Unconscious Bias in the Workplace: Preventing Intercultural Misunderstandings

Recent news exposed the intercultural conflict at Amazon and Starbucks. Business owners must ask themselves, “What, if any, economic or social value is there in being a culturally competent organization?” Surely, with the emerging demographics in the American workforce, we may, find our monolithic policies under scrutiny from any number of protected groups. However, it is not the workplace rights of protected groups that should rouse our business senses to fear for our profits, rather it is through embracing the diverse needs of these groups that innovative, and highly competitive business strategies are cultivated.

Research has shown diversity is good for business. Token efforts taken to create a superficial image of inclusiveness will lead to negative consequences. This will hamstring any progress that most cutting-edge and globally successful companies strive to embody. A company must take the uncomfortable step of addressing the conditions within their companies which cause cultural misunderstandings to arise.

Amazon and Starbucks took a short-term approach aimed to solve their cultural misunderstandings. Unfortunately, such this step yields only a temporary solution.  To prevent these problems from occurring again, a more integral approach is needed. Filsan’s Cultural Competency Trainings and Consultation services provides an approach to eliminate unconscious bias. However, most sensitivity trainers and coaches believe a one-day training will not change long-term behaviors, stereotypes, and perceptions.  Investing in ongoing cultural competency, education and long-term diversity planning is how organizations can fully embrace the ever-changing task of leveraging diversity.

When culturally competent leaders opt to model for their employees, they effectively address issues around employee retention, satisfaction, and productivity regarding diversity.

Lastly, companies benefit from their employees’ highest performance when they nominate culturally competent diverse role models at all levels of the organization. Furthermore, company executives must realize diversity is not a gimmick but an asset that leads to innovation. To overcome cultural misunderstanding in the workplace, leaders have to acknowledge unconscious bias based on race, religion, gender and sexual orientations. When employees feel valued and respected, performance and productivity will rise.  It is to every company’s advantage to practice welcoming behaviors, commit to changing old habits involving biases and adopt cross cultural awareness.


Top Highlights of 2018

2018 has been one of the best years ever in business. Our motto was “moving Diversity from numbers to action.”

1.         I graduated from the Initiative Foundation’s Initiators Fellowship

The two year-program provided me with the opportunity to use my entrepreneurial spirit to create Filsan Talent Partners, build my leadership capacity, expand my professional network, help employers train, attract, and retain employees with diverse background and bridge the cultural gap 

2.         We spoke to and trained over 5,000 leadership teams, and their employees

Filsan team provided customized on-the-job diversity, inclusion and cultural training sessions for HRs, management teams, supervisors and CEOs of large and small companies

3.         We trained overseas company leadership teams

Filsan team also trained overseas companies’ top management teams

4.         We volunteered and held community gathering events

Those events aimed to build a better relationship and understanding between Muslim communities and the host community

5.         We donated books to schools and libraries

Our company motto is “knowledge is Power”- we donated “From Somalia to Snow” so that people would be able to better understand their new Americans’ experiences, challenges and opportunities

6.         We partnered with our local companies

With employee shortages in Minnesota, research shows that by 2035 one in four of the state’s residents will be a racial minority. This is why Filsan Talent Partners will help companies win the war on talent

7.         We hired new staff

To expand our impact in the region, we hired professional, ambitious and innovative staff to help us get the next level of excellence 

8.         We had an intern

To get the hands-on experience, our company prioritize hiring interns because internships helps students gain relevant knowledge, skills, and experience while gaining connections and networks in the business community

9.         We conducted need assessment research

10.       Filsan featured in

a)         Minnesota Business Magazine

b)         Twin Cities Magazine

11.       We received an award

In recognition of her leadership, the St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce awarded our CEO for her volunteering leadership 

12.       We changed our name from Filsan Consultant to Filsan Talent Partners

Filsan team is wishing you Happy New Year of 2019

Ramadan: Tips for Managers and Directors

What is Ramadan?
 Ramadan is the fourth pillar of Islam, and the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which is based on lunar cycles.

What Do Muslim Employees Do Between the Sunrise and Sunset?
During Ramadan, Muslim employees abstain from eating any food, drinking any liquids, smoking cigarettes, and engaging in any sexual activity from dawn to sunset. Even chewing gum is prohibited. Practicing Muslims also abstain from lying, gossiping, cursing and exhibiting immodest desires. These actions are believed to invalidate ones’ fasting.

Are There Any Exemptions from Fasting?
Ramadan is mandatory for any Muslim who reaches puberty (mostly at the age of fifteen and up). Patients who are physically and mentally ill do not have to fast. Pregnant, breastfeeding, menstruating women and those who are traveling don’t have to fast, but they will have to make up the missed days at another time or feed the poor as an alternative course of action.

