Barriers and Obstacles To Address For Respectful International Workplaces
 Barriers and Obstacles To Address For Respectful International Workplaces

Creating a healthy and respectful international workplace isn't something that can be done overnight. There's a lot of work that must be done in order for any noticeable effects, and even more after that to allow those effects to continue. It's not something that can be rushed though simply because you want to reach that end result as quickly as possible. You have to take the time and put in the work to get things done. Unfortunately, not all of that work will be easy to do and will not come without problems.

This article will discuss the obstacles that may present themselves in your efforts to create and maintain a respectful international workplace. Topics for this article will include some of the obstacles that may present themselves, as well as the importance of addressing these obstacles in a timely manner. Keep in mind that these are just a sample of the obstacles that are possible in these efforts and not an absolute list. There may be more obstacles that you may personally face due to circumstances of location, industry, and existing workplace environment.

Why Is It Important To Address Obstacles?

Addressing obstacles of any kind in any kind of situation is important because of the additional problems that not addressing them could arise. Those obstacles are there to cause problems and impede your progress towards your goals. If you don't at least acknowledge that they are there and they are causing issues, then you're not going to do yourself any good. Some may say that that's basic common sense, but too many people fail to both acknowledge and address their obstacles in the hopes that they will simply disappear.

 Identifying and addressing obstacles present in the workplace in advance of any changes and improvements is also important and beneficial. In many cases, this provides whomever is tasked with turning an existing workplace into one that is respectful and healthy with some very valuable information. Those obstacles are often things that need to be removed or otherwise changed in order for a respectful international workplace to be put in place. Addressing those obstacles means you have a better idea of what you'll face in your efforts and allow you to take the time to find solutions for them.

Being able to address obstacles and overcome them is considered a valuable skill in any field, not just when it comes to the workplace.1 It acts as evidence of strong problem solving skills, innovation, creativity, and patience in those who are willing to face and deal with the problems before them. Not only will this be a useful asset in creating a healthy and respectful international workplace, but it will also be useful in maintaining that workplace and in dealing with any problems that arise along the way. This is going to be something that will pay off in the long run.

Workplace Structure

The structure of the workplace often serves as the foundation for the health of the workplace and any changes that need to be made to it. If the structure of the workplace isn't conducive towards change or otherwise doesn't support the proposed changes, then it is likely going to be an obstacle that needs to be handled. Keep in mind that this might not mean that the entirety of the workplace's structure isn't conducive towards changes, as it could just be certain elements that are acting as obstacles.

Structural obstacles may be a result of certain circumstances surrounding the business. Small businesses-either those that have a smaller operation or are physically small in terms of square footage-are likely to face workplace structure issues due to their size. Any structural obstacles or changes in these businesses are going to be significant and have a more noticeable effect. This can be due to the nature of their existing and/or desired structure (e.g. a simpler set-up versus a more complicated one) and restrictions tied to finances and resources.2

Cultural Barriers

With the international element involved in the business world and in creating a respectful international workplace, there is always the risk of cultural barriers. This is tied to the knowledge, stereotypes, and beliefs that people have in regards to cultures that are different than their own. People may not necessarily be resistant towards learning about new cultures and beliefs at work, but it will still pose a learning curve in even the most open of workplaces. Instilling multiple solutions and strategies to address issues related to cultural barriers can help ease the transition to a diverse workforce and help overcome the obstacles they pose. For example, encouraging multiple avenues of communication, transparency, and patience within the workplace often serve as a good starting point.3

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Respectful International Workplace course?

Cultural barriers in the workplace in general tend to be an issue as it often prompts unnecessary conflict. Typically, this is a result of miscommunications and misunderstandings between those of different cultural backgrounds. These can be tied to aspects of linguistics-language, slang, idioms, etc.-as well as etiquette for social and professional interactions.4 Businesses that actively operate in the global market face such issues on a regular basis, and thus those employees may be more accustomed to them. However, it may be a bigger issue for those who do not operate globally on a regular basis or who have little international exposure. In either case, it can still be a problem and should not be dismissed lightly.

There may also be cultural barriers in relation to the change in the workplace culture. In changing and improving the workplace into a space that is healthy and respectful, there's a noticeable shift in regards to policies, practices, and attitudes. Even when this shift is welcomed, it can take some time for people to adjust to the new ways when they are so used to the old ones. Those habits are so ingrained that people may unconsciously resist changes as they work and that may lead to more issues.5 While you do want to reinforce any changes that are made, you do have to take such an issue into consideration and judge when there is room for leeway when it comes to dealing with mistakes.

