3 Challenges for Asian Americans in The Workplace

Although Asian Americans are often viewed as the “model minority,” adjusting in the workplace is a challenge that is not often highlighted but overlooked within a company.

Here are the three most common challenges that Asian American Professionals face and a management solution on how we can go about changing it.


Photo by: Marketers of Baruch

1. Speaking Up

Speaking up during meetings is a positive indicator that an employee is paying attention, possesses a unique point of view and is providing helpful feedback. However, in many Asian cultures, speaking up can show signs of arrogance, disrespect, and challenging authority.

Sean Chee, 20, shares his account when he first entered the work force and began his journey with his three internships. “I was one of the few in the bustling office floor who was of obvious Asian descent,” Chee recollected. “Like a piece of plywood floating in the middle of the vast ocean, it was hard challenging to find my voice. It seemed as if whenever I wanted to share my ideas or had some sort of rebuttal, there was a force pulling me down telling me to not say a word.”

Suggested Read: Why Are Asian Kids Silent in Class?

How can managers help?

One solution is to be clear and indicate when you want an opinion by. By providing a clear guideline and a timeline of when the employee can contribute, they can feel more at ease and gather their thoughts to voice their opinion.

In addition, provide multiple avenues for contribution beyond verbally in the meeting. You may ask for feedback in writing after the meeting or sit down in a one-on-one meeting.


Photo by: Marketers of Baruch

2. Calling Boss on a First-Name Basis

Establishing a personal relationship is also a challenge for many Asian American professionals where calling your boss by his or her first name is unheard of. Breaking down these formalities can definitely pose as a challenge and taking the relationship further and speaking about non-work related issues in the workplace can also be very uncomfortable.

“Imagining myself asking about how my supervisor’s life at home was just seemed awkward and way too personal. I wanted to be more friendly and nice, but I just didn’t know how to go about it” Chee related.

How can managers help?

Managers can be cognizant of these differences in work culture and understand that building a personal relationship is a longer investment. Slowly progress the relationship from one-on-one interactions, eating lunch together, and being personal without being intrusive.

Suggested Read: Ask a Korean: How Dare You Call Me By My Name


Photo by: Marketers of Baruch

3. Hanging Out With Coworkers and Workplace Assimilation

Whether it’s being afraid to suggest the hole-in-the-wall ramen place for lunch or not having the same passions as your coworkers, Asian American Professionals have to make an extensive effort to balance fitting in while embracing their cultural differences.

Chee says, “I would ask myself, “Wow, why can’t I be like that?” Thinking about approaching them, seeing that everybody would be like, “Hey, it’s that Asian dude” scares the pants off of me. However, that was last month. I found out that, it just takes some getting used to. In the end, they’re all cool people around your age. You just have to find the right topics to talk about and everything would just go with the flow.”

How can managers help?

Office-wide happy hours, lunch and learns, and free breakfast all pose as opportunities for diverse employees to mingle with other employees. It’s imperative that teams are eating with each other and that cliques should be broken up at all costs!

Suggested Read: Importance of Assimilation in the Workplace

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