Prevention of conflict situations
Knowing the potential consequences of culturally biased assumptions and displays, it is important that you look for strategies to eliminate and prevent such problems. Intervention is required at both the service level and the individual level.
Interventions at service level
Ensure your agency is culturally inclusive and provides a welcoming physical environment in which people of diverse cultures would feel welcome.
- Ensure you have posters and wall decorations that depict the diversity of Australia’s population, e.g. Aboriginal dot paintings, pictures of children with a range of skin colours and facial features sharing fun activities, pictures of young people or people with a disability participating in community life.
- Play areas should include a range of toys and activities that reflect the diversity of age and cultural background of the children of clients, e.g. black dolls as well as white dolls, puzzles, and picture books that depict people of CALD backgrounds.
- Provide regular training for staff, to develop knowledge of cross-cultural practice and cultural sensitivity.
- When your client group includes CALD clients or clients with a disability, it is important to ensure that your service consults with peak bodies or client advocacy groups, to ensure the service you are delivering is culturally appropriate and well targeted.
- Employ bilingual staff or ethnic-specific workers to provide bilingual/bicultural services and also improve knowledge of cross-cultural practice.
- Remove any signage or wall decorations which might be considered offensive. An example could be a calendar which depicts scantily clad men or women ─ this may offend.
- Create an open and transparent environment where staff and clients are fully informed of their rights to lodge a grievance or raise a concern with the service provider, and are provided with support if and when that occurs.
Interventions at Individual level
It is important that individual workers take responsibility for ensuring the service they deliver is culturally sensitive and appropriate. To do this you need to:
- attend any training in cross-cultural awareness that is offered by your employer
- personally research information about the cultural background of your clients and test out this information with the clients to ensure the knowledge gained is accurate and pertains to your specific clients
- self-examine your own biases and prejudices when working cross-culturally and be continually aware of the consequences of bias
- remain aware of the anti-discrimination and equal opportunity policy within your workplace.
Action Research: Policies and procedures for conflict resolution and grievance
Activity: Causes of cross-cultural conflict
Make a list of potential causes of cultural bias, discrimination and conflicts when working with CALD clients and co-workers.
Potential causes of cultural bias assumptions may include:
- personal negative experience
- lack of cultural sensitivity
- lack of knowledge of cross-cultural practice skills
- pressure to fulfil job requirements.
Case study: Client service
Read the following case study and complete the task that follows.
A German man in his late 60s with a disability is seeking a service from your organisation. He is walking with the aid of a walking frame. You believe all Germans are bossy and abrupt, for example, they say things like, ‘You will serve me now, yes?’ You also believe they rarely say ‘please’.
When you meet the client, you appear dismissive and insensitive to his needs. You leave the client standing and waiting for 15 minutes while you serve other clients. Finally the man is attended to by a second officer who later approaches you to find out why you ignored him. You tell the other officer that Germans are not usually shy. If he wanted more assistance, he should have called out loudly so he could be heard.
The next visit, the client asks specifically to see the second officer.
- What are the likely reasons for the client not turning up or requesting a different officer for his next appointment?
The likely reasons for the client requesting a particular officer on his next visit include:
- cultural bias towards the German people due to lack of understanding of the German language and culture
- lack of consideration for a person with a disability, making him stand for a long period.
- Do you think this worker acted in an ethical or reasonable manner? If you were this worker's supervisor, what approach would you take with him?
The worker’s actions were neither ethical nor reasonable. He was making assumptions based on a previous experience of his own. He apparently has little knowledge of the inflection in the German language, which often sounds rude and abrupt when Germans speak English.
As the worker’s supervisor, it would be advisable for you to arrange some cross-cultural training for this person.
- What strategies could be used to prevent such conflict/bias from happening again?