Most workplaces today are becoming increasingly diverse as people of different genders, races, cultures, ethnic origins, and lifestyles find themselves working together. As a result, the workplace is becoming increasingly multicultural. Some organizations are just now encountering the effects of a diverse workforce, while others are trying to overcome the challenges created by diversity. However, no matter where an organization is in this development, the challenge is to ensure that its workforce’s diversity is a source of strength, not one of conflict.
Effectively managing this diversity, then, is a critical component of success for today’s employer. This is the reason many employers are offered or offer cultural diversity training and conflict management training. Diversity is a business reaction to the fast cultural and sociological events and changes. Differences in personal work style, skills or talents, education, and geographical location are examples of other diversity dimensions that make a difference in how we work together as a corporate team. When managed effectively, these differences broaden organizational capability.
Management and Diversity Understanding Diversity In order for management to make diversity work, managers must first understand the definition of diversity. Most simply explained, diversity encompasses all of the ways in which individuals are both similar and different. According to Lee Gardenswartz, “Diversity involves variations in factors we control as well as those over which we have no choice. These factors give us areas of commonality through which we can connect with others and aspects of difference from which we can learn” (p.
24). These same factors also represent areas of trouble where conflict may develop. Today, cultural diversity is a business reality. The ability to build bridges between people from different countries, with different ethnic backgrounds, is as important as any other business function. Working in a culturally and ethically diverse organization does not mean eliminating differences in styles and approach, but celebrating those differences and revealing the much strength that diversity brings to an organization.
“Today diversity refers to far more than skin color and gender, it is a broad term used to refer to all kinds of differences, these differences include religious affiliation, age, disability status, military experience, sexual orientation, economic class, educational level, and lifestyle in addition to gender, race, ethnicity, and nationality, (as cited in Bateman & Snell, 2007, p. 398). There is a multitude of ways in which humans are both alike and different. Some of these differences have an impressive effect on our opportunities and experiences, while others have relatively little impact at all.
Diversity can be seen as “four concentric circles,” at the center of which is personality (Gardenswartz 24). Personality is a distinctive aspect that gives each person his or her own particular style. This core aspect pierces all other layers. Beyond the central core of personality are the six internal dimensions of diversity. These are aspects over which people have little or no control. They include gender, age, sexual orientation, ethnicity, physical ability, and race. In addition to internal dimensions, external influences such as social factors and life experiences also have an impact on how people are treated at work.
Some examples of these external influences include: where an individual grew up or lives now, whether they are married or have children, how their religious affiliation guides them and the amount and type of education they have. Finally, the fourth layer encompasses organizational influences related to factors such as seniority, the kind of work an individual does, their level within the company, and their work location. All of these layers together form one’s own diversity filter.
The human resource approach focuses on the relationship between people and the organization, and recognizes that cultural diversity includes every employee. It must be understood that people are the most important resource in an organization. The challenge is to successfully apply skills, insight, energy, and commitment to make an organization better. Another challenge that must be met by many organizations is to design ways for employees to expand their individual comfort zones. Once diversity is accepted as an organizational value, new assumptions about its positive benefits surface.
As cultural awareness builds and the culture changes, conflict is viewed as part of the change process. Diversity Related Attitudes. An employee attitude of acceptance of culturally different people is taught to individuals from the time that they are children. For the most part attitudes are learned from other people. Though it is hard to accept that the attitude a group has was invented, one person generally creates this attitude. An individual’s attitude tends to be the same as his or her relatives, co-workers, and friends. Attitudes are also learned from people who have high or low prestige.
Then once these attitudes have been learned, they are reinforced. The problem is, figuring out how to change an individual’s attitude. Management must learn how to change employee attitudes against great resistance. Employees will resist any kind of change if the plans for the changes are not clear. People want to know exactly what is going to happen. Each employee will see different meanings in the proposed changes; they see what they want to see. This means that women and minorities will be seeing job opportunities while white males see reverse discrimination.
In order to implement change management needs to learn to recognize the different types of resistance that may occur within the organization and know how to handle the situation. Organizational Barriers to Diversity There are numerous concerns that establish strong barriers to moving forward with diversity. The cost to implement the necessary changes to be made is one major cause of resistance. Management must be convinced that though the short-term costs may be high, the long-term benefits are worth it. There is a fear of hiring unskilled, uneducated employees.
