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Workplace Diversity


The highly global scenario of the world is demanding more interaction and collaboration among the people from highly diverse cultures, beliefs, personalities and backgrounds than ever before. The severe competition coming from nearly every continent is making the workplace one of the parts of a world economy; people are no longer live and work an insular marketplace. That is why organizations are becoming diverse in order to be more innovative, and flexible to change. One of the hot issues for today's management is how to maximize and capitalize on workplace diversity.


Recognizing , encouraging , understanding and valuing the differences among the people on the basis of culture, age, class, ethnic grouping , gender, physical and mental ability, race, sexual orientation, religion , and public assistance status (Esty, et al., 1995).

Today, traditional view of diversity that once focused primarily on gender and race has changed now and reflects the broader perspective of diverse workplace (Anonymous 1998).

Definition of diversity in a broader perspective now encompasses all of the visible dimensions of personality and work style such as race, age, ethnicity or gender, influences and impacts of secondary nature , that are based on religion, socioeconomics and education to work diversities such as management and union, and functional level.

Race, gender, culture, national origin, and age are the major Workforce diversity characteristics (carrel and Mann, 1995).

A landmark study has predicted that employment landscape has been changed forever due the rapid technological change, globalization, the demand for skills and education, an aging workforce and greater ethnic diversification in the labor market.

The workplace diversity brings about many benefits as well as challenges to an organization. The organizational productivity can be increased if the management is using the highly powerful and influential resource of diversity.

The monolithic, plural and multicultural are the three types of organizations based on the development on cultural diversity. The extent and amount of structural integration (culturally diverse groups in a single organization) is very low in the monolithic organization. For example thin the USA t there is majority of white employees with few women and minority men in management jobs. In the plural organization the percentage of heterogeneous membership is greater than that in the monolithic organization and it tries to have more people from culturally diverse backgrounds that differ from the dominant group. The multicultural organization not only contains many different cultural groups, but it values this diversity (Taylor Cox, Jr., Cox, 2005).

Cultural diversity sometimes called multi-culturalismin in the today's business environment. It is based on the premise that cultural identities should be recognized, maintained and valued. In American business, the companies recognize and value cultural diversity in the workplace. Therefore, big American multinational corporations are trying to be the lenient and conducive environment where people from diverse background can assimilate into a single family.

Workplace and women:

The rising ratio of women in the workplace has created the need of understanding diversity. At present, due to the increasing number of dual income families, the change is taking place in the family structure having fewer men and women. Therefore, race and gender are one of the major issues of diversity (Zweigenhaft, Domhoff, 1998).

Advantage of workplace diversity:

The increasingly becoming more diverse backgrounds of employees are making the definition of office much broader. The business world is rapidly going diverse and global. Now it is harder to find a typical work place environment or a typical employee because interactions and global collaborations are becoming more sophisticated. It is essential for the businesses to promote and manage workplace diversity in order to prevent cultural bias and workplace discrimination.

Workplace diversity has been positively associated with many different organizational consequences, including creativity (Jackson, 1992; McLeod et al., 1996), productivity and problem solving (Watson et al., 1993. A leading research report has disclosed high growth in the female and minorities groups share in workforce is expected in the years ahead. The females would be almost 85 percent, while white males will be only 45 percent of the total workforce. These resultant dynamic changes, some organizations have willingly become more inclusive, integrating women, people of color, gays/lesbians, and individuals with disabilities into their workforce at all levels.Moreover, firms can also gain competitive advantage through diverse workplace (Herriot, Peter; Pemberton, Carole, (1995).

Many companies' strategic goals and objectives are including workplace diversity objectives as well. Consequently, these goals are making the management accountable for results. Human resource management can plays an effective role in diversity management and leadership to create and an organizational culture that fosters a respectful, inclusive, knowledge-based environment where the opportunities to learn, grow and meaningfully contribute to the organization's success are immense for each employee (Allianz Group's International Diversity Project).

Enhancement Adaptability:

There is grater chance of having variety of solutions to problems in products, services, allocation of resources and sourcing if the organizations are promoting diversity at workplace. In fact, individual employees with skills, expertise, talents and experiences from diverse background bring flexible ideas for the organization to adapt to increasingly fluctuating consumers demands and markets.

Service Range Breath:

An amalgamation of diverse skills and experiences of cultural awareness help a firm to meet the global customers' requirements and needs efficiently and successfully.

Diversity and creativity:

Diverse employees may bring different perspectives to an organization and the tasks they complete. In particular, dissimilarities between individuals contribute to increased levels of creativity found in culturally diverse organizations (Chatman et al., 1998).

