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Melting pot Britain: One in ten non-UK workers have left a job because they didn't fit in

New research today reveals that almost one in ten (8%) non-native workers in the UK have had to leave a job because they felt they didn’t fit in, and a quarter (23%) of those working in multicultural teams feel their workplace has become less accepting towards their non-UK colleagues since the EU Referendum.

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Jobsite.co.uk

  • A quarter (23%) of those working in multicultural teams feel their workplace has become less accepting towards non-UK colleagues since Brexit
  • A third (35%) of non-native workers believe their career progression has been hindered due to their cultural background
  • This is despite 95% of Brits feeling that their workplace is accepting of a multicultural workforce
  • 44% of non-native workers feel their organisation should do more to promote cultural diversity and acceptance within their workplace
  • FULL REPORT: www.jobsite.co.uk/worklife/lost-in-translation

New research today reveals that almost one in ten (8%) non-native workers in the UK have had to leave a job because they felt they didn’t fit in, and a quarter (23%) of those working in multicultural teams feel their workplace has become less accepting towards their non-UK colleagues since the EU Referendum.

In fact, the research from UK jobs board, Jobsite, found that over a third (35%) of non-native workers believe their career progression has been impacted whilst a further 13% think they have been overlooked for a promotion due to their cultural background.

This is despite a huge majority (95%) of workers feeling that their workplace is accepting of a multicultural workforce, suggesting a disconnect between the impression and reality of Britain’s workplaces. With nearly one in five workers (17%) born outside of the UK (a figure up nearly 13%[i] in 20 years), British workplaces are home to increasingly diverse staff.

While positive steps are being taken to promote inclusive workforces, there is clearly more to be done. The Jobsite research looked to explore the impact of cultural misunderstandings between UK workers, both British and non-natives.

A substantial 61% of Brits feel cultural diversity makes work more enjoyable – a figure that resonates even further with non-native workers (71%). Yet the research shows that non-native workers from Paris to Peru are feeling that their career progress is hindered due to their culture.

Promoting cultural diversity

UK businesses are benefitting from the wealth of talent from around the globe with almost two-thirds (63%) of UK workers enjoying multiculturally diverse teams, according to the Jobsite research. Workers from a range of cultures, countries and backgrounds ensure teams have an abundance of ideas, experiences and insights only possible from bringing together such diversity.

Despite the positive impacts associated with a diverse workforce, over four in ten (44%) of non-native workers think their organisation should do more to promote cultural diversity and acceptance within their workplace.

Where cultures mix, sometimes they clash

Cultural misunderstandings can happen all too easily in a diverse workplace given the myriad of ways we (mis)communicate at work: 84% of employees say they have been involved in one. From jokes that miss the mark, different accents or pronunciation, sarcasm or misused words raising an eyebrow, there is a whole host of cultural differences that may need negotiating.

One third (33%) of cultural miscommunications occur during face-to-face encounters, with non-native workers more likely to walk away feeling worse than their British colleagues. A fifth (21%) report to have felt embarrassed afterwards compared to only 14% of native workers who came away feeling so.

Fortunately, most cultural misunderstandings at work have positive outcomes with a third (33%) of all surveyed saying they were able to laugh about the experience with three in ten (29%) saying they were able to learn from the experience.

Additionally, four in five (80%) of non-native workers state they are comfortable talking about their cultural background with colleagues should any misunderstandings occur.

Navigating cultural clashes

Those from a non-native background are generally more aware of avoiding a cultural misunderstanding with 76% using tactics to avoid any misinterpretation and 14% admitting to googling words and cultural references they don’t understand. From ‘cheeky pints’ and ‘taking the mickey’ to abbreviations such as ‘ta’ or ‘brolly’ it is easy to forget how even fluent English speakers can feel a little lost in translation.

In fact, three-quarters (74%) of native workers claim to have taken steps to assist with a non-native colleague in fitting in at work including showing additional politeness (31%), initiating small talk (43%) and even avoiding the traditionally British trait of sarcasm (13%).

However, despite good intentions, these ‘welcoming’ methods can actually have the opposite effect with nearly half (46%) of non-native workers wishing their British colleagues would be more direct. Two in five (43%) of non-native workers have found British colleagues ‘fake’ by not always saying what they think and beating around the bush. Similarly, a third (34%) feel politeness gets in the way of productivity whereas Brits think the use of manners and politeness is beneficial to helping non-native colleagues to settle in.

Alex Sydney, Director at Jobsite stresses it is down to companies to ensure they are doing all they can to be inclusive, “Multiculturalism is a reality in our workplaces today and it is important for businesses to recognise they need to champion cultural diversity. Whilst a systemic approach from the top down is important, not all miscommunication can be solved by having policies in place. Employers and employees alike should focus on fostering an inclusive, welcoming team and an atmosphere than allows for sharing experiences and learning.”

34-year-old Candida has dual US / EU citizenship and has been in the UK for eight years. She considers herself fortunate for having a British partner, as this has helped her settle into British life. Despite being an editor by trade, there are British terms that still leave her perplexed ­For example, she still doesn’t understand why ‘swings and roundabouts’ means what it does. She has also learned (the hard way) that some phrases, like ‘to table a discussion’, have the exact opposite meanings in US English and British English. She notes, “I believe diversity of all forms in a workforce is hugely important. I love learning about people’s life experiences and cultures, and enjoy bonding over the similarities and differences. For me, it’s also helped to understand customers and potential users, and take things into account that I’ve never experienced myself, and I think I've helped others do the same".