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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Multicultural Work Environments, Organisation Politics And The Mental Health Implications

Working is multicultural environments offers unique and every challenging experience. In it different etiquettes come into play facing different degrees of resistance or liking. The challenges faced in multicultural environments go beyond office politics -where decisions of the day-to-day management of the organization are based on rumors and gossips. Both management and staff can have an excellent listening ear for who is saying what to who about who for who and against who.

It can all begin with a conflict between two people who widen each other’s suspicious mind of each other, perceiving each other as having negative intentions directed towards one another. This conflict is then shared by friends of each, both intersectional and respective ones, and at different levels within and outside the organizations.

And in the cases of bullying and teasing any reaction by the victim is later used against him or her. Depending how management interprets the dynamics of the workplace conflicts, the situation can either be exacerbated or resolved to allow continuity.

And depending on management competence in regards to group dynamics, sooner it can be revealed whether they are perpetuator of workplace disharmony through divide and rule -where one group is used by the management to eliminate the other. Affected individuals will be torn into three parts; quitting the organization to find peace, brave a challenging period of joblessness, and persisting or coping.

In all those options ability to excel on any of them vary from one person to another. Where no option can be reach for continuity and harmony with self and others, the affected person faces acute stress, chronic depressions, panic attacks, psychosis among other possible psychological implications.

In multicultural environments, what is be perceived as crazy in one cultural group can be very normal in another and vice-versa. Also there can be concerns of superior-complexity or conflict of extremes influenced by education (and learning institutions attended) and culture.

Regardless of how satisfied and proud one group can be about its culture, the ‘invading’ one will fail to appreciate and cooperate with the ‘inferior’ one -which in return is received with a lot of bitterness and anger -an insult and provocation which will demand pay-back from those offended.

At work places suspicion and mistrust will characterize relationships between two different cultures. Both false and true information will be bundled and taken to top management -who share similar culture or race for action. Extremes of ideology can most be found among young people -who if they belong to different cultural groups will crash into each other and cause disharmony within the organisation.

Because one group has shared culture with management, it will time and again report their suspicions, assumed intentions (in the negative sense) of another group to the management to have other members eliminated from the organisation. And since one group is considered to be of a higher social status by the management -a label that soon influences the group to think and act same way; in all ways and in all social interactions that will be showed before other groups.

When allegations and accusations are made against a member of another cultural group, no consultations are made across cultural groups for possible evidence of the presented ‘truth’ in the report. Information is taken and considered in its row form by the management.

The verdict is not even shared with the accused but kept secret as permanent record for future reference in case another transaction with the accused arises. Definitely such transaction will be aborted with immediate contact between the two. In one scenario of 30 visiting volunteers in Uganda only one -the youngest of all crossed over the cultural boundary to seek the truth and relay conclusions made in his group to another. This shows how secretive yet antagonistic one cultural group can be against the other.

If mentally toxic issues are not amicably and credibly diffused, they can cause serious damage to the personality of individuals -who may resolve to dislike people of another race or even escalate into violent actions for the injustice against him or her.

And because of the continued emphasis of the label against one member of another cultural group, accused individual may begin to behave consistently with the label so that he or she goes on to wreck havoc in the community against the same ethnic or racial group.

But thanks to the education system more so one that is relevant to the current global problems and peace and conflict studies, one can sit down to analyze content and reach realities of the matter -which become the rule rather than the rumor or gossip around town. Once found to be false, statements can be thrown out and social climate cleaned of ‘pollutants.’

There are specific behaviors that can be inappropriate to a given community yet very appealing to the visiting group like wearing skimpy dresses and sitting in a way that exposes knickers. That is some kind of sexual harassment or abuse in some communities.

In another group (mainly members of the opposite sex), teasing in a way that is sexual and touching are culturally normal part of culture and life yet to a visiting group those are horrible and forms of sexual harassment.

Of course where one is touched matters; shoulders, arms, head and probably the back can be justified to be okay. Such misfiring can only be reduced or rid of field groups through sensitizations and freely communicating dislikes across groups and cultures.

Most of those issues can be resolved in the field without having to burden management with lots of cases to solve that nobody -even team leader could solve. But by the time reports indicate: unresolved problems at administrative level, then it will seem final to the management -as verdict.

In conclusion, it is important that employers grasp the dynamics of maintaining harmony and stability in a multicultural work environment well-aware that personal feelings could be drown in staff conflicting alliances based on race and culture. And the same time entry and orientations in organizations should put into consideration intercultural and cross-cultural competences.

Having realized that everyone within the organizations will be in position to cope with the sharp differences in culture or race and instead focus on organizations development issues. As a product of that, productivity will be high and less of burn-outs and resignations or serious mental-health concerns, or psychological violence arising from organization staff.

Makerere University
Graduate Peace and Conflict Program
P.O. Box 7062, Kampala-Uganda

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