Cultural Diversity and Group Relations in the Workplace

Executive summary

Company (X) is in the process of diversifying its business operations into a new business environment defined by people from different cultural backgrounds. At the same time, the management of company (X) has realised that the performance of the company is on the decline.

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A study was conducted to discover the problems with the cultural diversity at the workplace to advise the strategy manager and the human resource manager on the best approach to solve the problems based on the concepts and theories that explain workplace diversities. The study used both qualitative and quantitative methods to determine the answers to the research questions. It was establish that company (X) employees were experiencing communication, religious, and gender problems.

The qualitative paradigm was used to determine the theories and concepts that could explain the solutions to the workplace diversity problems. The results from the study were that the normative and ethical theories among other theories could explain how company (X)’s employees and managers could make effective decisions to positively affect the productivity of the employees and the performance of company (X).

In addition, the concepts for explaining the solutions to the problems were classified into primary, secondary, and tertiary dimensions. When applied well, the concepts could generate solutions to the problem and enable the strategy manager and the human resource manager work towards achieving the objectives and goals of company (X).

Introduction

Business organisations today have realised that they must embrace cultural diversities to improve their performance in different business environments. That realization compelled organisation (X), which is located in Kuwait to bridge the gap between its internal cultural orientation and the outside world.

However, the leadership of company (X) finds it challenging to address the problem of cultural diversities for both its internal operating environment and the external cultural environment into which the company intends to expand its business operations.

To address the cultural diversity problem, company (X)’s strategy manager and the human resource manager were assigned the role of bridging the organization with the outside world. In other words, the strategy manager and the human resource manager are the key personnel to be contacted in the organization in case of any inquiries. This project proposal provides a detailed discussion on the cultural diversity at the workplace and the possible measures that can be taken to address the challenges.

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Statement of the problem

Company (X), which has its operations in Kuwait is facing a problem in dealing with cultural diversity in the workplace when the business organisation decided to do business in the global business environment. Most of the cultural diversity problems identified to be important for opening the doors to the external or global business environment were communication, religious, beliefs, and cultural alignments,.

The management realised that the problem with cultural diversity was the cause of declining productivity leading to new concerns especially because the company was opening its doors to the outside world. The strategy manager and the human resource manager of company (X) were experiencing communication problems between the newly hired employees and the old employees.

Investigations showed that different employees have different cultural orientations, making it difficult for them to relate with their peers at the workplace. In addition, communication between the employees with different cultural orientations was poor because of the difference in languages, religion, social, and power distance.

In addition, the management of company (X) realised that the sense of togetherness and cultural identity was lacking. Another problem identified was the waste of productive time because of the constant conflicts between the employees.

In addition, the strategy manager and the human resource manager of company (X) were in a dilemma to determine the right concepts to apply to address the problem of cultural diversity because of the desire of the employees to fit into the diverse cultural environment, which characterizes the international business environment. The leadership of company (X) had not yet determined the approach to use and the underlying concepts to solve the problem.

Research questions

  1. What are the issues or problems facing the organization and how these issues are related to theories?
  2. What course concepts can be applied to understand why these problems are occurring?
  3. How course concepts might contribute to resolving the problem?
  4. What methodology have you used? Why?
  5. What recommendations can you offer to help improve organizational functioning?

Hypotheses

H1: The solution to the solution to the problem company X is facing can be explained by the normative theory and the theory of the organisational theory.

H2: The concept of diversity provides explanations of the solutions to the problems company (X) is experiencing.

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H3: The concepts of diversity, cultural homogeneity, and the primary and secondary dimensions of diversity, provide the solutions needed for company (X) to improve its performance.

Methodology of Research

The research methodology used both the qualitative and qualitative paradigms. The qualitative aspect of the research approach was based on the literature review to determine the problems with cultural diversity using the theoretical constructs of organisational behavior. The normative theory, the human relations theory, and the system theory of organisational behaviour provide the theoretical foundation of the study.

The quantitative paradigm of the research was based observations and data collected at the workplace on the problem facing the management of company (X). In addition, the study used questionnaires to collect data to answer the research questions on the problems and suggestions for company (X) to address the current problem of cultural workplace diversity. The study used personal interviews as a powerful tool to gather data from the respondents and answer the research questions.