The question to be answered here is whether the investment is too big, will the employees stay and will they be able to do the job? Organizations have been pulled toward affirmative action as a way to make the work force equal, but the perception still exists that any affirmative action candidate is someone chosen merely to fill a position. This person is not hired because she may happen to be the best candidate for the job. Management needs to also be aware of reverse discrimination, because one person’s gain can be perceived to be another person’s loss.
Finally many people do not see the need for diversity. They do not view diversity as a top priority issue and that is why it is management’s job to embrace this issue and help employees understand it. If management wants to create a more open and responsive organization, all of these barriers need to be identified, acknowledged, dealt with, and overcome. Embracing Diversity. Embracing diversity is about creating a new organizational framework. Management understands that the way to do this is by creating an inclusive environment at work.
Inclusivity implies complete openness, an environment that greets any person who can do the job, regardless of race, age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, or physical ability. In order for organizations to achieve a more open culture they need to welcome and accept employees for their different lifestyles. Every segment of the population needs to be represented in the executive suite. Each group attending a meeting should have ample time to speak and express their views. Groups need to be diversified and discourage slander.
Interaction between cultures is a source of knowledge, growth, and progress. Many organizations find that the biggest benefit from a diverse work force is problem solving. When cultures meet, there is increased creativity and all around better results. An organization’s ability to make corrections and change directions will determine if they will survive. An inclusive environment accepts people as they are. That doe’s not mean feedback is not given, it merely means that each person is accepted for who he or she is and is valued for the talent they bring to the task at hand.
Employees rarely produce their best work when they have to fit into someone else’s mold. This will also minimize resistance and maximize commitment. Helping Employees Adjust to Change Commitment to becoming an organization that embraces diversity requires going from a monoculture to a multicultural organization. Expect the changes to be unsettling, the organization is in a transition of what it is and what it is trying to become. Management needs to help employees understand why these changes are as important to not only the company as a whole but also to them as employees.
It is also important to set measurable criteria so employees can recognize when a change has been successful. Employees want to know that something better awaits them and it is management’s job to show them that by supporting these changes everybody will benefit. Training is necessary for all individuals in an organization especially in the area of how to deal with intercultural conflict. There are changes visible today that were not there several years ago and the same goes for the future of every organization. Teaching New Employees the Ropes New employees will go through five stages when first entering into a new organization.
The first stage is rejection and resistance. People instinctively protect themselves against what is new and different. Managers must learn to understand and accept initial rejection and resistance and refrain from pushing employees beyond their fears. Stage two involves isolation or withdrawal. People have more similarities than differences; therefore, it is important for management to structure opportunities that will bring people together. In the third stage individuals are beginning to assimilate and adjust to the norms of the organization.
It is sometimes hard for new employees to recognize what to adapt to. This is the time for management to create a buddy system or a crash course on how things work in this organization. It is in the fourth stage of coexistence that new employees find ways to exist within the dominant culture of the organization without sacrificing themselves. It is important for the company to find a way of portraying the message that it is okay to be different. The fifth and final stage of this process is integration. The new employee is no longer the odd person out, but a regular member of the team.
Here is where management needs to continue to emphasize a need for respect of differences, both organizationally and individually (Gardenswartz 287-288). Celebrating Diversity Managing diversity is an organizational process by which human resources are identified, allocated, and expanded in ways that make them more efficient. Successful diversity initiatives allow an organization to improve its productivity. Another basic objective is to create self-renewing, self-correcting systems of employees who learn to organize themselves in various ways according to the nature of their tasks and their cultural perspectives.
In order to be very effective, a diversity initiative must be planned organization wide, and coordinated from the top through planned activities and interventions. It must be understood that working with culturally different people, is not always easy. Nor is it always understood and appreciated by employees. There will be failures. But, managing diversity is good human relations and it is good business. During this time of transition it is important for managers and supervisors, as well as their subordinates, to remember that progress has been made. Making Diversity Work
Diversity is about acknowledging one’s own reactions to differentness and the discomfort it causes. Dealing with diversity is about taking a look at why holidays, practices, values, or languages different from the norm trigger feelings of threat that build walls between people. People who accept themselves are less threatened by those who are different. Every change has both positives and negatives attached to it. If employees do not get beyond their fears, they will not get beyond the resistance to change, and diversity efforts will continue to be spoiled.
