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Home  > Article

Being Politically Correct at Work

By Kate Lorenz, CareerBuilder.com

Political correctness does not just mean watching what you say. In its best sense, being politically correct means learning about others and respecting the differences that make each of us unique. In the workplace, there are steps you can take to make sure you are not only following the "PC rules," but are also making your life richer.

The term "politically correct" has been used so often and in so many extreme situations that it has taken on a negative connotation. There is still much to be said for being aware of how your actions and attitudes affect the people around you.

Examine and reject your stereotypes.
We all have stereotypes that guide our thinking. However, remember that stereotypes are not accurate representations and that they were often formed because of a negative situation. The truth is, stereotypes can be extremely damaging. If you can identify the stereotypes you have, you can also dispel them. One of the easiest ways to recognize your stereotypes is to evaluate your thinking. What comes to your mind when you hear an ethnic last name? Do you have a preconceived notion about employees who are gay? If you can identify your immediate reactions, you can also figure out where they came from, and will learn that stereotypes are simply not true.

Step out of your comfort zone.
There's no question that people are drawn towards those who are like themselves. Just look at your friends. You probably share similar backgrounds, interests, and even physical features. This phenomenon is also present in the workplace. If you look around your company cafeteria, chances are you will find people of similar backgrounds sitting together. So much can be gained by reaching out to others who are unlike yourself. Make an effort to get to know a few people in your company who are of a different ethnicity, a different religion, or from a different country. Ask them to go to lunch. You'll be surprised by how much you learn, and how much you'll find that you have in common.

Be careful about humor in the workplace.
For many, a professional environment is a big change, particularly for those who are straight out of college. While being careful about jokes you tell outside the office is important, it is crucial inside the office. Many individuals have run into serious trouble at work by telling a joke he or she thought was innocent. However, what seems harmless to you could be hurtful to another. Your place of business needs to be safe and productive for every employee. Jokes about minorities, women, gays, individuals with disabilities, or senior citizens have no place in any environment.

Ask questions.
Entering a workplace can give you a tremendous opportunity to learn about new cultures. Build relationships with others who are different than you, and talk honestly about your differences. Ask questions respectfully to learn more about how differing norms and values, and to find out how others want to be treated. If you approach your learning with respect and sincerity, those around you will see that you are open to and appreciative of differences.

Be aware of different communication styles.
It's easy to misread or misunderstand someone who is from a different background because different cultures often have varying communication styles. In fact, many misunderstandings in the workplace stem from employees not being aware of their own styles or the styles of others. Observe coworkers and how they communicate with each other. Better yet, enroll in a class about communicating with others and learn about how to better communicate with a variety of people.

Be respectful of differing opinions.
In this day and age, who we are and where we are from determines how we interpret things like the news and current events. If you feel the need to speak your opinion about politics or current events at work, make sure you do so in a way that demonstrates to others that you are open to hearing differing opinions. Always remember that our interpretations are tainted by our backgrounds.

Follow the "golden rule."
The basic premise behind being politically correct or tolerant in the workplace is treating others the way you would want to be treated. If you treat others with respect and caring, your overall professional experience will be much more positive.

Copyright 2008 CareerBuilder.com. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without prior written authority.






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