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How To Progress Up The Career Ladder Without Killing Your Root, Language And Culture

For minorities, the gap between cultural values and career success can be so wide. Here's how you can close it.

Organizations are intensifying efforts to make diversity and inclusion more than buzzwords. According to Deloitte, 69% of executives now identify the pressing need for inclusive work environments and are working towards that.

However, while relative progress is being made regarding gender equality, about 13% of Americans say their racial background makes job success harder. Same is the case in the UK. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) reveals: “29% of black employees believe discrimination has played a part in stalling their careers.” More disturbing, the CMI’s Delivering Diversity report found that while 75% of FTSE100 companies set progression targets for gender, only 21% has such plan for people of minority backgrounds.

Racial and ethnic minorities face the highest rate of career hurdles. Although the prevalent notion is that this problem centers around racism, studies have shown that substantive cultural factors are actually capable of hindering the career success of minority workers. “Access to workplace” write Osipow and Littejohn “is impaired for many minorities because particular cultural values and practices are either incompatible or conflict with standard work practices and schedules.”

There are lots of instances to buttress this. Notably, workers from minority groups find it hard to meet their daily prayer schedules or observe religious holidays without jettisoning workplace attendance and vacation policies. Many others even consider it immoral to give eye contacts which, for Americans, for instance, is a moderate way of showing respect and trust.

Given the fact that minorities are more scrutinized, the common results of these scenarios are bad performance reviews, lower wages, and even job loss. In case organizational adjustments don’t serve you quite well, here are three effective ways to ensure your career progress without smashing your cultural baggage.

1. Create a “work-culture” balance

That minorities should set their priorities right, choosing between work and culture, is never the best advice. Such a message of “you can’t have your cake and eat it” consternates many and often makes companies lose talent.

The truth is, you can have the two by practically harmonizing your work with your culture. This means making yourself culturally fit thus putting your career on the thriving edge. In terms of religious culture, for instance, you can always reserve your leave request for the period to go on a religious holiday. You can equally balance your day-to-day routines by spending just a few extra time at work to create the space for your early morning prayers without having to miss your daily targets. Similarly, if you’re taking a partial day off to worship or fast, it’s always a wise decision to come in early or stay late.

2. Understand the language policy and be open-minded

Language is an essential part of culture. Unfortunately, how much should minorities demonstrate their linguistic background (at work) is still an issue. Worthy of note is the fact that communication gaps, resulting from non-nativeness, even impact adversely on their productivity. How best can you handle these?

First, study the language policy of your company. In America, English-only policies are unlawful but some companies do have reasons to justify it. In spite of diversity progress, in fact, some experts maintain that adopting a uniform mode of communication is a must in order to keep the workforce on the same page while ensuring smooth business operation. Ultimately, understanding the policy will inform you of what and what not to do, including when and how. Second, and most importantly, get a better grip on the official language if you suck at it. The proficient you become, the higher your chances.

3. Show you care about your work – always

Come to think of it, diversity has a downside: A lot of minorities hide behind it to undermine (even ideal) company norms. Mac McIntire sums up the problem this way: “The difficulty of a diverse workforce is, it’s hard to know if the differences in language or culture are real or manipulative.” Obviously, the latter is a serious reason why lots of ethnic minorities regress downhill.

If you want to ensure progression, keeping to your company’s values or your employer’s is just the starting point. You must totally and consistently prove that you care about their success. Point: While you do not want your culture to die, always act in ways that give more life to your work.

Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, is one exquisite example of successful minorities at the heart of America. Despite the overwhelming corporate culture, Pichai’s root is as clear as day. He’s hosted prominent Bollywood artists at the Google headquarters. In fact, he’s declared Deepika Padukone as his favorite actress. These are significant ways of keeping one’s cultural profile – in tandem with career.

The lesson from Pichai’s story is that you’re valued for what you have to offer. Why not use that value to even promote your culture? The foregoing is how to do exactly that.

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