Organizational cultural diversity is a set of beliefs and values or understandings which are held by different people in the organization. It is also a structure of forms of perceiving, evaluating, believing, and acting. This serves to bring a relationship between different communities and the environmental settings. (Christopher, 2006)
Every organization always has a central culture that guides its operations and its various departments have got a mixture of cultures that are observed by people in those departments. However, the diversity of the culture in the organization does affect the operations of the organization in one way or the other. Cultural diversity in organizations results in many ways of carrying out duties in the organization and which might not be in line with the organization’s mission or vision. It is therefore crucial for managers to understand the amount of cultural variation that exists in their organizations. Over some time organizations leaders particularly managers do attempt to harmonize or even change the diverse culture in their organization to fit the one they prefer.
This is only possible to achieve if the manager has a complete and thorough understanding of the different cultures that are in his organization. The culture deemed fit by the manager is afterward used in processes of decision making and the styles of managing different issues are influenced by that culture. Some elements of culture left behind by the manager and which are still held by individuals may be a stumbling block in organizational change and styles of carrying out different activities in the organization. A manager is therefore required to have a complete understanding of the different cultures in his /her organization so that no element of a certain culture is left behind when he/she decides to harmonize them to come up with an acceptable culture in the organization will guide its operations. (Christopher, 2006)
Understanding Cultural Diversity
In most organizations, excellence is greatly contributed by the organizational culture, and leadership plays the role of creation as well as managing that culture. Understanding and interpreting an organization’s cultural diversity is vital to the consultants and managers because it affects productivity, development, and learning at all levels of the organization. Cultural diversity can either constrain or enable what an organization can do. The manager categorically classifies the diverse culture in the organization as those that can enable change to take place and those that are so rigid and can hinder the process. With this in mind, the manager can slowly ensure that the culture that can hinder the process of change fades away with time and he/she remains with the one that can trigger and enable change to take place. Organizational change becomes a key feature of organizational culture because of the dynamism and everyday inventions that take place globally. An organization has to be dynamic and flexible enough to accommodate any change that occurs.
This is only possible if the culture in the organization is also flexible enough and is ready to let go of the usual way they are used to in carrying out different activities in the organization. Another reason why the manager needs to understand the variation in culture in the organization is that the survival of any organization in the long term is determined by the culture it has, mostly in unpredictable industries. (Sally, 2003) By understanding cultural diversity, a manager in the organization can evaluate why any change he initiates does not take place or take a long time to be implemented. He is also able to know why a project fails after it has been initiated and this information can help him in changing the culture that he/she sees as a liability to the organization in creating barriers to change, create barriers to acquisitions and mergers, and finally barriers to diversity. This would mean retaining and attracting employees whose cultural affiliations encourage the progress of the organization and driving away those without a favorable culture that does not encourage, reward, and challenge them. Understanding organization culture diversity for a new manager is essential because it enables him/her to successfully offer direction mainly when the direction is different from what people were used to.
The manager can establish whether the existing cultures will cause staff to be reluctant or passive in accepting the change or will they be active and be ready to accept change. He/she can determine the perception of the employees regarding the culture in place. The manager is also able to determine where disconnection arises between the values, mission of the organization and the cultures in the organization. (Sally, 2003) The disconnect may be brought by cultures held by employees that prevent them to be creative in their service to customers as required by the mission statement of the organization. Some cultural beliefs disempower employees and their capacity to perform and accept any other culture that might come their way and change their usual ways of doing different duties. In understanding cultural diversity, the manager can avoid oversimplifying or confuse culture with other items that come with it such as values, climate, and corporate philosophy. Trying to change these variables without understanding the cultural diversity behind them would prove futile because culture determines those variables.
The manager can avoid labeling cultural diversity as only a human aspect of the organization that affects the human beings and get to know that cultural diversity has an impact that stretches beyond people as it affects and influences the organization’s goals and missions. The manager is also able to understand that it is not possible to maneuver culture diversity as he can do to other organizational aspects. This is because the diverse cultures are embedded and controlled by the members of the organization and therefore it might end up controlling the manager instead of him having control over it. The mangers understanding of the organizational culture diversity enables him/her to also come up with measures that can be used to transform it in trying to achieve strategic outcomes. What should remain is left and what should be transformed is transformed. It is important to know that diversity has major effects on the functioning of the organization. As a result, the manager can be able to bring out a distinction between the elements that are important and give much focus on such elements instead of dealing with those that are of little value to the organization. The combined pool of knowledge that is brought by diversity in culture in the organization and which seems to be functional according to the organizational goals and objectives may pose significant difficulties to the managers when trying to bring changes in various aspects of the organization. This is because the pool of collective knowledge shared by different employees who have variations in cultures hides the weaknesses of those cultures and makes one believe that it is good for the organization.
Employees establish their standards and take them as the right paths far from the organizational culture. The manager through his/her understanding of the cultural diversity in the organization can dig deeper to know subcultures in the organization that may have been created by employees in their various departments and which would be detrimental in observing the overall organizational culture. It should be understood that deviation from the functional organizational culture results in conflicts of interest and managers will therefore strive to ensure that cultural diversity does not result in negative outcomes. Another great importance in understanding the cultural diversity of the organization lies in the fact that the objectives of the organization are superior to any individual culture. If the cultural diversity does not add or drive towards meeting the objectives of the organization then such diversity is downgrading and need to be disregarded by the manager. (George, 2002) Since the key role of organizational culture is to offer differentiation between an organization from others and also offer its members a sense of identity, a manager has to understand whether cultural diversity in his/her organization has negative or positive effects on this role of organizational culture. In support of this, a questionnaire showing the views of 10 managers regarding organizational culture diversity is attached below.
- Do you have any elements of cultural diversity in your organization?
- Yes 10
- No 0
- Do you see it vital to understand the cultural diversity that is in your organization?
- Yes 10
- No 0
- Why is it important to you? ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
- Is there a need to harmonize these cultures so as to capitalize on the strength of the diversity to achieve the organizational objectives? Explain……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
- Has diversity in organizational culture in your organization had any negative effects?
- Yes 10
- No 0
- Which are these effects?
- Conflicting interests
- Barrier to various changes in the organization
- After your experience in an organization with diverse culture would you prefer such an environment in future appointments?
- Yes 5
- No 5.
Work Cited Source
Christopher, P. and Soon, Ang, J. CQ: Developing Cultural Intelligence at Work, London: Stanford University Press, 2006.
George, F. Cultural Diversity Field book, New York: Peterson’s/Pacesetter Books 1996.
George, Henderson. Cultural Diversity in the Workplace: Issues and Strategies, London: Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated, 2002.
Sally, J. Walton. Cultural Diversity in the Workplace, New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003.