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Ways of Preventing Cultural Appropriation in The Workplace

Cultural appropriation is not something new. You probably have heard about it, especially on the “interweb”. You must have witnessed Zac Efron being slammed over dreadlocks, Pharrell Williams being called out for donning Native American headwear, Katy Perry’s Geisha-like performance, or maybe the pushback on my home girl Ariana Grande for appropriating Japanese culture. I don’t want to get caught up in the middle of this drama – the stories are already controversial! Let’s talk about your place of work…

A workplace is a place for collaboration and cooperation, where colleagues from all walks of life come together to create a productive and thriving environment. However, in some cases, the workplace can become a site of cultural appropriation, where one’s culture is adopted or used by another person without permission or proper acknowledgment.

Cultural appropriation is a serious issue and can be highly damaging to the self-esteem and sense of identity of those who have their culture appropriated. As such, it is important for employers to be aware of the potential for cultural appropriation in the workplace and to take steps to prevent it. 

Here’s an overview of cultural appropriation in the workplace and ways in which you can prevent it.

What Is Cultural Appropriation?

There has been a lot of debate on what cultural appropriation is and what cultural appreciation is. One reason is that we don’t understand the true meaning of cultural appropriation and how it should be applied. 

Cultural appropriation is the act of taking or using elements of one culture by another culture without permission or proper acknowledgment. It can include adopting aspects of a culture such as clothing, music, language, art, food, and other elements. 

It may also include taking elements of a culture and claiming them as one’s own or using them in a way that is disrespectful to the original culture. 

Cultural appropriation can be damaging to the self-esteem and sense of identity of those who have their culture appropriated. It can also lead to shame, humiliation, anger, and resentment.

Why Is Cultural Appropriation in The Workplace a Problem?

Cultural appropriation in the workplace can lead to several impacts. First, it creates an uncomfortable atmosphere for employees. It can lead to feelings of exclusion; those who have their culture appropriated may feel that their culture is not respected or valued. It can also lead to feelings of resentment or anger. Those who have their culture appropriated may feel they are not being treated as equals. 

Finally, cultural appropriation is an enemy of diversity. It will leave employees feeling unaccepted, estranged, and unwelcome. Unbelonging will negatively impact productivity and morale as well as result in a lack of creativity and innovation.

How to Prevent Cultural Appropriation in The Workplace

Here is how you can prevent cultural appropriation and create a conducive environment in the workplace. 

1. Educate Your Employees On Cultural Appropriation

Educating employees about cultural appropriation and its potential effects is essential to preventing it. Make arrangements with your human resources department and develop a program or programs to create awareness about cultural appropriation. This could be done through workshops, training, and scheduled regular meetings. You can also hire diversity consultants or keynote speakers to shed more light on the topic. 

2. Develop Cultural Appropriation Policies

You should also develop policies and procedures addressing workplace cultural appropriation. These policies should outline the appropriate behavior; the dos and the don’ts. Don’t leave it at that…include consequences for any violations. Make clear your commitment to zero tolerance for cultural appropriation. 

3. Create A Respectful Environment 

It is your duty to create a safe space for your diverse team to thrive. Everyone should feel free to express their own culture without fear of judgment or ridicule. Having an environment where employees feel comfortable and respected, regardless of their cultural background, is what an inclusive workplace should feel and look like.

4. Encourage Cultural Exchange 

Cultural exchange among employees can come in handy to prevent cultural appropriation in the workplace. Allow your teams to learn, share and appreciate different cultures within your organization.  

You can make it possible by providing cultural sensitivity training, encouraging cultural exchange activities, and organizing cultural exchange events.

5. Promote Inclusion

An inclusive workplace is an environment where all employees are treated fairly and respectfully, regardless of their cultural background. Promoting inclusion makes everyone feel welcome and accepted, and their culture valued and respected. 

6. Take Time to Celebrate Diversity

You should ensure that your teams take time out of their busy schedules to recognize, celebrate, and appreciate the different cultures that make up your organization. 

Encourage everyone within the company to share, learn and embrace the diverse culture of their colleagues. You can also take this opportunity to recognize your strides toward diversity as a team. 

7. Monitor Your Employees’ Behavior

To eliminate or minimize incidences of cultural appropriation, you should also monitor your employees to ensure such incidences don’t occur. If you notice any instances of cultural appropriation, ensure you address them immediately.

8. Establish Consequences for Cultural Appropriation 

Ensure that all incidences of cultural appropriation are dealt with – don’t let anything slide. Establish clear consequences for such incidences in the workplace. Be consistent with the enforcement and ensure that all employees are held accountable for their actions.

To monitor and respond to cultural appropriation incidences, you can develop a system to report incidents, investigate reports, and take appropriate action.

9. Encourage Open Dialogue About Cultural Appropriation 

Encourage dialogue within your organization about cultural appropriation and its potential effects. Dialogue creates an environment where cultural appropriation is not tolerated, and employees are aware of the potential consequences.

Also, listen to what your employees have to say (concerns) regarding cultural appropriation. Everyone will feel comfortable, and their culture valued and respected. 

10. Promote Positive Representation

Finally, promote a positive representation of all cultures in the workplace. This can include using culturally appropriate images in marketing materials, highlighting employees’ accomplishments from different cultural backgrounds, and providing opportunities for employees to share their culture with others.

Wrapping It Up 

Cultural appropriation can harm organizations and employees, and organizations must take steps to prevent it from happening in the workplace. 

Organizations can do this by educating employees on cultural appropriation, creating policies and guidelines, encouraging open dialogue, creating a diverse and inclusive workplace, and respecting other cultures. By taking these steps, organizations can create a workplace where everyone feels respected and valued.

Dallas Diversity 247 is Here to Help

Diversity is a critical issue for organizations. A survey by Korn/Ferry International found that more than 2 million people leave their jobs each year because of unfairness in the workplace. In addition, hiring costs that result from high turnover are a huge stumbling block to company success, not to mention the time investment that goes into screening applicants and acclimating new hires to their roles. Still, the greatest hindrance to progression lies within the heart of the issue –devaluing and excluding employees because they are different limits their contributions and ability to grow. 

This training program gives newly emerging and experienced leaders and managers the tools and techniques for developing and refining their skills. This learning resource will help your organization retain employees and clients, make better decisions, and improve performance. Learn more about Appreciating Diversity at Dallas Diversity 24/7

Dallas Diversity 24/7 is a company that designs training programs, develops stakeholder communications, and provides leadership training to support organizational transformation and performance improvement. In addition, we offer DEI consulting, Human Resource consulting, and Leadership Development Training services. So let us walk this DEIB journey together, shall we? 

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Patsy Parrish


As complete business consultants in Dallas, we help organizations reach their highest potential and create thriving workplaces that are diverse and inclusive. From executive coaching and project management to sensitivity training and human resources management, we offer the kind of strategic knowledge and expertise that inspires change and accelerates business growth.

Whether you’re looking for complete business consulting services in Dallas or a small business coach in Dallas, our team of  experienced professionals can help you chart and steer a new course. Book your free 30-minute assessment call to get started.

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