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How to Communicate With a Diverse Workforce

The business environment is becoming more diverse, and you need to be able to communicate.

According to Pew Research, major demographic changes are transforming the United States into a more diverse and multicultural nation.1 This, in turn, is changing the U.S. workforce. Add in the influence of globalization, and it’s not uncommon to work in an office with people whose gender, race, national origin, and sexual orientation is different from your own. Thus, if you want to get ahead in business, you need to be able to communicate with diverse audiences. Being able to do so can help you form strong teams, collaborate on the best ideas, and achieve the highest level of success. Here are some ways you can improve your communication with a diverse workforce.

How to Communicate With a Diverse Workforce

Expand Your Cultural Understanding

The first step in effectively communicating with others who are different from you is to understand their cultural norms and expectations. People from differing backgrounds tend to vary in the ways they communicate and have different expectations for formality and politeness (even in the U.S., those from the South are more likely to use—and expect the use of—“sir” and “ma’am” than those from the North). While you don’t need to take a master class on the cultural norms of every person in your office, you should be aware of the basic differences. Understanding those differences can help you communicate in ways that avoid offending or confusing your audience.

Be Aware of Your Own Influences

The flip side of understanding the cultures of others is being aware of your own cultural influences. Consider how your upbringing may be affecting the way you speak and the way you interpret the communications of others. While it’s easy for us to think of our own style of communication as “normal,” we should recognize that we are just as influenced by our own race, gender, national origin, etc., as anyone else. When you’re aware of your influences, you’re more capable of adjusting your communication style to best suit the situation and audience.

Keep It Straightforward

The goal of business communication is to be clear and concise. It’s not to be funny. It’s not to be philosophical. And it’s certainly not to make political or religious statements. Instead, keep your communications straightforward so you can keep a diverse group focused on the tasks and goals ahead of you. There’s nothing wrong with building personal relationships in the workplace, but when you add humor, asides, or personal opinions to your business communications, you can inadvertently confuse or upset some members of a diverse audience.

Be Respectful

In a diverse workplace, people will celebrate different religious holidays, eat different foods, spend their free time on different activities, date and marry different types of people, and generally live differing lives. Unless any of that is directly affecting the tasks and goals of the business, there’s no need to even address it. And if it is affecting the business? Handle the matter respectfully, with the understanding that the employee’s choices may be extremely important to him or her. By communicating respectfully with a diverse workforce, you can avoid unneeded conflict and address real conflict in ways that are conducive to finding mutually agreeable solutions.

Be Receptive

Communication is, as they say, a two-way street. If you want to succeed in your communications with a diverse workforce, you need to do more than just speak. You need to listen too. Make yourself available to answer questions so that you can quickly clear up any misunderstandings. Additionally, pay attention to the concerns others may voice about the tasks they’ve been assigned. There are often ways for your business’ leadership to adjust tasks to better suit the individual needs of diverse employees. You have a better chance of keeping everyone working efficiently if you are receptive to their concerns and are available to help them through any confusion.

Earn a Graduate Certificate in Communication

Effective communication is a learned skill. One of the best ways you can improve your ability to communicate with a diverse workforce is by earning a Graduate Certificate in Communication. And one of the best ways to earn a graduate certificate is by enrolling in an online certificate program.

Through an online university, you can take graduate-level courses that explore the five pillars of communication (written, oral, interpersonal and group, social media, and technology) and teach you the principles behind connecting with others through public speaking, presentations, and written and visual communication. With the right online university, you can even earn credit toward a graduate degree in communication, such as an MS in Communication. By enrolling in an online certificate program in communication, you can put yourself in better position to communicate with an increasingly diverse workforce.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an online Graduate Certificate in Communication program. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,