Don't Let Cultural Barriers Quash Retention Efforts

Lena J. Weiner, for HealthLeaders Media , April 21, 2014

While we live in an increasingly globalized world our cultural differences remain. For many they are proud markers of national and personal identity. But in the healthcare workplace, they must be addressed strategically.

 Hasan, a new manager of an oncology research ward at a large hospital in the Northeast, brought a high level of competence his new job. But colleagues and staff quickly discovered that he was hard to work with.

While Hasan was originally from and received most of his physician training in a Middle Eastern country, he'd had additional training and had worked for some time in Europe, and was assumed to be sufficiently acquainted with western culture that there would be no significant issues with him acclimating to the U.S. healthcare environment.

This was an unfortunate miscalculation on human resources' part.

For starters, Hasan would become very angry whenever female members of his staff questioned his decisions or opinions. While he seemed irked when male colleagues brought up issues, he was respectful to them. He was not, however, respectful toward female colleagues.

Even when he tried to be conciliatory, Hasan had problems. On one occasion, he brought in donuts for the team. Several teammates were dieting and passed up the decadent treats. Hasan acted as though they had thrown the donuts in his face.

And when one of the administrative staff reporting to him happened to discuss a few ideas for initiatives she'd had with their department's director, Hasan became offended that she'd gone over his head and accused her of insubordination. If she'd had ideas for projects, she should have come to him, and he'd talk to the director. To speak to someone of that rank independently was completely inappropriate, Hasan scolded her.

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