Different methods were used to gain access into the organization and interact with the workers. Focus groups were also used to obtain pertinent information from the organization on why employees have conflicts at the workplace, which was causing a decline in the productivity of the employees and the overall business performance of organisation (X) in Kuwait.

Findings

The qualitative findings were based on the literature review based on the theories and concepts of organisational behavior to explain the problems facing company (X). The first hypothesis on the issues or problems facing the organization and how these issues are related to theories for company (X) were addressed using the elements of communication, team dynamics, religious beliefs, and worker empowerment.

It was established that 65% of the respondents of company (X) agreed that the strategy and the human resource managers failed to implement an effective communication strategy among the workers with diverse cultural beliefs and values to share ideas, clarify issues, and solve conflicts amicably.

In addition, the managers did not put in place a mechanism to communicate the business strategies and policies of company (X) to the workers to observe when operating in the new business environment. In addition, 90% of the respondents agreed that company (X) had no conflict resolution mechanisms for clarifying issues when employees disagree on different issues.

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The problem with communication was identified to exist among team, the management and across different teams with diverse cultural backgrounds. The communication process and interpersonal communication were not defined within the company (X). In addition to that, the management did not outline how verbal and nonverbal communication should be conducted between the management and the employees with diverse cultural backgrounds.

On the other hand, communication about different tasks was not defined by the management and employees could use any form of communication, which in certain instances could generate conflicts among company (X)’s workers. The management did not do any research to determine the sources of communication problems.

However, a significant percentage of the workers agreed that different beliefs and values were the main cause of communication problems among the employees of company (X). Other findings showed that prejudice, unequal power, lack of trust, defensiveness, and language barriers were some of the communication problems experienced among employees of company (X).

The study established that the employees of company (X) lacked team dynamisms, problem solving norms and the basic elements of successful teams such as creative freedom, adaptability to the working environment, diversification of the capabilities of the team members, and lack of commitment to the business goals and objectives. It was determined that the company lacked a standard problem solving mechanisms and clearly defined conflict resolution mechanisms among the team members.

Religion was identified as another problem, which was adversely affecting the performance of the company. Company (X) workers come from different religious backgrounds with different values and beliefs on different workplace issues. For instance, it was established that 55% of workers for company (X) wanted to refrain from work on certain days because of their religious beliefs, when the contributions of the employees were required to be put to optimum use.

The findings show that some of the problems can be explained by the concepts of the multicultural environment for company (X). The human resource manager, the strategy manager, and 65% of the workers interviewed agreed that company (X) was experiencing challenges resulting from different dimensions of cultural diversities belonging to the primary, secondary, and tertiary dimensions.

According to the findings, 20% of the respondents agreed that gender, age, and ethnic backgrounds were strong contributing factors to the challenges facing company (X) in its operations. Of those interviewed, 45% suggested that the secondary dimensions of the multicultural environment, which include religion, workplace experience, economic status of the workers, nationality and cultural orientation were also contributing the problems facing the company.

Of the elements identified, 67% agreed that religion was having the greatest impact on the performance of the company followed by 65% nationality and languages. Findings show that “a group is diverse if it is composed of individuals who differ on a characteristic on which they base their own social identity”, which are elements that are evident for company (X).

The investigation showed that 85% of the workers agreed that tertiary dimensions of culture had a significant negative effect on the performance of the company. Here, the tertiary dimensions were the group norms, group values, attitudes, assumptions, values, feelings, and perceptions.

On the other hand, according to the third hypothesis for company (X), the concept of diversity was critical in contributing solutions to the problem of the declining performance of the company. It was established that 65% of the workers agreed that effective communicate among the homogeneous group members was important to enhance productivity.

The explanation given was based on the identity theory, which shows that when the members communicate with each other effectively, the performance and productivity of company (X) are likely to increase. It was also established that good communication practices increased cooperation between the workers and satisfaction at their work place. Company (X) could however, experience cognitive bias among the workers if the management did not work towards building cohesive teams.

It was determined that 75% of the workers did agree that gender culture was another important area that was contributing to the problem the company was facing in Kuwait, and which it could experience with it takes its operations into the international business environment. Gender culture was seen as the source of differences between men and women and the way the people from both divides solved their problems when working for company (X).

