Diversity at the Workplace: Problem and Importance

Abstract

American society is highly diversified because of the massive immigration of people from various parts of the world. This diversity is reflected in workplaces as people from different social backgrounds find themselves in the same working environment. Many people have considered this diversity as an issue that causes employees to classify themselves into ethnic groups. This should not be the case.

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Diversity is something that cannot be avoided in society because even members of the same family do not share views on various issues about life. For this reason, the best way of approaching workplace diversity is to consider all employees and other stakeholders as members of a large family. In such large families, people may differ in opinion or way of life, but they share the need to achieve the overall success of the family. The diversity should be considered strength than enables the organization to understand and satisfy the diversified needs of the employees in the market. It should offer the organization an opportunity to address different issues from different a perspective for a great success.

Introduction

The United States of America is one of the most diversified nations in the world. The country is home to people from various parts of the world with different socio-cultural beliefs and practices. This diversity in society is strongly presented in various places of work. According to Gröschl (2011), many corporations have experienced cases where their employees have diversified social and cultural beliefs that define their lifestyle and behavior within the firm. It came to my knowledge that there has been a problem of diversity at the workplace. Employees within the firm come from different backgrounds, making the culture within the workplace.

Some of the employees do not take the issue of diversification seriously, and for this matter, they can easily fit in the different contexts within the workplace. However, a section of the employees has rigidly defined culture that dictates every action they make. The problem with this rigid group is that they are not tolerant of people who practice cultures different from theirs. It is common to see such individuals forming groups that are defined along ethnic lines or religious beliefs. Most of these people believe that their culture is superior to others. This makes them look down upon other groups within the workplace. This attitude does slow not only the pace and quality of work amongst employees but also breeds hatred that may affect the relationship of employees within the organization. There is a need to address this issue of diversity within this organization in order to eliminate its negative effects. This proposal seeks to find the best approach that can be used to address the issue of diversity in the workplace.

Discussion

The problem of diversity in the workplace

Organizations across the world increasingly find themselves in scenarios where they have to deal with the problem of diversity in the workplace. Firms are currently focused on hiring highly skilled employees who can help them address various challenges in the market. A new trend is emerging where companies do not give considerations to one’s culture or social beliefs when hiring employees. They focus on the qualities held by the individuals and their relevance to the organization in addressing various issues. Shakhray (2009) says that American society has one of the most diversified socio-cultural environments because of the massive immigration of people from all parts of the world. These people stay in the same environment but have retained different cultures that make their beliefs and practices a little different (Paludi, 2012).

For instance, Blacks and Whites have stayed together in this society for the last three hundred years. However, there is still a huge difference in the socio-cultural practices of Blacks and Whites in this society. Although American culture is bringing people’s social practices closer, it is still a fact that uniformity is yet to be achieved.

People are still immigrating to the United States from various parts of the world. This means that they are coming with new cultural beliefs and social practices that are unique to their home countries. Consequently, it becomes even more complex to have a universal culture within this society. It becomes very difficult to make Americans have the same belief and practice a similar culture that is universally accepted. According to Albrecht (2001), even among specific groups such as the Whites, there are other issues that create diversity among them, such as religion. The Islamic culture is very different from that of the Christians.

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Among Christians, the practices of the Catholics differ from that of the Seventh Day Adventists. As long as religion remains a factor in this society, diversity will still be experienced in society and the workplace. Organizations’ performances are always affected in cases where people fail to deal with the issue of diversity in the workplace (Thomas, 2005). For this reason, it is the responsibility of the management of the firm and all the relevant stakeholders to appreciate the need to address the issue of diversity.

Understanding the importance of diversity

It is clear that an organization cannot achieve success if it is unable to address the issue of diversity among its employees. Diversity can only be a problem if it is viewed as such by the relevant stakeholders. For instance, the difference in religious beliefs should never be viewed as a point that brings division within an organization. Instead, it can be a source of strength that a firm may have to address some of the problems that make it less competitive in the market. The management can take advantage of this issue of religious diversity to address the issue of assigning allocate tasks, especially those who work for overtime on weekends.

