Diversity Management Challenges in the Workplace Today

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Introduction

Globalization is being witnessed in various societal structures and socio-economic, as well as cultural aspects of the world today. The workplace is no exception in the ongoing globalization of the world. The workplace no longer has employees who share similar cultures; employees no longer come from the same geographical region as was the case years back. The workplace today is replete with employees from all walks of life with different backgrounds, religious beliefs, cultural systems, and different values. Diversity is a term representative of the differences among people in terms of age, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, mental and physical capabilities, class religion, and status (Esty, et al., 1995).

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The inevitably diversifying workplace that has resulted from globalization has brought with it benefits as well as challenges. Some workplaces experience more static due to the diversity accrued to it while others experience fewer problems due to proper managerial methods. Since the world cannot reverse globalization or its effects the diversity in the workplace that is caused by it, must be combated to compete and emerge as successful in the increasingly competitive global marketplace.

This paper is meant to:

  1. Address the core challenges faced in the workplace today, challenges that arise due to diversity, for the purpose of better management, to increase creativity, and to maximize the potential of all the employees in a workplace.
  2. Reduce rising disputes in the workplace that arise because of diversity and the magnitude of negative effects it has that compromise the performance of the entire organization.

In summary, this paper is designed to help managers to capitalize on diversity in the workplace.

Understanding the concept ‘Managing Diversity’

Managing diversity is about valuing people as individuals, as employees, customers, and clients – everyone is different (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, CIPD, 2006)

Managing diversity is a continuous process that unveils the different talents and capabilities that a diverse population brings to an organization, to establish a workplace that is beneficial, safe, embraces diversity and maximizes everybody’s full potential, such that everyone benefits (Rosado, 2006).

Managing diversity refers to a systematically planned, comprehensive managerial course of action for the development of a workplace environment where all employees, irrespective of their differences, can actively contribute toward the prosperity of the organization, and where no employee is sidelined based on aspects that are irrelevant to production (Performance Associates Limited, 2004).

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The three definitions provided all strongly suggest unification in the workplace despite personal differences. Managing diversity deals with embracing the differences in cultural background and beliefs of employees, minimizing the disputes or situations likely to lead to disputes that arise from the diversity of the employees in the workplace. The concurrence in the three definitions provided is that embracing diversity in the workplace increases productivity and creates a dignified environment for all employees to work in.

This topic is an important subject of study because the world we live in is rapidly changing and diversity must be embraced to avoid stagnation. For any substantial growth of a business entity, diversity is integral. This enables it to address the many challenges that form the hallmark of the business platform. This fact compels managers to first understand then embrace the concept of workplace diversity, its barriers, and benefits. Diversity in the workplace is a complex concept that is gradually evolving as globalization develops even further. Globalization of business is altering the workforce all over the world; it is therefore thereby imperative that diversity be effectively managed in the workplace. Managers ought to have a solid comprehension of managing diversity to be effective in steering organizations towards future business opportunities (Kenyon, 2005).

Diversity, if not properly managed in the workplaces, could spiral down to a complete lack of competitiveness in the global market, which would, in turn, lead to poor quality commodities, and a general sense of dissatisfaction by consumers. The global market would plunge into a crisis of unprecedented magnitude.

Challenges in the Contemporary Workplace

There are various diversity-related challenges faced by employees in the contemporary workplace every day. Some of these challenges include:

  1. Communication barriers
  2. Resistance of different types; Culture-based resistance, gender resistance, religious-based resistance (Mah, 2010)
  3. Miscommunication
  4. Discrimination and Stereotyping

Communication Barriers

Since employees of an organization of any kind come from different backgrounds and speak different languages, communication barriers have become a rampant challenge. An employee speaking very little English for example would find it extremely difficult to communicate with another employee who speaks fluent English. This makes communication of ideas cumbersome and almost impossible. Management could deal with this challenge by providing further English lessons for the employee who speaks little of the language to improve communication between him/ her and the rest of the workforce. This solution may seem costly at first but in foresight, the repercussions of not dealing with the challenge are much more costly, the organization may lose valuable talent and skills in letting one employee go because of inadequate language capabilities.

