When people ask me “where are you from?” I seriously don’t know how to answer them. To be accurate in my reply I need to traverse four continents and claim my genetic heritage from Goa, my birth country as Malaysia, the country I migrated to as Australia and the country I live in presently as Singapore.
I met many people like me at the recent conference organised by the Singapore Management University (SMU). They too had lived in many countries and true to their identity were working on aspects of promoting multiculturalism in the workplace.
Why is multiculturalism deemed so important in the workplace today? With so much conflict in the world that emanates from ignorance, we need to encourage dialogue, which is a bridge on the dichotomy of tolerance and acceptance.
As a common denominator all of us would like peace and harmony in our lives. We need to re-focus on these values and begin to create tangibles that feed into these goals. So what can we do in the workplace to create this?
- Freedom of expression where employees feel they can speak of things important to them
- Understanding of identity where employees are developed to know their values, beliefs and behaviours
- Open mind to learning which is usually the platform for non judgment and acceptance of new ideas
- Installation of a level playing field where no one culture or religion claims superiority over another
- Commitment from the leadership that cascades through the entire organisation
In my experience organisations that have leadership commitment usually find all other points above falling into place organically. The old adage “everything starts at the top” rings true.
While many see multiculturalism as a “nice to have” it isn’t an option today. It is our only saving grace that will lead to opening of mindsets in the organisation which via a ripple effect impacts families, societies and world cultures.
This is our only hope of attaining peace and harmony. Feeding and growing the minds of employees as they remain our captive audience.