Muslims or Seventh Day Adventists may not have a problem coming to work on Sundays. Catholics or Anglicans can easily work for overtime on Saturdays. This means that, on any particular day of the week, the human resource unit can structure its work schedule in a way that it does not lack employees on the ground of religious beliefs. The firm can operate for seven days a week without infringing on its employees’ religious beliefs. In this way, the diversified religious beliefs will be acting as the strength of the firm, and not a reason that divides employees.

In the current business environment, creativity means everything to an organization. Firms are under pressure to come up with new, improved products, or better ways of making their productions in order to save time and reduce costs (Brislin, 2008). This is the only way that a firm can manage to address stiff competition in the market. Stakeholders should start viewing diversity as an opportunity that the firm has to come up with different thoughts when addressing some of the issues which require creativity. A firm that employs Hispanics, Whites, Blacks, Indians, and other American social groups may find it easy to meet the diversified needs of the market. Each employee can help identify the preferred tastes and preferences of his or her social groups. This way, the production unit will know how to design its products in different ways to meet the varying needs. These social groups will also be helpful when defining the best approaches to use when marketing new products.

According to Estlund (2003), the marketing strategy that is used to reach out to the youth is very different from that used to approach the elderly population. In some cases, it may be necessary to reach out to the two categories of customers with a specific message. In such scenarios, having a diversified group of employees in terms of age will be very beneficial. The younger generation of employees may be given the duty of developing appropriate messages for their peers, while the elderly employees will be responsible for developing the message for the elderly population. The two approaches can then be integrated to have a message that is appealing to the youth and elderly population. This is a massive strength of diversity and not a negating factor.

Corporations have been under pressure to explore the global market in an increasingly competitive market today.

The global market helps firms to find alternative markets to support their increased production. However, Hicks (2003) says that going global has so many challenges that may affect the success of the firm in such a new market. One of the biggest challenges that these firms face in such processes is the need to have employees who understand the organizational culture at the parent firm. In most cases, firms desire to have part of their current team’s head, such as overseas plants.

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However, this may be problematic if their current employees do not understand the environment of such new markets or do not identify with the society. At this point, diversity may be of great help to the firm. It is easier for a firm to send a Saudi Arabian employee to manage its branch in Saudi Arabia than to send a Briton. If the firm had a Saudi Arabian as one of its employees, it would be easy to allocate the task of leading the market entry into this country to him or her. Given that he or she has the knowledge of society, the need to conduct expensive training on employees will be eliminated. The firm will have employees who understand its organizational culture and also knows about the culture and social practices in this country.

Addressing the problem of diversity in the workplace

It is clear from the above discussion that diversity in the workplace should not be viewed as a problem because it offers a lot of benefits to the organization. However, it is important to appreciate that many employees still view this diversity as the basis of forming groups along religious or ethnic lines. After understanding the importance of diversity in the workplace, it is necessary to discuss direct ways of addressing the problem of diversity. This way, the firm will be able to change the negative thinking about diversity. According to Thomas (2005), this issue can be addressed from two broad perspectives. The first approach will involve an initiative by the management unit of the firm. The second approach will be an initiative by the employees themselves.

The management has a role to play in fighting ethnicity or other social vices that are related to diversity in the workplace. It has various ways through which it can address the issues emanating from the diversity of employees. One of the best ways of doing this can be in the process of assigning duties to the employees.

Human resource management should ensure that when assigning duties, members of different social, cultural, religious, and age groups work as a team. This way, it becomes possible for people of different social backgrounds to understand one another. The younger generation will be able to understand why the older generation like behaving in a given way, and vice versa. This way, the two groups will appreciate the differences that exist between them. It becomes easy for them to respect one another in such contexts. Similarly, when Muslims are assigned given tasks alongside Christians, the two groups will get to know each other, and appreciate the differences that exist between them. The same will take place when Blacks work alongside the Whites, and Hispanics alongside the Indians.

