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  • Writer's pictureClaire Tadokoro

7 Effective Ways to Engage Your New Asian-American Coworker

Updated: Oct 22, 2018

1. Initiate introductions.

Take the pressure off the newcomer, and ensure that you not only introduce yourself, but that you can also correctly say Nora Sakai’s name. It may be beneficial to ask Nora to repeat her last name upwards of five times. Repeat after her every time so that she knows you’re tracking. Attempting an Asian accent may help commit her name to memory. In a gesture of good grace, walk Nora around to the surrounding cubicles to introduce the team and have them hear Nora say her last name upwards of 5 times.

2. Compare networks.

Since you basically have Nora Sakai’s name down, find out if you have any mutual friends. No need to pull up your LinkedIn! Merely think of all the Asians that you know or vaguely know of. It’s silly to assume that all Asians know each other, but entirely plausible that Asians with similar sounding surnames do. By the way, is she related to the Suzuki’s?

3. Ask polite questions.

A corporate team should always go out on a limb to get to know a new coworker. Forego the predictable questions about previous employment, marital status, and where they went to college (Ivy League, obviously) and ask Nora more pertinent questions.

Start small with the basics. “Where are you from? No, not the state. Where are you like, really from?

Then build up to more familiar questions like, “Chinese or Japanese?” “Can you show us a pic of your [insert type of Asian] dad?” And for some culinary inquisitiveness, “Do you eat dog?”

4. Play a matching game over lunch.

Now that you’re friends, sidle up to Nora during lunch and really get some fun started with an easy matching game. The rules are simple. Print off a picture of an Asian actress, call over your cube friends, and then take turns telling Nora which of her features look the exact same as the actress’s. Nora is slightly above average looking, so Lucy Liu is a good option. For advanced players, choose an actress that is the same kind of Asian as your Nora.

Don’t forget to give her a turn! Let her compare you to her favorite Anime characters. Or Hentai, if she’s into that. LOL.

Nora making a speech about how welcome you make her feel at work.

5. Make a Starbucks run.

Post lunch, you and the gang are feeling sluggish around 2:00 p.m. Make like a ninja, (haha, get it Nora?) and steal away to the nearest Starbucks to grab some much-needed caffeine for the compadres. Jesse ordered a Skinny Vanilla Latte, Greg is weird and opted for that Unicorn shit with extra whip, Peggy wants a Hibiscus Refresher, you’re dying for an Iced White Mocha, and Nora… is trying a little too hard to fit in. She ordered a Java Chip Frappe for the team’s benefit, but give your Geisha what she really wants and swap it out for a Venti Hot Green Tea. Assure her that she can just be herself around you guys.

Nora is blushing and can’t even form a sentence. She is so shy and clearly into you.

6. Defer and include your coworker in business conversations.

Just because Nora is new doesn’t mean she can’t offer expertise. She was, after all, hired for a reason. Loop Nora into your afternoon client-facing meeting. After allowing Nora to introduce herself upwards of 5 times, tag her in to provide the client with a 3-year financial analysis projection and have her to take a deep dive on their actuarial value. Laugh off her assertions that she’s the new marketing consultant and has no knowledge in that area. Apologize profusely to the client after the meeting, and ascertain that the new marketing consultant and the new actuary had been hired around the same time and you had just assumed…

Nora straight killing her client's financial strategy meeting. Glass Ceiling? More Like Great Wall of Amazing.

7. Put time on their calendar.

Nora-san’s first day was a success thanks to you! Put a lunch date on her calendar for next week to touch base. Chinese, right?

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