In a survey of human resource professionals, respondents ranked enhanced creativity as one of the top five most important effects of workforce diversity (This finding suggests that heterogeneous groups have an advantage over homogeneous groups regarding creative tasks(Carrell and Mann, 1995).

Diversity and problem solving:

Culturally diverse organizations offer a broad range of experiences from which to draw upon while making decisions and solving problems (Williams & O'Reilly, 1997).

When solving problems in a diverse organization there is a greater chance of selecting an effective strategy, because of the broad range of experiences, networks, and backgrounds from which to draw upon. Cultural diversity in teams and groups create competitive advantage through better decision-making and problem solving. An important implication is that with proper diversity management, the negative effects of diversity can be overcome (Cox and Blake, 1991).

Execution Excellence:

Organization can enhance their employees' performance to their best of abilities if they encourage and develop culturally diverse workplace environment. Higher productivity levels, return on investment and profits could be achieved with the help of proper implementation and execution of organization-wide strategies.

Challenges of workplace diversity:

The globalization of the world has increased the issues based on the differences of sexual orientation, gender; race, ethnic group, and religion. Many organizations are facing these types of workplace diversity issues (Chemers, Oskamp, 1994).

Managing diversity is about creating an environment where collaborations, communication and direct or indirect interactions among the diverse workforce are possible. Moreover, promotion of such cultural diversity is also essential (C.L. Walck, 2006).

Managing a diverse work population presents a lot of challenges. Simply acknowledging differences in people is one part of managing diversity at workplace. It involves recognizing the value of differences, fighting discrimination, and encouraging inclusiveness. Cultural bias, discrimination and law suits against the organization may pose different challenges to managers regarding losses in personnel and work productivity (Devoe, 1999).

One of the major challenges of managing a diverse work force is miscommunication within an organization. It has been explained that as no two persons feel and experience the events in the same way, meanings of a message cannot be conveyed effectively. The interpretation of the information is quite different among the native and non-native speakers even though they are exposed to the same information and messages. It is necessary and better to think of all diverse organizational environments as low-context cultures as in high context cultures, an experiential bias can be used to give different meanings to messages while in low context cultures there is little information for the common understandings and hence speakers and listeners must be explicit (Judi Brownell, 2003).

One of the organizational behavioral studies has shown that it can be harder to manage and motivate the highly diverse groups in work-relevant characteristics. Culturally diverse organizations have to face the challenge of assimilation. Giving the assimilation much importance and major share in the dominant organizational culture is a strategy that could lead to serious negative consequences for individuals in organizations as well for the organizations themselves. it has been stressed that when significant amounts of energy are spend on coping with an alien environment people would have less energy left to do the tasks assigned.

It does not just create a situation in which culturally diverse people are likely to fail; however, it may cause decrease in the efficiency and effectiveness of organizations (Fine Marlene G. 1980).

Culturally diverse workplaces have to face the challenge of cultural bias. It includes both discrimination and prejudice. The negative attitude and behaviors are the hurdles for a diverse organization as they may cause serious damage to the working relationships and morale. Prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination are some of the major negative attitudes and behaviors in the workplace. It is also know as cultural bias that challenges the culturally diverse work environment. Identifiable and visible disliking and adverse behavior for the same reason can be described as discrimination, and negative attitudes towards an organization member based on his/her culture can be described as prejudice. Management should not consider this factor for hiring, retention, and termination practices (Esty, et al., 1995).

One of the biggest challenges for the diversity advocates is the proper implementation of workplace policies regarding diversity. As the employee assessment and research data shows, they have to come up with customized strategies and solutions to get better and maximum benefits of diversity at workplace.

Managing and Promoting workplace diversity:

A wide range of efforts and steps are being taken up to promote the importance of diverse workplace for achieving substantial potential benefits. Creating a multicultural organization that performs extremely well is possible due to the various innovative measures and strategies.

The following measures could be taken to promote workplace diversity:

Effective management must be aware that certain skills and expertise are required for creating a successful, diverse workforce. First, discrimination and its consequences must be understood. Second, their own cultural biases and prejudices must be recognized (Koonce, 2001).

Employees should be encouraged to express their feelings, ideas, emotions, and opinions with a sense of equal value to all. This would create a feeling of openness at the workplace where employees feel free all the way.

Diversity should also be promoted and implemented at leadership positions, as it creates the sense of visibility.

Employee's satisfaction surveys should be introduced at the workplace and results can be used for the implementation of proper and fruitful diversity in the workplace policies.

