Cultural diversity impacts

Cultural Diversity impacts the workplace in a variety of positive and negative ways. Examining how communication is affected by this diversity and the degree of its impact.


People and the organisation:

Today's workforce is made up of many types of people. Organisations can no longer assume that every employee has similar beliefs or expectations. Organizations exist to serve human needs. An organisation is only effective as the people who operate it. People are considered the most important resource in any organisation. They are the basic foundation of an organization and the basic unit of change within organisation. The human resource approach focuses on the interaction between people and the organization. If communication between employees is poor, organisation will suffer. When coordination and interaction within the organisation is good, both employees and business will benefit.

Cultural Diversity:

Cultural diversity is the variety of human societies or cultures in a specific region, or in the world as a whole. It is also referred to multiculturalism within an organization. Obvious cultural differences exist between people, such as language, dress and traditions, there are also significant variations in the way societies organize themselves, in their shared conception of morality, and in the ways they interact with their environment.


Diversity in the Workplace:

Workplace diversity refers to the division of the workforce into distinction categories that have a perceived commonality within a given cultural or national context and that impact potentially harmful or beneficial employment outcomes such as job opportunities, treatment in the workplace and promotion prospects, irrespective of job related skills and qualifications. Diversity can be defined differently by different cultures and organisations. A view of business, organisation and human resource literature produced three types of definitions of diversity: 1). Narrow category-based definition (e.g. gender, racial or ethnic differences); 2). broad category-based definition (e.g. a long list of categories including such variables as marital status and education); and conceptual rule definition that is based on variety of perspectives, differences in perceptions and actions. Some of the distinction categories may either have a positive or negative impact on employment and job prospects in different countries. Against the backdrop of broad definitions, on the one hand, and the narrow ones on the other, generating a definition of workplace diversity that will be relevant and applicable in different cultures proves to be a challenge. Workplace diversity focused on the similarities and differences of the people that they bring to an organization. It is usually defined broadly to include dimensions which influence the identities and perspectives that employees have such as profession, education and geographic location. As a concept, diversity is considered to be inclusive of everyone. Diversity initiatives create the workplace environment and organizational culture by making differences work. It is about teaching and learning from others who are different, it is about dignity and respect for all, and about creating workplace environments and practices that encourage learning from others and capture the advantage of diverse perspectives. Most scholars agree that diversity in the workplace utilizes employee skills to the fullest and contributes to the overall growth and prosperity of the organisation. It is based on the idea identities should not be discarded or ignored, but instead, should be maintained and valued.


Managing Diversity:

To succeed in managing workforce that is increasingly diverse and multinational, managers need knowledge about cultural differences and similarities among people from different backgrounds. They also need to be sensitive to these differences that can contribute to their effectiveness in cross cultural communication. In today's global business world, a manager has to understand cultural differences and their meanings in business relations. The manager who manages diversity should understand that diversity includes every employee. It is a challenge to successfully apply skills, energy, and commitment of employees to make an organization better. It is of primary importance that the manager understands the cultural beliefs and values of the organisation for effectively managing diversity. These beliefs and values group together to create an environment that employee perceive as supportive or not supportive of diversity. Within all organizations there are culturally supportive and non supportive people, policies, and informal structures.

Managers should carefully plan and implement organisational systems and practices to manage employees so that the potential advantages of diversity are maximised and disadvantages minimized. It should be the policy of the company not to engage in discrimination against or harassment of any person on the basis of race, colour, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, pregnancy, physical or mental disability, ancestry, marital status, age, sexual orientation or citizenship. This policy apply to all employment practices, including recruitment, selection, promotion, transfer, merit increase, salary, training and development, demotion, and separation.

The organisations need to understand and accept cultural and communication differences, show respect, empathise and be flexible to communication issues in the workforce environment. It should be knowledgeable about ethical issues and understand values, communicate decisions regarding these issues to employees and keep communication channels open for all employees to feedback information without fear and revenge. Organisation should adapt the policies that directly or indirectly affect the diversity issues. It is important how the organisation addresses and responds to problems that arise from diversity. It must reflect its stance on diversity in its mission statement. If the mission statement articulates a clear and direct commitment to diversity, everyone who comes into contact with that mission statement will grow to understand and accept the importance of diversity. Organisations can also manage diversity through a variety of ongoing practices.


Impacts of diversity on workplace environment:

Workplace diversity provides strengths as well as offer challenges to the organisation. Cultural diversity is meaningful. It helps employees to learn from each other, to understand each other's differences. Cultural diversity affects the businesses in many ways including the staff recruitment/retention, management styles and decision-making processes, and relationships within organizations. Cultural diversity often improves and develops workplace by helping as learning experiences for employers as well as employees. On the other hand, diversity issues costs money, time and efficiency. If not managed properly it can create problems. Some of the consequences can include unhealthy tensions between employees or with management; loss of business performance and productivity because of increased conflict; inability to attract and retain talented people of all kinds; complaints and legal actions; and inability to retain valuable employees, resulting in lost investments in recruitment and training.


Communication:

People from different cultures bring different set of assumptions about appropriate ways to coordinate and communicate in an organisation. Communication in its most basic form is defined as the use of symbols to convey meanings. Managers who manage diversity need to be sensitive to cultural differences that can contribute to the effectiveness in cross cultural communication. Cross cultural communication involves several potential barriers to communication that are related to the use of verbal and non-verbal methods to convey meanings that may or may not be the same in the cultures of origin of the participants. Often the message that is communicated, maybe different from the one that was intended because of cultural barriers. The use of different languages often creates barrier to communication because one or both sides are not articulate as they could be in their native tongue. Linguistic diversity is an important aspect of global diversity. Managing a workforce that does not share a common language can present a major challenge to both employees and management.

A diverse workforce poses various communication challenges to an organisation. Misunderstandings, inaccuracies, inefficiencies and slowness are typical communication problems experienced by diverse groups. Communication breakdowns occur when members often assume that the other party understands the message when in fact they do not. Communication problems due to diversity may become magnified because people are afraid or otherwise unwilling to discuss openly about the issues.


References:

Henderson, G. (2001), Cultural Diversity in the workplace: issues and strategies, Praeger Publishing.

Mor-Barak, M. (2005), Diversity: toward a globally inclusive workplace, SAGE Publishers.

Golembiewski, R.T. (2000), Managing diversity in organisation, University of Alabama Press.

Jackson, S.E. (1999), Diversity in the workplace: Human Resource Initiatives, Guilford Press.

Griffin, R and Hirsch, M.S. (1995), Workplace diversity, Adams Media.

Konard, A. Prasad, P. and Pringle, J. (2006), Handbook of workplace diversity, SAGE Publishrs.

Stockdale, M. and Crosby, F. (2004), The psychology and management of workplace diversity, Wiley-Blackwell.

Thiederman, S. (2008), Making diversity work: 7 steps for defeating bias in the workplace, Kaplan Publishing.

Albrecht, M.H. (2001), International HRM: managing diversity in the workplace Wiley-Blackwell.

 

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