All people have patterns of behavior that have become involuntary and routine over the years. Confronting diversity shakes up these habits because many old behaviors no longer work in the new organizational environment. People need to go beyond ethnocentrism and recognize and accept individuals for their differences. It is important to emphasize the similarities we share in order to create a pleasant work environment. Managers need to remember that values should be demonstrated through actions, not words. It is very easy to say you value diversity but it is another thing to put your words into action (Gardenswartz 520).
After all, diversity includes everyone. What do we have to do to create and foster a workplace climate where everyone feels welcomed, valued, and respected? This is a central question in the diversity research I have held. The response centers on becoming more aware that each individual’s behavior towards others contributes to the climate or atmosphere. The most common reason offered for why more attention is not paid to these issues is that “we’re too busy. ” To implement a successful diversity program, however, these three practices–welcoming, valuing, and respecting–must receive regular and deliberate attention.
Welcoming we usually think of welcoming as something that happens when an individual first joins an organization. People need to feel welcomed regularly throughout their employment. Almost everyone wants to be recognized by others and to know that their presence is important to the organization. Co-workers feel connected when their presence is acknowledged on a regular basis. It is easy to speak only with certain people, those we consider our friends or those with whom we work most closely. Speaking to those we pass in the hall or as we pass by their desk can help others feel welcome.
It is easy to assume that once we’ve been here awhile, we no longer need to greet each other regularly. In these busy times, how often do leaders in the organization walk through the library speaking to staff? We need to avoid coming to others only to resolve problems, or to request or pass on information. Employees need to know that people in leadership positions are aware of the work of each unit, recognize that people are working hard, and care about the employees’ well-being. Activities where staffs meet and talk outside of their own units is another way to encourage interaction and sharing.
Usually such activities are held only once or twice per year; employees often interact only within their immediate department or division most other times. Focusing on how to make others feel welcome can help to address other issues, such as classism (support staff interacting separately from librarians) or cliques (certain people only talking to certain others). Ignoring barriers that create divisions will not enhance efforts to foster a workplace supportive of a diverse staff. Valuing how do co-workers demonstrate that a colleague’s contributions are valued?
It requires an awareness and knowledge of the roles and responsibilities of others. We must seek examples of work being implemented or services being used. We must take time let individuals or units know that we have noticed and are appreciative of their work. Valuing requires us to take an interest in others: their activities, work, and progress. We need to act on what we learn by engaging others about their work. We must listen and respond when colleagues share their progress; this includes offer encouragement when we see colleagues experiencing challenges in their efforts.
Valuing is demonstrating to others that their presence and contributions are noticed, make a difference, and matter in the organization. Rewards or recognition must have meaning to those to whom it is given. A certificate may be less effective than sharing a break with someone to discuss their work and their contributions; a salary increase may have more impact if someone in a leadership role shares how much the contributions have helped the organization accomplish its goals. Respecting In the context of diversity, respecting is finding ways to demonstrate our regard for the quality of work and the contributions of others.
Asking co-worker questions about their work, or offering observations about what is most impressive in their project is a good way to show clearly that we respect another’s skills and talents. Showing an interest in another’s projects, being aware of their personal work goals, or just knowing that a co-worker attended a seminar, all provide opportunities for dialogue and exchange. Supervisors often expect employees to come to their offices or to make appointments to talk about their work; many employees will avoid such meetings because they do not wish to give the appearance of a problem.
What employees often are seeking is acknowledgment that their supervisor is aware of their work, and cares enough to ask how things are developing. This means senior administrators may need to talk directly to staff, otherwise they will not know that leadership has noticed or cares. Some administrators send messages through supervisors, when a direct note, phone call, or email would have a much more positive effect on self-esteem and a sense of personal accomplishment.
While these three factors–welcoming, valuing, and respecting–must be applied to the entire staff, they are especially important if the organization plans to successfully retain minorities in the workplace. It is challenging to be the only one, or one of few in a minority group. Those in the majority group must make a conscientious effort, on a regular basis, to ensure that minorities are aware and truly believe that their presence and contribution as an employee matters. Workplace diversity is a multi-faceted concept that continues to evolve as more industries move toward a global marketplace.
Most people hold the belief that every human being is of equal worth, entitled to the same privileges and opportunities, without regard to race, gender, disability or age. This fundamental belief has led to changes in management practices primarily relating to the recruitment, training and retention of employees who reflect the changing face of the American workforce. In order to understand the necessities and benefits of managing workplace diversification, the concept must be fully explored. What is diversity? Can it really be managed?
