderstand the request altogether.

Another challenge stems from differences in our approach to discussions or debates. As in many Asian cultures, Cambodians tend to place a lot of value on reaching decisions by consensus and maintaining group harmony. In any debate, it is important that nobody "loses face". In contrast, Westerners tend to be more comfortable with vigorous debates where each party is seeking to win the argument. Whereas a Westerner might think saying, "I don't agree with you" or "I think you are wrong", is a reasonable statement to make; such blunt language may be interpreted by a Cambodian as a personal insult.

Similarly, many expats are used to environments with flat organizational structures and an egalitarian workplace culture - "we are all equal, even if you are my manager or I am your manager". In contrast, Cambodians are more accustomed to strict hierarchies and observing formalities. As a result, an expat may come across to a Cambodian as being too informal or casual, which may make the Cambodian feel uncomfortable or offended. Also, a Cambodian may be more reluctant to disagree with their manager in situations where an expat would have no hesitation in doing so.

Despite our best efforts, there will be times when cultural misunderstandings will occur. It takes a long time to fully understand the intricacies of another culture, and sometimes it might feel as though we will never really understand how the other person thinks. The important thing is not to get frustrated or to take offence too easily. Be patient and flexible in your dealings with people from other backgrounds, and always ask yourself, "How might my behaviour be perceived from that person's perspective?" Here are four tips that can help:

  1. Listen carefully to what each person says and try to understand. Ask clarifying questions such as: Can you clarify exactly what you mean? Or "I understand you want me to a, b, c,..."
  2. Take the time to give feedback to each other in a non confrontational way to explain why or why not you feel someone is not doing something right.
  3. Spend time with your colleagues to understand them better. We all need to go beyond office interaction to understand where we come from. Have lunch together, or do something social to encourage better understanding of the different cultures and perspectives.
  4. Ask for feedback if you feel something is not working - even if you are a manager. Asking for feedback is not a sign a weakness but can encourage trust and respect between colleagues.

This article was written by Sean Power (consultant to HRINC) and Sandra D'Amico (Managing Director of HRINC), Cambodia's leading HR services firm and published in the Phnom Penh Post on March 2009.

A job isn't just a job, it consumes more than a third of your day - make sure you enjoy what you do and challenge yourself to be creative and do things differently! Contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for more information

 

Add comment

PLEASE DO NOT POST any messages that are obscene, vulgar, sexually-oriented, political, hateful, threatening, or otherwise violation of any laws.
The Administrator reserves the right to remove, edit, move or close any thread for any reason.


Security code
Refresh

You are here: Home Page Job Tools Diversity in the Work Place