Above all else, communication barriers in the workplace bring about confusion, poor teamwork, and low morale among the employees, this eventually leads to reduced productivity (Greenberg, 2004).

Resistance

In any given contemporary workplace, there exists a majority group and a minority group whether in terms of gender, race, or religion. The majority group will always, by default, be opposed to most, if not all of the ideas put forward by a member of the minority group. This resistance is unhealthy for the development and progress of the organization towards meeting its goals. The resistance could be religiously based, gender-based, sexuality-based, or culture-based. This resistant nature of the majority group or sometimes minority group could be attributed to ‘ethnocentricism’; the belief that one’s culture is superior to the other person’s (Mah, 2010). Resistance at the workplace can be dealt with through inclusive participation of every employee so that none of them feels left out in any activity or in any decision-making process. When all the employees feel included in organization activities through team participation, there arises less resistance in the organization. Minimal resistance in any organization means that the decision-making process is sped up, there exists healthy teamwork and the general productivity of the employees is improved.

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Miscommunication

Miscommunication is mostly evident in workplaces that are made up of employees who speak different versions of the same language, or those employees who have different meanings for words that mean something else in the commonly spoken language in that work area. For instance, employees from different backgrounds have different unofficial languages or ‘slang’, one word for an employee may mean something completely different for the next employee. Cases that are seemingly negligible like these could eventually turn out to be a major problem when one employee misunderstands important decisions and executes an act that is completely wrong and puts the entire organization in jeopardy. The organization’s reputation could easily be put at risk due to its employee’s miscommunication.

Discrimination and Stereotyping

Discrimination implies treating unfairly those people who do not belong in the same group as we do, or maligning those people that we feel do not belong in our ‘groups’. This unfair treatment could be based along the lines of gender, sexual orientation, race, religion or sometimes nationality as well (Mor-Barak, 2005). This sort of negative attitude does not foster teamwork and unity in the work place, which are major contributory factors for great productivity at the work place. Discriminating against some employees causes, those discriminated against to lose morale at work, which in turn leads to some of them quitting and others not maximizing their full potential.

Stereotyping is attributing certain qualities, mostly negative to a specific group of people such that anybody who is seen to belong to that group is automatically labeled according to the negative attributes assigned to the group he or she belongs. This presumptuous habit is not only unfair to the other employees who are victims of stereotyping; the overall performance of the organization is also greatly affected because the employees are not unified, there is no teamwork, no sharing of ideas amongst the employees, no innovation. The employees’ creativity is put out by the lack of morale and the company misses out on possibly revolutionary ideas.

Conclusion

Diversity comes with benefits, to both employers and employees, despite the challenges it raises at workplaces. In as much as teamwork and interdependence in the workplace is encouraged, respecting each individual employee’s differences and treating them with dignity increases productivity.

Proposed Interventions

Managers should adapt sound policies that have been tried, tested and approved by other companies or organizations in an attempt to deal with the diversity in their workplaces.

  1. Short communication courses should be offered to the employees to improve their communication skills and enhance productivity through coherent sharing of ideas.
  2. Managers should find ways to include all employees in the organization’s activities and decision-making processes such that there is little resistance put up and all the minor misunderstandings are quickly resolved in a bid to move forward with the aim of achieving the organization’s goals.
  3. Discrimination and Stereotyping should be discouraged completely in the workplace by employing punitive measures for the purpose of discouraging the negative attitude in the workplace.
  4. Miscommunication in the workplace should be eliminated through the use of work seminars on improving productivity as well as communication skills.

Managers should have firm policies to see to it that these measures are not temporary but long-term measures that will ensure a notable change in the productivity of the employees.

Managers should realize just how important it is to embrace change in this rapidly growing world of globalization (Devoe, 1999). Change, which is, embracing diversity in the workplace, is the key to success for any business in the world today. This is because diversity brings with it so many positive and developmental changes in any business. A diverse workplace is ideally a hub for creative ideas and thus improvement of the quality of work of the business and the businesses’ productivity.

