Managing Diversity in the Workplace

Managing Diversity in the Workplace

To be diverse is to differ from one another or to be composed of distinct or unlike elements or qualities. This can be a difference in race, religion, culture, mental or physical abilities, heritage, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or other characteristics. Our textbook describes diversity as characteristics of individuals that shape their identities and the experiences they have in society. It is very important to understand how the different dimensions of individuals affect performance, motivation, interactions with others, and overall success. Diverse individuals are welcomed and considered to be a strength in organizations today.

Diversity not only involves how people perceive themselves, but how they perceive others as well. These perceptions affect employee interaction, and for a diverse assortment of employees to function effectively as an organization, supervisors need to deal with the issues that accompany diversity. Managing diversity is to promote the inclusion and create an environment where all opinions are valued and every individual can reach his full potential. Diversity in the workplace can be a liability; but if managed properly can be a huge asset.

Diversity begins with the hiring process. Companies/Firms should make sure that good faith efforts are made to create a large diverse pool of applicants, they should ensure that appropriate accommodations are made for disabled applicants, they should
specify the need for skills to be able to work in a diverse environment, and always be sure that the hiring committee is a diverse one. Promoting diversity within organizations offer supervisors more opportunity to make the perfect fit between the employee and the job. Ethical considerations encourage supervisors to seek many kinds of diversity within his department/team.

There are many advantages that come from diversity in the workplace. Some of these advantages include a broader service range, greater innovation, new and diverse insight, different approaches to task, creative collaboration, and a team with enhanced communication skills. A more diverse staff also more closely resembles the real world and real markets; they bring values, life experiences, and world views to the organization.

A team as a whole can benefit from a supervisors successful efforts in managing a team with diversity, that is why any barriers that exist in a workplace should be examined, challenged, and removed.

Diversity in the workplace can have a profound impact on the corporate culture, or the beliefs and norms that have governed organizational behavior in a workplace. There are many challenges that may arise when working with a group of diverse people. Barriers in communication, supervisors and employees unwillingness to change, and implementation of diversity in workplace policies are some of the main challenges.

The role of a supervisor in the workplace is very important when it comes to properly managing diverse employees. Supervisors need to be sensitive and need to realize that there is no easy recipe for handling diversity. They also need to recognize how valuable all employees are and need to learn how to use diversity as an advantage to work

collaboratively and in turn be more productive. Supervisors should be willing to change their perspective and change the institutional practices that present barriers to different groups. They should also take the time to learn about the skills, knowledge, and backgrounds of all their employees. By doing so, this allows supervisors to find the differences and similarities in the cultures of their staff and build from there.

Ignoring the issues that may follow diversity can cost time, money, and efficiency. There are many consequences that can be received such as unhealthy tensions, the inability to attract and retain talented people from all cultures, complaints and legal actions, loss of productivity, and the inability to retain valuable employees. There will always be employees who will refuse to accept the fact that the social and cultural makeup of the workplace is changing; it is up to the supervisors to be role models and help bridge the cultural gap.

Management tools in a diverse environment should be used to educate everyone about diversity and its issues, including laws and regulations. Most workplaces are made up of diverse cultures, so organizations need to learn how to adapt to be successful.
Its is quite important for supervisors to dedicate time to bond as a team, holding team sessions can be a valuable time to discuss ideas or values, or where people can discuss their culture, heritage, or history. It is important not only for the supervisor to be aware of the diversity that exist, but also that co-workers are aware as well. It is the responsibility of the supervisor to open the door to understanding.

Communication is an area in which Supervisors can be particularly good role models of managing diversity. Communication both verbally and nonverbally differ from one culture to another such as the Japanese valuing the ability to be physically still or

Bulgarians nodding their heads to say No while shaking their heads to say Yes. Americans tend to smile at everyone while in Germany smiles are reserved only for friends; Whites in North America interpret eye contact as a sign of honesty while in many other cultures, eyes are dropped as a sign of respect. These are just a few differences in the many cultures that we all work with. It is unreasonable to expect that a supervisor can become an expert in all cultures, but he should be cognizant before interacting both, verbally or nonverbally; as we don’t all convey what we mean in the same way. Avoidance of slang and idioms and explaining technical jargon can also help boost communication. Ineffective communication with key objectives can result in confusion, lack of team work, and low morale; this is why perceptual, cultural, and language barriers must be overcome.
Communicating with employees whose primary language is not English is a huge barrier in the workplace. Supervisors need to make an extra effort to assure that the employees can understand directions, rules, warnings, and expectations. Supervisors need to be sure that there are multilingual and bilingual employees to act as interpreters, that all information is printed and translated into the employees languages, that there are printed diagrams and pictures throughout the workplace, and should continually educate themselves on the cultures of immigrant employees. .

To fully benefit from having a diverse workforce, supervisors need to ensure that cultural differences are viewed as positive by all employees. Formal diversity training,

such as two-three day workshops can be helpful in raising awareness in the workplace. These programs are often credited to increasing sensitivity to the differences among people and reducing barriers such as prejudice and stereotyping. Improved communication skills, improved interpersonal and technical skills, and facilitating mentoring are all common goals of diversity training. Supervisors also need to focus on self-awareness and need to be aware of their own personal biases and prejudices.

A very important issue that supervisors need to be aware of are legal implications that may arise if employees feel that there is prejudice or discrimination in the workplace. Supervisors/ Managers must be knowledgeable of discrimination and prejudices and its consequences.
The Civil rights Act of 1964 was created by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; it bars discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The Age Discrimination in Employers Act of 1967 bars discrimination of those forty years old and older because of age. There are many Acts to help protect the diverse individuals in the workplace; however, as helpful and necessary as these are they can make supervising a workplace increasingly difficult. Some things that may be seen as completely innocent by one individual may be seen as discriminatory by another. It is crucial that all people be treated with the utmost respect in every situation and also that they know their voices are being heard as well.

Supervisors must hold all employees accountable if they suspect that there have been any acts of discrimination committed. All companies should have and implement a zero tolerance policy towards discrimination and prejudices.

Most people believe in following the golden rule: treat others as you would like to be treated. This implies that everyone wants to be treated the same. In a world where there is no diversity this rule would apply all the time; however, that is not that the case. Different cultures view respect in many different ways. So to be safe and respectful, employees should always abide by the platinum rule: treat others as to how they would like to be treated. In order for Supervisors and employees to be knowledgeable as to
how others would like to be treated, we must take the time and effort to question and try to understand one another. Supervisors need to be aware that although we are all different in one way or another we all serve the same purpose; that is to be a integral part of the company/organization.

The most important thing for supervisors and employees to remember when working with a culturally diverse staff is that it can be an exciting opportunity to grow, learn, and to develop a better understanding of this diverse world of which we all live. A diverse team is an integrated team; everyone can learn from one another to achieve a goal that benefits all; not to mention improve the overall atmosphere of the workplace.

As the economy becomes increasingly global, our work environment becomes more and more diverse. Organizational success and competitiveness will depend on the ability to manage diversity in the workplace efficiently and effectively. Supervisors should evaluate your organization’s diversity policies and plan for the future, starting today.