Why Do Muslims Do During Ramadan?
During the entire month of Ramadan, Muslims fast every day from dawn to sunset. Muslim employees seek guidance, forgiveness and devotion to and deep connection with God. For those fasting, hunger and thirst are a constant reminder of the suffering of the poor and those who are less fortunate. Like Lent, the goal of fasting is to practice self-discipline and to cleanse the body and mind.

What is the Significance of Ramadan to a Devout Muslim?
Employers should know why Ramadan is so special for their employees. Ramadan is believed to be the holiest month in the Muslim calendar. First, the Qur’an was revealed during this month and Muslims believe their prayers would be answered and their good actions will bring greater reward during Ramadan than at any other time of year.

How Long Can They Fast?
Practicing Muslims observe fasting from sunset to sun down for twenty nine or thirty days. How long during the day Muslim employees will be fasting depends on the season. For example, if Ramadan falls during the summer, Muslims will have to fast between 15 and 16 hours long because the day can be so long. In other words, employees will start eating predawn meals at 3:30 am and break their fast at 9:30 pm.

When Will Ramadan Begin and End in 2018?
Depending on the sight of the moon, fastening is supposed to begin on the 15th or 16th of May in 2018 and lasts for one lunar month, the evening of Thursday, June 14th.

Why Do the Dates of Ramadan Change Every Year?
Muslims follow the Islamic calendar.

Do All Muslims Fast?
Fasting is obligatory for a mature and healthy Muslim. Employers and directors should be aware that not all Muslim employees fast. In case you see one of your Muslim employees drinking or eating without a medical reason, don’t share what you saw with his colleagues.

Can Employers Expect Employees to Act Differently During Ramadan?
Some Muslim employees act differently during Ramadan because

  • They wake up between 1am and 2am to eat and drink to prepare for the day ahead. Those who do not wake up at 2am to eat may feel light-headed during the day. Even though most employees who fasted too long say that they get used to starving and thirsty, many others agree that their energy flags or saps right after 2:00p.m. However, the first two weeks, employees who used to drink caffeine feel headache, lethargy and fatigue
  • Most fasting Muslims agree employees who work long hours during the summer may become agitated, fatigued, and dehydrated.
  • In the last ten days of Ramadan, Muslims pray longer at night. As the day progresses, some older Muslim employees may lose their ability to work effectively. Generally, fasting could cause blood sugar levels to run low, which may make it more challenging for employers to keep their concentration. The activity of those employees working with machines must be monitored regularly.

Will Prayer Times Be More Frequent or Longer During the Day?
No! Only prayer times at night are more frequent and longer.

What are Other Requirements?

  • An employee observing the fast will not eat during typical lunch times
  • Fasting does not mean that Muslims stop working.
  • Late-night prayer times at night are more frequent and longer. There is an extra-long prayer known as “Tarawih” performed at night. These long prayers during the night may disrupt the person’s working activity during the day. When your sleep pattern is disrupted and one may feel physically worn-out and drowsy during the day. For many devout Muslim employees, evenings are often spent at a mosque in congregational prayer.

Employers Should Know That
Ramadan requires healthy Muslims to perform their daily responsibilities normally while fasting.  Islamic faith commands fasters to break the fast as soon as possible after sundown. The traditional method to break the fast known as Afur is to eat a small snack, preferably dates, samosa and some other cookies, do a ritual cleansing and pray before eating dinner.

  • Their fasting Muslim employees’ dinner break may not closely coincide with break time, therefore people who have been fasting for long hours need to be granted a dinner break to eat and drink. Employers should coordinate with the timing for dinner.
  • Employers can offer a random break to reduce employees’ lower energy levels
  • Fasting employees don’t like seeing their non-Muslim co-workers eating or drinking water around them.
  • Can I Offer Drink If One of My Employees Get Dehydrated?
    Many employees, particularly those old men and women, fasting is a good opportunity to feel the pang of hunger. Even if they are dehydrated, they don’t want to break their fast before the evening. Don’t offer any drink. Please ask them what they want you to do for them first. Your good deeds may be construed otherwise.

    Eid and Annual Leave
    To mark the end of the month of Ramadan, Muslim celebrate two to three days to observe a religious festival known as Eid al Fitr, the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast. It’s a religious holiday where everyone wears new clothes, comes together for big meals with family, relative. It is likely most employers may receive annual leave requests on a short notice from those who wish to observe this festival. Employers who hire predominantly Muslim employees should deal with holiday requests through their normal holiday policy and any company rules.

Somali Lives and Culture Class

Somali Lives and Culture Class is designed for those who want to learn about the lives and culture of their Somalis neighbors living in the St. Cloud area. Whether you are an employer, educator, a health care professional, service provider, student, or just an interested neighbor and community member, this course will teach you about the culture, customs, practices, and way of life of our Somali neighbors in Central Minnesota. Continue reading “Somali Lives and Culture Class”