Last Saturday during the mentoring workshop I found myself thinking; ''What is the place of cultural identity and multi-culturalism in the twenty first century corporate world?'' This I believe, is a question that has not been fully addressed. I began to reflect on this issue as I listened to a 2004 member of the World of Work Training and Internship Programme, talk about her mentoring/internship experiences at DeBeers (a huge mining conglomerate). As well as the cultural adjustments that had to be made because essentially, the corporate environment does not recognise cultural backgrounds and differences.
In a country like South Africa where cultural heritage and identity is highly contested, it is interesting that though the constitution does make a concerted effort to recognise individual cultural differences, labour laws do not really take them into consideration. How important is cultural integration/tolerance in the workplace? Is this issue being adequately addressed and if not, does it need to be taken into cognisance? In Nigeria, for example, where cultural backgrounds and customs are not as openly contested, some of these customs actually become an impediment in the corporate arena. For instance, the distance between an elder and a young person are firmly maintained. Your boss, whether your line manager or chief executive is formerly addressed as ''Sir'', ''Madam'' or ''Mr'' that and ''Miss/Mrs'' this. In that kind of very formal and sometimes rigidly hierarchical type of environment, creativity, innovation and spontaneity is likely to be stifled.
The question; ''what is the place of cultural identity in the workplace and how can it be integrated into the corporate environment in an African context?'' raises challenges and debates. However, cultural tolerance and respect for ethnic diversity, needs to play a more active role in African and indeed global organisational corporate culture.