Recognizing differences among groups is not diversity, but rather individual differences.

An individual's unique identity cannot represent or speak for a particular group. The effective management must be willing to change the organization, if necessary. The organizations have to learn how to manage diversity in the workplace for the future success in the global village.

Equal employment opportunity and affirmative action is not all about managing diversity (Losyk, 1996). Managers should expect slow-pacing change, but encouragement for change is essential.

Mentoring programs (as a part of diversity policies) can be implemented to provide associates access to information and opportunities. They should be encouraged to bring critical and constructive feedback for learning about the mistakes. A diverse workforce could be managed successfully by increasing individual awareness of the sensitive differences of culture, religion, race, sex, ethnicity etc.

Language training is one of the ways to promote a multicultural organization (Cox, 1994).

Empathy, self-monitoring, and strategic decision making are the three skills needed for the development and promotion of effective communication at diverse workplace. A communicator's (sender as well as receiver of message) understanding and awareness of how his attitude and behavior affect another person could be defined as self-monitoring. It also includes his motivation level to change this attitude or behavior because of the impact level. It is assumed in case of empathy that the receiver of the message has to consider the sender's feelings, emotions, values, assumptions, and needs; this is going beyond the literal meanings of a message. Implication of Strategic decision-making is that the selection of the communication sources and channels used to reach organization members must be mindful and reasonable (Judi Brownell, 2003)

Discrimination, gender differences, cultural bias can be reduced by using various tools and methods such as seminars, focus groups, training for bias reduction.

Identify the employees' diverse population in your workplace. In addition to ethnic backgrounds a gender and age are also part of diversity.

Examine employees' feeling about comfort in the work environment so that you may have a sense that everybody feels equally supported, while doing the work together effectively.

Create a committee for discussing diversity problems and issues and can help brainstorm strategies for promoting diversity in the workplace. While making comparison of committee's goal to the employees' ask for volunteers, as opposed to appointing members. This method may lead to discrimination avoidance.

Equal employment opportunities policies should be clear, making sure it comply with the rules and regulations of Equal Employment Opportunities laws .In this way, creation of a meritorious work system is possible in which employees are promoted and provided promotions based on performance, regardless of age, race or gender.

Organizations must try to be an equal employment opportunity employer and they must also advertise this when recruiting job candidates. Establish hiring practices should be based on the merit without considering age, race or ethnicity.

Providing diversity training for all employees can promote workplace diversity outside so corporations could have training facilities for employees to learn about the issues of communicating effectively despite and cultural differences and linguistic problems.

Set clear and serious consequences for incidents of discrimination and employees must be informed of the policy.

Legal support:

Government support is increasing day by day for promoting diversity at work place. Therefore, many countries ‘legislations have passed laws to prohibit issues of discrimination based on gender, color, race, religion and ethnic group. Anti-discrimination laws in many countries of the world have made mandatory for the companies to create the diversity awareness inside them. These laws also don't allow employers to create any kind of discrimination on the basis of gender, color, race or ethnic group.

It is illegal for employers to discriminate against an employee or potential employee in certain workplaces as prescribed by Equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws. In US, Civil Rights Act of 1964, created The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that is the federal agency having the responsibility to handle discrimination complaints. Certain other countries have also established these governing and rule making bodies to prevent any discrimination against employees.


A diverse workforce is presenting a harsh picture of the global village. Diversity among teams brings high value to organizations. Recognizing and respecting the individual differences brings benefits to the organization such as innovation and creativity, and complex problem solving capabilities. A healthy and fair workplace environment can be created, if management is properly dealing with the diversity issues, which brings challenges as well as opportunities. This kind of diverse workplace makes it necessary for the management to educate its employees about the issues of diversity so that they can easily adapt to this environment.


Ø Adrian McDougall (2005),” Diversity in the spotlight”, Industrial and Commercial Training, 37(5),pp 240 - 243 Emerald insight, Available online at


Ø Lynne Bolen, Brian H. Kleiner(1996),” Managing Diversity in the Workplace”, Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal,3(4), pp 3-8, Emerald insight online available at;jsessionid=ECD0874C3444C1A2296E8857EC61F3EA?contentType=Article&contentId=165694

Ø Donna M. Stringer(1995),” The role of women in workplace diversity consulting”, Journal of Organizational Change Management,8(1), pp 44-51, [Emerald Insight], online available at

Ø Brownell, Judi (2003). Developing Receiver-Centered Communication in Diverse Organizations. Listening Professional, 2(1), 5-25

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