Monday, April 19, 2010

Cultural Diversity in the Workplace

As the world has become increasingly globalized, diversity in the workplace has become a dominant subject in our society. One of the reasons for that is because people and services are moving at a very fast pace around the globe. Companies have broken all frontiers and gone long distances to make their products available to consumers. They also seek ways to reduce costs by transferring some operations and key people overseas.
The constant flow of professionals and services to and from different countries and, the growing diversity of staffing prompts organizations to recognize the value and the need for maximizing and capitalizing on a multicultural workforce in order to match the competition and succeed as a business. [Gorham, 2009] The bottom line is, the workplace is changing, evolving and diversifying very quickly and managers seek to educate themselves in order to follow such trends. [Green, 2002.
Businesswise, a well trained professional would take great advantage from understanding basic aspects of differing cultures, beliefs, and behaviors of employees and of potential customers. That understanding may give an edge in terms of communicating more effectively [Gorham, 2009]. Being aware of diversity aspects may help one to treat people more fairly and manage potential conflicts related to diversity more wisely. A well managed diversity workforce has the potential to yield higher productivity and competitiveness, prompting an organization to increase its ability to capture new market opportunities and, ultimately, lead the company to increase its margin of revenues [Green, 2002]. With that in mind, companies have become more proactive in terms of managing a workforce with multicultural differences to ensure that everyone is treated fairly with respect and dignity. [Green, 2002].

In a broad sense, diversity means acknowledging, respecting, accepting and valuing the differences people have with respect to factors such as gender, race, age, sexual preferences, religion, and physical and mental capabilities [Green, 2002]. In a society like ours in which we are constantly in contact with people from different origins and unique backgrounds, we are all touched by the subject of diversity both at a personal and professional level. Diversity is a concept that has gone far beyond the scope of moral or legal aspects and has become a business necessity. [Gorham, 2009]. The presence of women and minorities in the workforce has become remarkably large in American society. That is an example that illustrates the important role that cultural identities have played and further shows that these identities must not be ignore [Esty, 1995]

An organization may be in a position of some competitive advantages if it manages to overcome any internal issues related to diversity. Some of those advantages are: increased productivity, fewer lawsuits, and retention of business, increased market capabilities, creating a pool of talents and becoming an employer of choice. All of these are possible when employees feel they are respected, included and valuable contributors to the company’s goals. In other words, there is a strong possibility that people may be at their best in terms of creativity and productivity if they feel they fit and are considered an important asset to the organization regardless of their position or duty . Treating people right may be a key factor to boost both the organizations and the employee’s morals. The chances of meeting company’s goals will increase dramatically [Esty, 1995]

Despite of all the positive aspects, diversity also has its drawbacks because managers and supervisors do not always succeed in creating a healthy and productive environment in the workplace. Despite the desire to create an atmosphere in which everyone is happy and feels appreciated and valued, that task is not always an easy thing to accomplish. There are many questions posed by the subject of diversity that are not always easy to answer. Some of those questions are: What is considered fair? Is it fair to treat people who are different exactly the same way? Or, because they are different should they be treated by different standards? What would those standards be in the first place? A number of questions such as these have been addressed by government regulations of equal opportunity and affirmative action in trying to get to a common ground which would be satisfactory to everyone. In short, there is no easy answer to these questions. Satisfying every individual needs and expectation while at the same time meeting the organization’s goals might represent the greatest challenge for supervisors and managers to overcome [Esty, 1995]

Regardless of the area of work, developing some degree of cultural competence has become essential for any individual. Demographics have shown that there is a rapid change in our society and according to census data, nearly half of all those in the United States will be from a non-white, non-anglo culture by 2050 [Kier, 2010]. Those who have the knowledge and ability to work within an increasingly diverse society will be in the best position to compete for employment. Cultural knowledge and awareness, multi-lingual ability and a true skill in working with people from other cultures will be sought after. It is important for all of us to read about the many cultures that make up our communities, to get to know people of other cultures, to ask questions in order to learn more and to develop an honest interest in becoming culturally knowledgeable. Diversity in the workplace has proven to be a challenge to manage from both a business and an individual perspective, but it can also be very rewarding for the organizations of the world as well as their employees in the long run.




Works Cited

Esty, Katharine, Richard Griffin, and Marcie Schorr Hirsch, “WORKPLACE DIVERSITY – A Manager’s Guide to Solving Problems and Turning Diversity into a Competitive Advantage, 1995

Green, Kelli A., Mayra Lopez, Allen Winsock, Karl Kepner, “Diversity in the Workplace: Benefits, Challenges, and Required Managerial Tools” Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, Publication #HR022, June 2002,

Gorham, Richard, “Cultural Diversity in the Workplace”, Strength in Diversity!

Kier, Mary, “The Diversity Edge”, Cook Associates, Inc., Executive Search,

Additional Reading Material:

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1 Comments:

Nel said...

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