The aspect of globalization has required organizations to embrace diversity in the workforce since the expertise they need to meet their goals are found in people from diverse cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds. Consequently, the work place today is characterized by a mixture of workers of different genders, religion, social class, sex and cultural beliefs. Diversity can thus be defined as the differences that are found in people but which play a critical role in shaping the organizational culture for guiding the operations of an organization (Smith, Miller, Archer, & Hague, n.d).
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Most companies in the past 35 years have come to appreciate the essence of adopting a corporate culture in order to attract as well as retain workforce that is competitive. The evolution of diversity in the workplace has been characterized by a shift from the belief that new hires must conform to the existing culture of an organization. The current trend has saw companies recognize and live to the fact that cultural diversity is essential. Therefore, they must be keen to ensure that employees learn to appreciate and respect each other's culture, religion, gender, sex or social class. This recognition has worked to the advantage of those organizations which value and know how to manage diversity effectively. However, diversity has not come without its challenges. This has required managers to adopt appropriate approaches to manage this diversity in order to realize the benefits which comes with it (McCormick, 2007).
One of the challenges which managers face and, which still lie ahead of a diverse workforce, is the lack of realization of the essential tools for managing diversity. Acknowledgment of the differences in employees without recognizing the value with which these differences carry cannot work to the anticipated outcomes. The other challenge is in devising mechanisms of resolving conflicts and combating various forms of discrimination, as well as, promotion of inclusiveness. The essence of putting in place the necessary mechanisms of managing diversity is found in the fact that, with diversity, the workforce is likely to experience lower cohesiveness as a result of lack of similarity in culture. In addition, misunderstandings and errors in communication may cause conflicts in teams or groups thus derailing the accomplishment of tasks or projects (Kepner, Wysocki, López, & Green, 2009).
Employees from different cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds may have low familiarity or contact since they come from different countries or regions in the world. This low familiarity can trigger tension and mistrust if there are any misunderstandings between them. The other challenge is that of stereotyping in which some individuals or groups may have a generalized and strong perception or notion about their fellow employees belonging to a different culture. Rather than looking at the contributions, aspirations, motivations and capabilities of their team members, stereotypes give a negative perception which affects how people are treated (Smith, Miller, Archer, & Hague, n.d).
Therefore, it is clear that diversity in the workplace has been accompanied by various challenges, which if not constantly and promptly addressed, they have the potential to compromise the effectiveness of team work and consequently, dismal performance of organizations. However, managers and other leaders in organizations can adopt certain approaches in order to tackle these hurdles. Managers must first of all have an understanding of discrimination and the consequences it harbors. They must also have a grip of the fact that differences among individuals rather than differences among groups is what diversity is all about. Therefore, individuals cannot speak for or represent a particular group as each person is unique (Kepner, Wysocki, López, & Green, 2009).
Based on the dynamics of teamwork and workplace in general, managers must choose the best approach for managing diversity. There should be the creation of an environment which facilitates dialogue in which every team member is given a chance to speak and be listened. The best avenues for communication and dialogue are business meetings and social gatherings in which associates are involved. Implementation of policies including mentoring programs is critical in enabling associates have access and gather vital information in the form of feedback to facilitate the formulation of strategies for tackling burning issues while at the same time encouraging success (Kepner, Wysocki, López, & Green, 2009).
The importance of practicing and promoting better communication cannot be overemphasized. Managers ought to learn several central things about communication. The style of communication used should fit the situation and the language should foster trust and integration. Clear and fair communication is as important as learning to listen carefully to what others have to say about different issues. Discussions about the meaning and benefits of diversity in relation to the organizational needs ought to be encouraged among employees. Such forums should also promote personal acquaintance in order to promote trust among members from diverse cultures. A close attention to the style of communication is vital for managers since how something is said may be more important than what is said (Smith, Miller, Archer, & Hague, n.d).
Diversity in the workplace has evolved gradually over the past 35 with many organizations making a major shift towards corporate culture in order to attract competitive work force. Factors such as gender, sex, social class, culture and religion affect relationships in the work place since they form the basis of values that shape different personalities. Challenges of a diverse workforce include low cohesiveness, mistrust and tension, and stereotyping. Approaches for managing diversity should lay emphasis on understanding the meaning and consequences of discrimination, encouraging dialogue and forums that create awareness about diversity and promote a culture of clear and fair communication.