Age diversity

Age diversity was another problem that company (X) was experiencing. The problem with age was based on stereotyping, social identities, and discrimination. It was determined that older workers of company (X) were subject to discrimination and stereotyping. The younger workers discriminated against older workers by viewing them as less productive and harder to train. In addition, it was established that when training opportunities could arise, the company discriminated against selecting old employees to go for training and development.

Cultural and national diversity

Cultural and national diversities were identified as additional problems that company (X) had to focus on to seek for solutions to the problem. Employees of company (X) come from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

Discussion

Company (X) could become successful in its quest to improve its performance as the strategy manager and the human resource manager strategized to move the company from a local one operating in Kuwait and outside Kuwait, which has people from different cultural backgrounds (Christian, Porter and Moffitt 34).

A significant number of benefits were likely to accrue as a result of the use of different theories and concepts to explain the solution to the problems that the managers of company (X) were experiencing because of workplace and cultural diversities. According to the study, if the company implemented solutions to the problems was currently experiencing, operating in a multicultural environment could lead to a significant number of benefits, which include competitive advantage and low cost of running the business (Dobbin and Jung 23).

In addition, resource acquisition for the operations of company (X) could be enhanced, marketing of the products and services to a wide market could be achieved relatively easily because of the multicultural nature of the company (X), the problem solving process could be enhanced and made effective because company (X) could have a multicultural outlook, and the benefit of organisational flexibility could be experienced by company (X) (Marques 89).

Learning and growth

According to Marques, employing people form Workers with diverse backgrounds was another solution that was suggested to create an environment for learning and growth (34). As a team, company (X) workers could experience personal growth (Barak 23).

The underlying reason for that qualitative inference is that when the workers interact with others with different values and beliefs, it becomes possible to for the workers to develop different perspectives and ideas about the working environment and to gain much greater insight into solutions to address different problems related to the multicultural environment for company (X). The results are that as the workers exchange new ideas, they become better experienced members of the society.

Communication

Company (X) could experience more benefits if a good communication plan is laid down for the workers. Communication provides the managers and the ability to convey instructions to the workers effectively. In addition, lack of ambiguity is the core element of the communication plan because the managers could communicate effectively working instructions to each worker.

It is also important to remove any barriers to effective communication in a multicultural environment to ensure effective and clarity in the delivery of messages to the workers (Eagly and Chin 25).

Typically, the managers and the human resource manager could be at a position to provide better and well trained and highly skilled workers who could contribute positively to the quality of work, which could lead to improved productivity.

Poor or declining productivity was identified as one of the most crucial problems facing the company (Eagly and Chin 25). Productivity can increase if the workplace diversity is managed well. In addition, the management could contribute to increased productivity if the employees work as a team, based on the concept of team dynamics, could perform better than a single person doing multiple tasks at the same time. Typically, each member from a different background, knowledge, and skills when combined and working as a team, could make significant contributions to the improvement of the performance of company (X) (Hearn and Collinson 86).

According to the study, the issues or problems facing the organization and how these issues are related to theories include communication problems, the primary, secondary, and tertiary problems of cultural diversities. Embedded in the concepts are solutions, which theory and practice provide solutions for, which company (X) can apply to successfully enter the community of business organisations, which operate in a multicultural business environment (Kirton and Greene 29).

On the other hand, the management of company (X) should focus on embracing the elements of cultural diversity and its antecedents to address the negative consequences of the failing to integrate cultural diversity into the management of the organisation (Eagly and Chin 25).

Theories

According to Eagly and Chin, the normative theory, the human relations theory, ethical theories, and the system theory of organisational behaviour explain the issues and problems affecting the performance of company (X) (34).

For instance, ethical theories explain the ethical decision making in company (X), which are affected by the individual, environmental, and situational variables such as workplace diversity and the organisational culture. Ethical decision making requires that the manager and the human resource manager make the best decisions when different alternatives exist. The rationale is that manager of company (X) can encounter new situations, which require them to use an evaluative ethical criteria make rational decisions (Marques 34).

The normative theory provides the basis for making judgment about how the current situation for company (X) could be improved by introducing new changes to the organisation. In addition to the normative theory, organisational behavior provides explanations on how the human resource manager could recruit new members to the organisation and how the manager could manage the organisation to work effectively towards the business goals and objectives of the organisation in the new environment.