In the broadest sense, the management of diversity is a business’s reaction to rapid cultural and sociological changes. Internally, diversity management means providing a climate where all employees feel that they are valued by and contributing to an organization. Externally, it means that organizations are flexible and astute about changes occurring in world markets. The hard truth, however, is that inequalities exist for employees within organizations due to stereotyping and preconceived ideas about a person based on race, gender, religious or cultural origins, age, physical or
mental limitations, and more. Racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. cannot be managed away. It is precisely these beliefs and perceptions that necessitate managing diversity at all. Managing diversity is not affirmative action. Affirmative action and the language of equal opportunity came as a political response to the social outcry over the racial and social injustices that limited equal access to the workplace. One of the problems with affirmative action is that it began to be perceived as a public relations scheme more concerned about quotas than about individuals.
Managing diversity strives to ensure that when an individual is hired, they should be able to trust that they have been chosen because of their unique qualifications, not because of gender or ethnicity. We have moved from a use of words like fairness, inequality, and injustice toward terms such as ethnic diversity, political correctness, and cultural consciousness. Have we changed our perceptions of the problems of workplace inequality or just the way we describe it? Diversity consciousness cannot be simply mandated into a system, integrated into a corporate culture, or prompted by financial incentives.
It is reflective of an attitude that organizations and their staffs must adopt that allows them to change their basic concepts about workers and converts “them” into “us”. In addition, Multiculturalism is the Work Place In this millennium, diversity in society has increased rapidly; however it is the belief of many people that some aspects of the work place are still struggling when asked to look into this issue. On the other hand, there are many organizations beginning to accept and value the importance of diversity.
I believe both employers and employees should reflect on diversity of cultural prospective, age, gender, ethnic background, and levels of education. Every company should focus on diversity development due to an increasing minority and immigrant population that is positioning itself to assume the roles of the traditional workforce. As the demographic shift accelerates, race relations will continue to grow in importance. Bearing in mind, the inclusion of a more ethnically diverse staff requires a new workforce philosophy.
It is my belief that every organization should be held accountable for not focusing on a diversified labor force and not taking advantage of the strength that come as a result of a diversified labor force. In order to obtain effective results one should understand what diversity is, and how it affects the mechanic of an organization. Once this is established, the next step would be to learn how to manage diversity in the workplace and what kind of environment managers would have to create in their company to educate employees about cultural diversity.
Diversity in the work place is perhaps the most important issue we need to address because ignoring it can have lasting effects on the success of businesses. Research suggests, the key to successfully building a diverse, high-quality workforce for tomorrow begins with a strong leadership commitment and knowledge of where industries stand today. Ensuring strong commitment to a diversity program is essential. This includes the critical components of top-level leadership support and the commitment of necessary resources to make new initiatives a reality.
A successful diversity program needs a close continuing partnership between human resources and Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO). Companies should focus on communication strategies and diversity training for managers, supervisors, and employees. Companies should provide training to all staff and mangers about practical ways to make a diverse workforce for the entire company. This may include such subjects as the value of understanding differences and cross-cultural communication. They might also provide cultural awareness, the ability to initiate and manage cultural change within the organization to impact organizational effectiveness.
Companies could also sponsor special observances to help educate the general workforce about the contributions of diverse work groups and/or help eliminate some of the stereotypes that serve as impediments to full employment value. This will allow groups to value cultural diversity and other differences; fostering an environment in which people that is culturally diverse can work together in achieving organizational goals. Other perspectives showed Therefore, the organization can benefit itself by understanding what cultural diversity is, why it matters, and how to effectively manage your businesses diversity.
I strongly believe that diversity works. I speak in those terms as I experience the beauty of diversity daily. Diversity is the new culture of today’s society. Not only do you get to work to achieve company goals, but you also gain knowledge about other cultures. You begin to understand, value, and respect what is different about yourself from others. Cultural diversity should matter to everyone personally and professionally. Companies should focus on both sides. Society should be able to understand that the impact that diversity has on a company and the global market is highly important.
Society should learn what is in it for them as an employee as well as for the company as a whole. Diversity is beneficial in always and simply makes sense. For our businesses and communities do not survive, but thrive on the differences in cultures. Our communities are rich with resources. When segments are respected and utilized, it benefits us all. References Bateman Thomas S, & Snell Scott A. Management: Leading & Collaborating in a Competitive World. (8th edition). , McGraw-Hill, Irwin. Gardenswartz, Lee, & Rowe Anita. Managing Diversity: A Complete Reference and Planning Guide. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1998