Wisdom//

Corporate Cultural Diversity and the Six Elements of Gentle Teaching

There is no doubt cultural diversity is a growing issue today be it on the street or in the board room.


There is no doubt cultural diversity is a growing issue today be it on the street or in the board room.

While typically we hear of six elements of Gentle Teaching utilized in healthcare settings, the philosophy of “Gentle Teaching” is also effective when applied to both individual and group dynamics in a corporate setting.

Applying the elements help bridge the gap in employer-employee relationship. The concept can be highly constructive in the area of Work Force Development issues with employees with work barriers.

There are essentially six pillars to Gentle Teaching describe a solid “framework” for success.

Element 1: Feeling “Safe” in a Work Environment

An employee or group member should feel safe in a work environment. Safe means able to work without judgment no matter one’s culture and/or related cultural beliefs. Where a manager senses an employee feeling the strains of cultural differences a manager should offer the proper support and resources to assist. Contact information on how to report discrimination should be shared, if necessary. As a manager, one must remain impartial when addressing cultural issues. He or she should try to address the issues at hand; particularly the feelings underlying the cultural difference. It behooves a Manager to address issues as an effort to aid, not judge.

Element 2: Feeling Valued in the Work Environment

Its proven individuals thrive with encouragement and motivation (Maslow’s Hierarchy of Motivational Theory) as humans have basic needs to: “feel secure, feel a part of a group, the need for acceptance [and] the need to feel good about themselves.” An individual needs, also, “to be recognized for his or her achievements”. Maslow @ www.callofthewild.co.uk. One must, therefore, feel valued in a work environment. Good management practices include communicating with employees. An effort to make an employee or group member feel part of a team only stands to enhance an individual’s self esteem. In encouraging individual group members we also strengthen group cohesiveness. Seeking out employees, rather than waiting for them to come to you can make a huge difference in morale, as well. Taking the time to get to know your employees’ interests — do they have or practice any cultural traditions? What are their outside interests? Do they have any hobbies they would like to share with you? Get to know what is special to your employee about his or her culture. In that way you, too, shall learn new information about cultural diversity and different practices of other cultures. Taking the time to engage in pleasant, idle conversation outside of what’s happening in the work place lets any employee know they are valued. It shows you are interested in them as an individual, and not just an employee.

Element 3: Positive Fostering Interactions

If an employee’s behavior has changed seek that person out. Let them know you are concerned. You are there for them should they like to talk. Often we know staff disgruntled-ness arises from unresolved work environment issues and frustrations. In this day and age issues and frustrations are excessive work load, being short staffed, resulting in a drop in morale, generally. An effective Manager needs a higher understanding of human behavior and should thus expect initially an employee feeling not a part of the group may “push back” in communication. If, however, you open a door of sincerity and approachability many times open communication is well accepted. Employees who may be suspicious may still be disinterested in sharing. Particularly with a Manager or management. If that’s the case at least you have made a genuine effort to help resolve an issue or “be there.”

A self-actualizing manager self-educates him or herself on group dynamics and the psychology of human behavior. A key understanding to human behavior is the notion each human processes at a different rate and in a different way. Knowing this will avoid your ego being bruised if you offer an employee a hand and they don’t accept your gesture. To close or wall yourself off from an employee because your ego has been bruised does the employee no good, your reputation no good and intercedes with the development of healthy group dynamics. Above all, remain open minded when dealing with your employees.

Element 4: Adjusting Demands

If you understand humans process at their own rate respectively you thereby understand unreasonable, excessive demands put pressure on employees, generally. As a Manager when you set an excessively high goal for your group, or even one for yourself as a Manager ask yourself: Is it a goal you or your group can actually achieve? If not, chances are your demands and expectations are unreasonably high. Oversetting goals you know your group cannot attain only leads to group frustration and you, ultimately, won’t attain the personal goal you are striving for either. Most significantly you stand to destroy a steady equilibrium of group cohesiveness by setting too high demands setting a group up for disappointment and discouragement.

When a group’s cohesiveness is not at its best the team fails to thrive. This affects all group members thereby leading to declining job performance. Thus as a manager you should always be running the “Helm of your Ship” with an eye towards a higher understanding you are also carrying and responsible for motivating your “crew”, who are your reliable hands on deck. After all aren’t you and the crew steering the same ship to success? A sophisticated manager is cognizant of the self building confidence necessary for a new employee to thrive and feel part of a group. It takes new employees time to get to know his or her manager. As in most human relationships it takes time to build a relationship before disclosure occurs. This applies to working partnerships, as well. Hence, an effective Manager knows too well the key to handling employee demands and expectations. It is also to have the insight to determine just where your demands need to be adjusted though, however.

