Workplace diversity refers to the difference we see in our organizations on a daily basis. Diversity is not only about acknowledging differences with the people around us, but making a concerted effort to adapt practices and systems to create an inclusive environment in which diverse skills, viewpoints and backgrounds are valued and respected by all. Valuing diversity means creating a safe work environment that respects and includes all, while recognizing the unique contributions and additions that individuals from different groups can make and maximizes the potential of all employees regardless of those differences. Diversity is about understanding that the individual comes with unique traits and qualities and the people we work with will have risen from a broad range of backgrounds and lifestyles.
“Any characteristic that would influence the person’s identity or the way he or she approaches problems and views the world can be important to consider when defining diversity.” (Hitt, Miller, Colella, 2015, p.41) Diversity is becoming more important for the modern day organizations and leaning how to manage that diversity should be on the forefront of every organization’s to-do list. Diversity is a common issue in the workforce environment today, and in some companies employees often get discriminated against or misunderstood because of those diverse features. So, it is important for companies to manage diversity to place value on and encourage the best performances from all of its unique employees.
One of the most important points today is training managers to handle a diverse workforce. Managing cultural differences in both personal and professional settings is vital for success. ”Broadly and simply put, “culture” refers to a group or community with which you share common experiences that shape the way you understand the world.” People can belong or associate with many different cultures as this pertains to family status, gender, ethnicity, education, etc. Associating with multiple cultures is a normal occurrence for many people as they find it easier to relate to multiple areas as opposed to being restricted to just one. Cultural competence is arguably one of the most valued and necessary skills a manager can possess in regards to running his/her organization in the most effective and successful manner.
Diversity in the workplace has positive impacts as well as ramifications to the workplace environment and the people; let’s first touch on the positive impacts diversity brings. A more diverse workforce will likely increase organizational effectiveness. Employees are more likely to feel comfortable, happy and productive in an environment where inclusivity is a priority that can be seen being carried out daily.
Equality in the workplace is important for encouraging workers from all backgrounds to feel confident and secure in their own special ability and to perform at their highest and best capability. The higher the team morale, the more productive employees are. Diversity will also likely lift morale, bring greater access to new segments of the marketplace, and enhance productivity, thus leading to a more successful and effective workplace. Setting up effective and impactful diversity programs are vital in creating and promoting an open and diverse workplace. By implementing programs and actively carrying them out employees are able to see that managers are truly committed and dedicated to the cause and this brings about an environment of sincerity that encompasses the true idea of what it means to be diverse.
Understanding and embracing cultural difference in the workplace is vital for success. There are many different aspects that go into managing a diverse set of people effectively as well as different methods and angles that can be taken. It is imperative that an effective manager provide continuous training for themselves and their employees though items such as Cultural Intelligence training.
Cultural Intelligence is “the capability to grow personally through continuous learning and good understanding of diverse cultural heritage, wisdom, and values and to deal effectively with people from different cultural background and understanding.” Through continuous learning, a manger can promote a growing knowledge for others and the ideas and out of the box thinking they bring with them. The manager has a specific and important role to set the tone and direction for others to follow and so must take the necessary steps to promote unity and understanding for all walks of life within their organization. By working alongside people of different backgrounds, experiences and working styles, creative concepts can be born from bouncing ideas off of each other and offering feedback and suggestions. Whereas one person may be great at generating exciting, innovative ideas, another individual may have the necessary experience and tools to execute on the idea; so it is essential to play on each individual’s strengths and collaborate with others on the team. Based on my own personal experience as well as research conducted, I feel that diversity in the workplace can only ultimately bring about positive changes and growth.
While diversity in the workplace is arguably one of the most important challenges faced in today’s workplace, it doesn’t come without challenges and obstacles. Roadblocks to diversity can, unfortunately, be a real problem being faced in today’s workplace. Diversity can stir up many emotions and reactions in people that are sometimes not the most desired. Negative emotions and moods can affect an employee’s performance indefinitely which is why most employers try and promote the idea of separating emotions from the workplace as much as humanly possible. Negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, anger, stress and sadness all contribute to a negative tone in the workplace and can lead to an increase in workplace deviance and unwelcome tension.
Cultural differences can be the center for many frustrations among co-workers, friends, etc and can lead to poor communication and self expression. Cross cultural communication is very important for organizations in general, but especially for those that currently or plan to conduct business ongoings across seas (global business interactions.) Diversity can lead to complexities such as stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination.
A stereotype is ” a generalized set of beliefs about the characteristics of a group of individuals. Stereotypes are unrealistically rigid, often negative, and frequently based no factual errors.” (Hitt, Miller, Colella, 2015, p.52) The problem with stereotypes is that that ignore the very basic fact that individuals are not all the same just because they belong to the same group, and this projection can prove to be a very difficult obstacle to overcome. Then we have prejudices which are ” unfair and negative attitudes towards people who belong to social or cultural groups other than our own” (Hitt, Miller, Colella, 2015, p.51) Prejudice in the workplace is dangerous, causing unfair treatment of individuals and resentment.
Discrimination is “behavior that results in un equal treatment individuals based on group membership” (Hitt, Miller, Colella, 2015, p.51) Employment discrimination happens when an employee or job applicant is treated unfavorably because of his or her race, skin color, national origin, gender, disability, religion, or age. Employers must find ways to combat these negative connotations, emotions and attitudes towards diversity in order to create a culture that embraces the differences as opposed to shunning and rejecting them. Diversity in the workforce is growing exponentially in all countries, especially in the USA, Canada and Europe. With having more diverse work environments, organizations can expect to produce an overall higher performance index. The need for a diverse workforce is increasing everyday, not only because there are different people entering the workforce, but also there is a greater possibility for growth and improvement in the totality of the organization with introducing a more diverse workforce.
Leaders in the organizations should learn diversity (differences of gender, age, sex and religion in their work environment and also to communicate between them) and how to manage it effectively. Effectively managing cultural differences can lead to building trust, understanding and power amongst a group of people within an organization. By developing others to have the ability to respect diversity, we then produce a group of people who are more willing to work with others in as positive and productive manner.
We must set aside our initial qualms and step forward with promoting unity and differences so to avoid the phenomenon known as culture shock. Cultural shock can occur when we have a failure to educate others on the diversity that surrounds them and in lacking in that education, we experience some distinct symptoms such as the feeling of isolation, high anxiety, worry, helplessness, poor work performance and nervous energy. If we leave these symptoms to fester, a very negative situation can come to the surface and be much more difficult to cope with at that time.
The most important thing a manager can do is to take the proper steps to prevent this event from occurring by properly training employees and promoting a workplace with open, judgement free communication. Diversity can be a wondrous idea when given the proper time and respect to grow and nurture the difference between people and groups. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best when he said, “an individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” (King, Martin Luther) Dr.
King was right, until we can learn to rise above our own ways and confined means of thinking to include the differences around us, we are not truly living at all.