Office Drama

While it's not something that will be present in every workplace, office drama is still a possibility. Department politics, gossip, clique-behavior, and general trash-talking are fairly common enough that most businesses where it occurs are able to be unfazed by it.6 However, this does not mean that it is completely acceptable and should be left unchecked, especially if you are trying to establish respect and healthy workplace habits.

Office drama is often seen as an obstacle because it can help foster the hostile atmosphere that isn't wanted in a healthy workplace. There are antagonistic behaviors involved that tend to put people at odds with each other and dispel any kind of trust and collaboration. In some cases, there is a specific person who is acting as the antagonist and any efforts to quell office drama needs to start with them.7 Overcoming office drama as an obstacle often means establishing policies to prevent things from escalating and being sure to follow through on violations. Letting it go and dismissing it as simple office gossip basically states that it is acceptable and therefore there is nothing wrong with it.

Control and Management Problems

Problems tied to control and management often involve things like micromanaging and policy enforcement practices. These issues often serve as an obstacle when implementing new or modified practices that are designed to generate a healthy and respectful international workplace. Those who are in management position are, of course, more likely to be the source of these obstacles but they can also be present in the regular workforce. It is important to note where control and management problems are originating, as you need to be able to understand how far their effects can spread and what kind of attention is needed to remedy the situation.

When the problems are more in line with micromanagement-excessively controlling a situation down to the smallest of details-it can be stifling.8 That level of control over the situation makes it extremely difficult to deviate from the prescribed norm (even when alternative methods are the better choice in a situation) or from the path that something is going on its own. It also burns excessive amounts of energy that could be directed elsewhere and with better results.9 This in turn could cause the person who is doing the micromanaging to make mistakes.

When the problems are on the opposite end of the spectrum-lax in control and enforcement-it makes it very difficult for things to get done. It's a kind of sloppiness and laziness in management that tends to breed chaos in the workplace. Trying to establish order in that chaos means that you have to first calm things down and then get everyone on board with restrictions. Those who thrive in workplaces with lax control or who have been taking advantage of the situation are likely going to pose the most problems when trying to overcome this obstacle.

Lack of Staff Participation

As other sections of this article have mentioned, people can be resistant to change once they've become comfortable in their routine. This, in addition to the effects of a poor workplace environment, may produce a lack of staff participation in any changes and improvements. Past treatment of staff could mean that they don't trust management or the changes that they try to make, and getting them to warm up to those changes can take a long time.10 It doesn't matter how great the changes are or what benefits they offer, there's going to be resistance if the bridges of trust and loyalty have been long since burned down.

A lack of staff participation is a serious obstacle that could kill any efforts you may have to produce a healthy and respectful international workplace. A lot of those efforts are tied to the involvement of the people in the workplace where those efforts are being done. Overcoming such an issue may mean providing incentives for staff members to participate, gradual implementation, and a ton of communication about what's going on. In some cases, the accountability of management and business leaders is going to be of great help in getting staff members to participate in workplace improvement efforts.

Inadequate Resources

Depending on what it is you are planning on doing to produce a respectful international workplace, you may face obstacles in regards to the resources that are needed. It's very hard to get something done if you do not have the required resources. This isn't just a matter of money, per se, but time, supplies, personnel, and situational control.11 It is not uncommon for inadequate resources to halt or delay any plans that are put in place to improve the workplace. Things in the business world often get done based on how they are prioritized, and things that are of a higher importance will likely be addressed first. That also means that those higher-priority issues will have first grabs at available resources. Often, this means that there needs to be a lot of planning and patience with creating a respectful international workplace. Before you even begin implementing any such plans, it's wise to fully evaluate and analyze the existing workplace environment to determine what is needed and what needs to be addressed in order to make things easier in the long run.

Health Hazards

One of the main reasons why some businesses choose to develop a respectful international workplace is to alleviate and prevent threats to employee health. In some cases, those same threats are going to serve as obstacles that impinge the success of your efforts. These health threats can include stressors-things that generate stress in people who are exposed to them-and safety hazards-improper handling of equipment, no safety protocols, etc. There are also environmental health hazards like mold or chemical exposure that could make employees physically ill if through prolonged exposure.

They can only have an impact if they remain in the workplace; if possible, remove them. However, this isn't always possible so it is best to try and control them in a way that reduces the threat they pose.12 For example, implement safety procedures and training requirements for everyone that uses a particularly complicated and potentially dangerous piece of equipment that is necessary for business operations. Stress and sources of stress can also be reduced, as they often cannot be completely removed. It is important to identify things in the workplace that cause stress for employees, as stress can significantly harm employee health well-being. Stress also is a threat to safety, as stressed employees tend to be less careful in their work and can make mistakes that cause them harm, producing further health hazards.13