Being part of a working community is the same as with any other community in the sense that your interact with the people around you all the time. Getting to know your colleagues can help create a great sense of community and space for sharing professional and social points and discussions. If your team has members from diverse backgrounds, it is all the more important to learn about them, their work, and preferences in working and communication styles, for instance.
Welcoming a new team member is everyone’s task. It also serves as a very important indicator of the the working community’s rapport. It would be good to have a team meeting on the new colleague’s first day, and take time for proper introductions in the first week.
While the supervisor is officially responsible for the onboarding and induction, other team members can provide valuable input and support for the onboarding process. Contributing to the onboarding process will also help getting to know the new member and possibly give both parties new insight into the organisation or working community.
For more thoughts and information on the onboarding process, see the Induction and onboarding section.
Communication plays a crucial role in every encounter with other people. Both verbal and non-verbal communication affect how a situation is perceived, how a message is received and understood, and reactions. Opinions of good and appropriate communication depend on the individual, and preferences on communication styles vary, especially across cultures. If you know the communication preferences of your colleagues, it will be easier for you to connect and communicate with them.
It is likely that there is too little rather than too much communication in any organisation. For instance, one of the most common concerns is passing on important information related to work, organizational culture and silent knowledge. As someone new joins your team, you can give them a lot of useful information and pass on also silent knowledge of how your team’s and the organization’s general culture of working.
Take some time to share your experiences and thoughts about working in the organization with new colleagues. Do not worry if you repeat something that others have already mentioned. Hearing the same message from several people confirms that the importance and usefulness of the information. Remember to also share information about the communication channels used in your team and organisation.
You can find more information and tips in the articles under Communication.
It would be great if you could take some time to talk with new team members in the first weeks as they start in your team. You can do this over lunch with other team members, for instance.
Examples of topics to discuss with a new team member:
It is always a good idea to increase cultural understanding and interpersonal communication skills. Developing these skills starts with learning more about your own perceptions, cultural background, and communication style.
The way we behave and interact with others is influenced by our experience, the communities we grew up in and interact with, our understanding of our own communication styles and ways and those of others, cultural factors, and much more. We do not always pay attention to this as it is such an automated process in our brains and bodies. We base our actions on our feelings, and how we feel about something and react in a situation can be much influenced by what we consider to be right or wrong, for instance.
Regardless of cultural background, all people share similar wishes related to life and human interaction. We all want to be liked, are grateful for favours, get angry when facing injustice, and want to survive, for instance. The differences are shown in the details and practices. For instance, what we consider favours or injustice, might differ from one culture or person to another.
Tips for developing intercultural communication skills
You can develop your interpersonal, -cultural and communication skills in many ways. You can read books, studies, and articles, join a course, observe how others communicate, watch documentaries and movies, etc. Many feel that the best ways to add to intercultural understanding is to travel or live abroad, or work, study or otherwise engage in a diverse, intercultural community.
For self-development, you can ask for feedback from your friends and colleagues, do a self assessment e.g. on SkillsYouNeed (link to ) or Project Implicit website, reflect on your actions by writing in a diary, etc.
Reading the material in this toolkit will also support you in learning more about intercultural communication and related aspects. For instance, the toolkit’s section ’Raising self-awareness’ has some useful tips and exercises.