Promoting Effective Communication in a Diverse Work Culture

Anthea Lim

UCSF takes pride in having a richly diverse campus community, and in response, the Office of Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity and Diversity (AAEOD) has created “Effective Communication in a Diverse Work Culture,” an interactive workshop that offers skills for communicating across culture, experience and other differences. The workshop was developed in response to AAEOD annual progress reports, which indicated that ineffective communication was a prime factor in many complaints the office received. “We wanted to develop something that was proactive,” said Anthea Lim, PsyD, diversity educator and analyst. “A lot of interpersonal communication difficulties stem from not understanding each other. Ideas of respect, values and beliefs oftentimes come from a cultural background,” she added, noting that diverse people learn and communicate in different ways. Discussing Diversity The workshop highlights communication, team building, respect and inclusion through a diversity lens, underscoring the value of recognizing both differences and similarities. “Our goal is not to get rid of our own biases, but to become aware of what they are, what we’re sensitive to and how we can respond professionally,” Lim said. “There are so many ways we can increase our understanding of each other.” Workshop objectives include: • identifying individual perceptions of communication and diversity; • recognizing the professional and organizational benefits of communicating from a framework of diversity; and • sharing best practices, effective skills and tools for communicating in a diverse environment. Participants are asked to rate their communication style to identify strengths and weaknesses in such areas as one-on-one communication, nonverbal communication and working in teams. “I learned to be more open and to listen more attentively,” said Judy Dang, international programs coordinator and workshop participant. “It’s important for people to express what their norm is, so that everyone is heard,” she said, noting that generational difference is an often-overlooked issue in diverse work environments. Workshop discussion determines how best practices are identified. At the June 10 workshop at Laurel Heights, these included taking responsibility for clear communication, increasing cultural sensitivity and maintaining professionalism. A “tool kit” of AAEOD’s suggestions for effective intercultural communication also was provided. Nick Plezbert, AAEOD analyst, trainer and co-facilitator of the workshop, emphasized the need for mutual empathy in communication, using musical resonance as an example. “If you pluck a string on a guitar, certain things will vibrate that also happen to have that particular note to them,” Plezbert said. “If you can always have all your strings ready to understand the other person, then you can empathize and resonate with them.” The free workshop is open to students, faculty and staff. Please check the UCSF calendar for future workshop dates at Mission Bay and Mount Zion. AAEOD’s mission is to ensure that individuals connected to or seeking interaction with UCSF receive fair and equal treatment and opportunity. This undertaking is in harmony with the UCSF Strategic Plan, which states, “It is imperative that UCSF continue to improve diversity of faculty, staff, students and trainees to effectively establish a culture of diversity on the UCSF campus – a defining feature of California’s past.” AAEOD provides: • specifically tailored diversity training and cultural competence workshops for departments and campus offices; • consultation for managers on affirmative action, equal opportunity and diversity; • resources for preventing, investigating and mediating complaints alleging discrimination at UCSF (including legal research services on affirmative action, state and federal nondiscrimination laws, court interpretations, and University policies); • student orientations; and • individual counseling and advising on diversity-related issues. For more information about the “Effective Communication in a Diverse Work Culture” workshop, or to arrange a private workshop or individual consultation for your department, please contact Anthea Lim at 415/476-8724.