The benefit of this constant interaction is that some of the negative myths of any social group could be addressed, and the suspicion eliminated. For instance, there is a general belief among most Americans that Muslims, especially those from the Middle East, are terrorists. This is a negative stereotype that may affect the relationship between employees within the firm. When allowed to work together, they get to share and address such fears. The more they interact, the more they will realize that they share several beliefs and practices. They will realize that forces that pull them together are stronger than forces that push them apart. This way, there will be an integration of different cultures, and diversity will no longer be an issue.

According to the research by Hicks (2003), the best way through which diversity can be addressed is by developing a strong organizational culture. This research holds that most of the successful companies around the world have very strong organizational cultures. The organizational culture defines how employees should address different tasks as individuals and as a team. In many successful organizations, employees are always forced to ignore their social and cultural practices and embrace an organizational culture that defines them as employees of that particular organization. This way, they must behave like people who share the same work culture, without letting any other demographical factors define their actions.

The organizational culture will help eliminate any form of discrimination or misconception that may be based on ethnic or religious lines. The management should also consider coming up with diversity training programs to enable their employees to understand how they can manage the issue of diversity.

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On their side, employees should view themselves as members of the same family. They should fight the culture of discrimination and embrace the need to be integrated people with the same goal of making their organization successful. They should be tolerant of diversified views of their peers, and embrace the need to help others understand their different points of view.

Conclusion

The issue of diversity in the workplace has affected the productivity of employees within the organization that employs me. The same problem has been experienced in several other organizations across this country. Many people prefer identifying themselves on the basis of their culture, religion, age, social status, or any other demographical classes. Although this may not be considered a crime, it has the potential of polarizing employees along such demographical lines that may affect their ability to integrate.

Employees who successfully get integrated within a firm have the potential of working as a team to achieve good results on various projects. The diversity in the workplace should always be viewed as a strength that makes the organization able to achieve success even in the face of prevailing challenges. This is so because it offers an organization an opportunity to approach various issues from different angles. Diversity offers a diversified approach to carry out different tasks within a firm. It also plays a crucial role in enabling the firms to understand the diversity in the marketplace.

Recommendations

It has been demonstrated that diversity at the workplace should not be viewed as a dividing factor within an organization, but rather as a strength that enables an organization to achieve greater success for various reasons. In order to address the issue of diversity, the following recommendations should be observed.

  • The management unit should develop a strong organizational culture that would help integrate employees and dispel any ethnic or religious discrimination.
  • When assigning employees duties, it is important for the management to develop a diversified team where people of all ethnic, religious, or other demographical classifications are well represented.
  • The management should resist the temptation to employ or avoid employing people of particular social groups.
  • The management should develop diversity training programs to enhance the ability of their employees to understand their work environment.
  • Employees should avoid discriminative cultures that define them along ethnic or religious lines.

References

Albrecht, M. H. (2001). International HRM: Managing diversity in the workplace. Oxford: Blackwell. Web.

Brislin, R. W. (2008). Working with cultural differences: Dealing effectively with diversity in the workplace. Westport: Praeger. Web.

Estlund, C. (2003). Working together: How workplace bonds strengthen a diverse democracy. New York: Oxford University Press. Web.

Gröschl, S. (2011). Diversity in the workplace: Multi-disciplinary and international perspectives. Farnham, Surrey: Gower. Web.

Hicks, D. A. (2003). Religion and the workplace: Religion, spirituality, leadership. Cambridge: University Press. Web.

Paludi, M. A. (2012). Managing diversity in today’s workplace: Strategies for employees and employers. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. Web.

Shakhray, I. (2009). Managing diversity in the workplace: Seminar paper. Nordersteadt: Grin Verlag. Web.

Thomas, K. M. (2005). Diversity dynamics in the workplace. Australia: Wadsworth. Web.

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