Concepts

The concepts that could explain the solution to the problems include the primary, secondary, and tertiary dimensions of the multicultural working environment (Eagly and Chin 25). The primary concepts explain the approaches and methods the management of company (X) could use to shape the fundamental world views of the workers and their self-images (Thomas 23).

The key elements that were determined as elements of the primary dimension were gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, and the physical characteristics and abilities of the workers. It was determined that workers of company (X) could improve productivity if the elements of the primary dimension of cultural diversity at the workplace were intertwined in each employee to produce the required and excellent profile of each worker, who could exert strong influence in the way workers execute their tasks to achieve the business goals of organisation (X).

Another concept put forward by Barak is based on the secondary elements of cultural diversity among company (X)’s employees. The secondary dimension includes religion, which was termed as having a significant impact on the way people interact within the workplace 9(Barak 94).

Although the findings show little effect on the way organisation (X)’s workers rated religion had a profound effect on the performance of company (X) because some of the day a large number of workers took off as a day to rest were days when the company experienced the highest demand for the products and services offered by the company.

In addition to that, the human resource manager was required to conduct detailed job analysis when recruiting new workers because of the skills and knowledge requirements to work effectively towards the execution of assigned tasks (Barak 34). It was critical to note that some of the workers were deficient in specialised skills leading to the decline in competiveness and the quality of products on offer.

A skilled workforce was viewed as making significant contributions to the success of company (X) in its provision of products and services. In addition to that, group norms, which define the way organisation (X)’s workers cooperate and work towards the business goals of the company were critical (Syed and Pio 98).

Recommendations

It is recommended from the study that the human resource manager takes a proactive role in employing workers from diverse ethnic backgrounds to create an environment of workplace diversities. In addition, the human resource manager should avoid recruiting male employees only, which is a clear indication of gender discrimination to create workplace balance among the workers of company (X).

On the other hand, the strategy manager should first investigate the target environment where company (X) intends to move its business operations. The reasons are to understand the cultural orientation of the new business environment to ensure that company (X) employees are taught on how to seamlessly integrate into the new business environment.

The last recommendation is for company (X) to examine the internal policies on ethnic and race diversity to align them with new approaches of dealing with workplace and cultural diversities because the new working environment might require some of the old employees being deployed in new stations with new cultural diversities.

In addition, it was important for the company to factor ethical issues of different people from different ethnic and cultural; backgrounds when moving the business into the new environment to ensure better decision making capabilities.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it was established that the failure of the management of company (X) to understand the problems associated with workplace diversity was the leading cause for the declining productivity of the employees and the performance of company (X). The strategy manager did understand the problems associated with the workplace diversity especially when working in new business environments with people from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

Another solution for the strategy manager of company (X) is to identify the cultural diversities of the people in the new business environment. Here, the results will help the manager to determine the ethical issues that should be factored into the decision making processes to ensure amicable interactions between the company employees and the people in the new business environment.

In addition, the management of company (X) should conduct a detailed study on the challenges existing in culturally diverse environments to be better prepared for the challenges that could arise when the expansion into the new environment starts.

Works Cited

Barak, Michàlle E. Mor. Managing diversity: Toward a globally inclusive workplace. New York: Sage, 2013. Print.

Christian, Julie, Lyman W. Porter, and Graham Moffitt. “Workplace diversity and group relations: An overview.” Group Processes & Intergroup Relations 9.4 (2006): 459-466. Print.

Dobbin, Frank, and J. Jung. “Corporate board gender diversity and stock performance: The competence gap or institutional investor bias.” NCL Rev. 89 (2010): 809. Print.

Eagly, Alice H., and J. Lau Chin. “Diversity and leadership in a changing world.” American Psychologist 65.3 (2010): 216. Print.

Hearn, Jeff, and D. L. Collinson. “Men, masculinities and workplace diversity/diversion.” (2006): 299-322.

Kirton, Gill, and A. Greene. The dynamics of managing diversity. New York: Routledge, 2010. Print.

Marques, Joan, F. “Colorful window dressing: A critical review on workplace diversity in three major American corporations.” Human Resource Development Quarterly 21.4 (2010): 435-446. Print.

Syed, Jawad, and E. Pio. “Veiled diversity? Workplace experiences of Muslim women in Australia.” Asia Pacific Journal of Management 27.1 (2010): 115-137.Print.

Thomas, Victor, C. “The downside of diversity.” Training and Development 48.1 (1994): 60-62.Print.

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