Element 5: Structure in the Work Environment

You’ll get no argument from me (nor the experts) there needs to be some sort of structure to a work environment. “Over structure” can also have pitfalls. Running too tight a ship can lead to employee fear, paranoia and ultimately mistrust or even incivility amongst co-workers. “Incivility in the Workplace”, Psychology Today, A. Cavaiola, Ph.D., 2015. This develops because employees in an attempt to rationalize the excessive over structured environment begin to believe the over structure has no purpose to it other than the reality one has an exceptionally tough boss. Individual attention is therefore turned to pleasing only the boss, which in turn, undermines group cohesiveness. The environment then becomes competitive and subdivided. Dissension and bad feelings occur. As does incivility as evidenced in Incivility. Tyrannical rule, backed by an equally tyrannical upper management is always short lived. No one wants to work long in an environment that’s oppressive. Managerial support unifies or compliments structure where there is open communication in a well structured work setting. Here routines and predictability of routines are favored. In a well-structured work environment employees are less likely to feel threatened, individually, and will reach out to other co-workers for brainstorming sessions now absent the threat of having to “compete” for attention. You will know a healthy work environment when you see its’ employees wanting to invest in the prosperity of all including pitching in by working extra hours or jumping in voluntarily instead of always having to be asked.

Element 6: Transitions in the Work Environment

Again, while the 6 Elements of Gentle Teaching are primarily taught in a health care setting where client transition is difficult; transitioning in a work environment is also a unique individualized process often requiring support. A Manager, well versed in the reality of human behavior and individual processing needs to understand all employees transition differently (@ different rates, in different ways). A successful manager needs to be aware for an employee to succeed he or she must first be “okay” with the transition. In an individualized society a push is on to accept a work transition but many can transition rather easily. Those managers adept at transitioning may take success for granted and be out of touch with what it feels like if you feel you can’t master something. If an individual struggles with self-confidence it may take the individual longer to transition. You may also see a delay in the “step up” in a new job setting particularly if that person’s nature is shy. Some from ethnic backgrounds ponder whether a promotion will be a positive or negative occurrence if indeed the transition puts that individual at a higher ranking level. Those in a work environment where cultural diversity goes unrecognized, is not valued or appreciated or worse yet, is in an uncivil environment that discourages cultural diversity would more than likely make a promotion or transition extremely stressful.

For one to do a job effectively an employee needs to know job expectations and what the expected outcome of the performance is. Again, if one already feels safe and valued in the environment that individual feels “free to thrive”, personally as well as for the group’s common good. It is therefore important when an employee transitions communication takes place and that person understands why the transition is expected of him or her. As in a health care setting predictability, structure and support also count in the equation of employee productivity and overall general morale.

Let’s face it . . . in an ever changing economy individuals typically spend no more than five years at a job now. The median number of years that wage and salary workers have been with their current employer is currently 4.6 years, according to an Economic News Release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “How Long Should an Employee Stay at a Job?” Job Search.com, A. Doyle, July 5, 2016. Knowing the elements of Gentle Teaching and applying them can make for a smoother employer-employee relationship. While employers seek employees that are “committed” by the same token employees look for a sense of loyalty and longevity in an employer even if it is only going to be 4.6 years. Applying the elements of Gentle Teaching in the work place may not prevent an employee from leaving a work place given a higher paying opportunity BUT — an invested Manager and management may be the difference in whether or not that valuable employee wants to move onto that better paying job. As Psychologist Alfred Adler once opined: humans are “Motivated by a desire to belong . . .”. The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler, K. John, Belonging & Significance, ASIIP Conference, Bath 29–30, 2011.

So ends the teaching of the 6 elements of Gentle Teaching. Try them? Why not? What have you to lose? Not nearly as much as you stand to gain in relationship assets and in building a team towards a unified goal thereby promoting healthy group dynamics. A “healthy” work environment encourages respectful two-way communication between Manager and employee, Manager support and a higher understanding of human behavior. What can result from that successful formula is a rise in attendance, work involvement and worker satisfaction. On “ye ole Likert Scale” from 1 to 10 (1 being the lowest and 10 the highest) where would you rate yourself as a Manager or your company’s management?

If you could use an improvement to faltering staff morale the 6 Elements of Gentle Teaching should be a refreshing approach to encouraging not only the individual worker, but healthy group dynamics resulting in a “team” philosophy where everyone wins.

“A gentle word, a kind look, a good-natured smile can work wonders and accomplish miracles.” — William Hazlitt.

Originally published at medium.com

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