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Competent managers are those who know that certain skills are essential for creating a productive, diverse workforce. It is vital that managers comprehend the scope of discrimination as well as its consequences. Secondly, managers should ensure that they have an apt recognition of their personal biases (Koonce, 2001).

“Diversity is more about differences among individuals than it is about group differences. Every individual is unique and should not be seen as representative of any particular group” (Koonce, 2001, p. 31). Lastly, managers should not be adamant to change the organization if the change brings with it productivity and prosperity. Organizations must perfect diversity management to ensure future success (Flagg, 2002).

Managing diversity is an all embracing, all-inclusive course of action that creates a work environment that includes everyone (Roosevelt, 2001). Success at the workplace and flourishing businesses rely heavily on managers learning the importance of diversity and its direct proportionality to prosperity. The challenges brought about by diversity should be dealt with in order to fully reap from the benefits that come from having a diverse workforce.

A company receives more benefits when cultural differences of workers are respected. With a good management of diversity, employees benefit through equality and fairness in opportunities and challenges. The workforce must be educated on diversity and its consequences. Since workplaces today have become inevitably diverse, organizations should strive to adapt to the situation to be successful (Green, et al., 2008).

Diversity is a representation of the changing society and the market place in general. To embrace diversity and deal with the challenges it brings along is a great step towards development and progress in general. Diversity should not be overlooked. Diversity is development.

References

Devoe, D. 1999. Managing a diverse workforce. San Mateo, CA: InfoWorld Media Group.

Esty, K., Griffin, R., & Schorr-Hirsh, M. 1995. Workplace diversity. A Managers Guide to solving Problems and turning Diversity into a competitive advantage. Avon, MA: Adams Media Corporation.

Flagg, Alex. 2002. Managing diverse workgroups successfully. United BehavioralHealth website (members only section). Web.

Greenberg, J. 2004.Diversity in the Workplace: Benefits, Challenges and Solutions. Web.

Green,K.,Lopez, M.,Wysocki, A.,& Kepner, K. 2008. Diversity in the Workplace: Benefits, Challenges, and the Required Managerial Tools.Web

Kenyon, A. 2005.The Importance of Diversity in the Workplace. Web.

Koonce, R. 2001. Re-defining diversity: It’s not just the right thing to do; It also makes good business sense. Training and Development.

Mah, E. 2010.The Challenges of Diversity in the Workplace. Web.

Mor-Barak, M.E. 2005. Managing Diversity: toward a globally inclusive Workplace. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE.

Rooselvet T., 2001. Elements of a successful “diversity” process. The American Institute for Managing Diversity. Web.

Rosado, C.2006. What Do We Mean By “Managing Diversity”? Web.

Appendix

Interview between the Manager and Researcher

Researcher: What do you think is the significance of diversity in your organization?

Manager: First and foremost, diversity strengthens the team of employees in this organization; in that, it brings people from all walks of life to work together with the aim of achieving a specific goal.

Researcher: You have mentioned bringing people from all walks of life together. Does your organization have employees from different countries?

Manager: Yes. This also means that there is an interaction of a diversity of cultures. This thus calls for effective skills in cross-cultural management.

Researcher: So you have brought in the issue of culture diversity and cross-cultural management. Do you face any challenges in handling these issues?

Manager: There are a whole lot of challenges in managing cross-cultures; the first is inequality. With employees coming from different cultures, there are bound to be complaints about some being sidelined. We therefore handle this issue by treating all employees as equals and the supervisors ensure that all company policies are adhered to disregarding employee nationality.

Researcher: What other challenges do you face?

Manager: There have also arisen issues of racial discrimination, stereotyping and communication barriers. Such issues are what prompted management to introduce the harassment policy that would take care of such cases.

Researcher: What other diversity issues arise in your work place and how do you deal with them?

Manager: Issues of competency and level of education. The management has introduced a training program for employees that seem to have insufficient skills in their area of work in order to make them competent and more productive, hence improve the performance of the workplace. I believe these are the major challenges that have been brought about by diversity in our workplace.

Researcher: The information you have provided has been helpful. Thank you.

Manager: Any time.

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