Managing and Communicating with a Diverse Workforce

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Diversity refers to mixed among people in conditions of dimensions such as, Gender, race, orientation, sexual, national ethnic and national origin, work location, religious belief, trade union membership and working hours. Nowadays, diverse workforce becoming increasingly which is more than important for an organization for its development and improve workforce performance. Members of an organization that practices embracing diversity are skilled at working together despite of the difference of the employees (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2005).

Diversity is about identified, respecting and importance differences based on civilization, belief, color, race, age, sexual category, disability, and national origin. It also consist of an endless series of individual exceptional characteristics and experiences, such as, style of communication, career lane, life experience, educational backdrop, geographic place, earnings level, marital status, forces experience, parental status and other variables that manipulated private viewpoint. Chubb Corporation (1995-2007):

Diverse workforce

In the last decade, the diverse workforce has been potentially increased due to increase in globalization. This diverse workforce consists of people with differences. These visible and non-visible differences like gender, culture and religion could build up into conflicts if not properly managed (Thomas, 2004).Race, gender, age, religion, and ethnicity are all factors of diversity. In the workforce, the challenge for a manager is to promote a common feeling of company vision and respect of the employees' distinct perceptions and contributions. Managing diversity gets more critical as the workforce diversity increases and stereotyping and discrimination possibilities increase. Discrimination originating from the employer prevents utilizing contributions from the discriminated and is therefore counterproductive when a diverse workforce can help to bring organizations closer to their customers.

The impact of the increasing diversity in organizations is change at an individual, organizational and social level…recognizing diversity at all levels has affected the development of organization strategies and structures for marketing, competition in national and international markets and dealing with numerous stakeholders (Davidson & Griffin 2000:153)

Appreciating differences and developing an atmosphere that everyone will feel accepted and valued is a diversity management concept that should be used by all organizations. If carried out properly this technique will improve recruitment and strengthen relationships with customers by creating a common set of values. Fear of change can sometimes lead to resistance of diversity management. Schermerhorn, Hunt, and Osborn (2005). Diversity and idea of managing diversity both are complex as every human is different than the others.(ANDERSON, T. and METCALFE, H. 2003)

There are different attitudes and different people behave differently sometimes even though, experiencing the same situation by everyone .But just to make it simple majority tend to categories people and put them in different groups. Mostly categorising people into groups gives us the idea that how possible to deal with them and what to expect of them in a certain situations, but in complex situations people of same group might act differently and that is where challenge of diversity management gets bigger and important.

Though diversity is a recognised fact legally and law requires every organization to be free of discrimination. The most important document in U.K regarding this is the Race Relations Act 1976, supported by the 2000 Race Relations (Amendment) Act which introduced positive duties on public authorities to promote equality of opportunity and good race relations. Law might be very clear but by the consideration at the practices, there is still a lot to be done to get rid of racist behaviours, through education at all levels.

Issues for the managers

Managing diversity, therefore presents a special challenge for today's manager going beyond traditional views of appropriate behavior. For years, managers have been trained to treat their employees exactly the same. Sameness was stressed to avoid discrimination. In fact, managers were taught equality transformed into sameness (Smith, 2000). However, there are mass changes in organizations of today. To treat employees fairly often means to treat them differently. Flexibility is the key in managing employees today (Jenner, 1994). While this shift towards flexibility has been seen in some areas, many managers still rely on sameness in dealing with employees (Smith, 2000). Despite these challenges, workplace diversity has now been developed into an important issue for organizations nowadays. There are major three types of issues coming on the main caption to handle the diverse workforce.

Communication

Communication issues should be considered when managing diversity (Sessa, 1992). "Organizations are adapting a number of approaches to overcome language barriers among employees" (Journal of Business, 2000).The challenge to today's manager is to make certain that work force's diversity is a basis of power, not one of conflict. Miscommunication is a most important cause of intercultural distress and clashes. The process of communicating differs among cultures: Miscommunication can result of conflict when an individual's fashion of communicating differs from other person. In today's workplace, a person can bet that, at some point, they will have to deal with a coworker whose communication style differs from yours.

Nearly all researches have proved that open communication and mutual respect are vital to develop trust and ensure the success for a multicultural company. Therefore, among all the factors what a multicultural manager need to know that he can manage successfully his/her workforce, the communication is still one of the most important points. A company with international employees must provide multilingual managers. After all research it is still the main factor that communication for multicultural oriented companies begins with knowing other languages. Furthermore it would be a great competence if the multicultural manager could recognize the idiomatic interpretations, which are quite different from those found in a dictionary. Words spoken by a language my not have the same meaning in another language. This can give big misunderstandings between manager and workforce.

The various aspects of communication are also important in managing a multicultural workforce, primary it is listening. Wills & Barham study (cited in Chang and Tharenou, nd, p. 10) shows that listening actively is vital for managing a multicultural workforce. The manager should listen to his/her employees what they have to say about their work practices, their own cultural practices and their view on diverse matter. Another part of communication is that the manager is considered as a person of easy access, what mean that the employee can go anytime to the manager's office and speak to him.

Common management skills, knowledge and attitude for the manager

1. Effective interactions and communication skills. Miscommunications are normal in a diverse work force environment. This shall be reduced for better interaction, productivity and output. Effective communication to articulate the impact and importance of diversity issues and others involved is important because it can encourage involvement and support in addressing diversity.

 

2. Ability to work as a team member. Work teams most of which are very diverse are now a reality in most companies. Without effective work teams, companies will not be able to be competitive and produce high quality products and services. Team spirit shall be available for effective management, reduce conflicts and increase productivity of the organizations.

 

3. Trans cultural skills.  Managers must value, respect and accommodate people who are from diverse individual. Workers come from different ethnics, religions, languages, lifestyle, education levels, gender and etc. Managers shall respect and sensitive to their religious, customs, education levels and all the differences.  Managers must build an environment that heightens awareness, understanding, and appreciation of cultural and other differences that exist among the workers.

 

4. High degree of accountability. The commitment of managers and a process of ongoing accountability are critical to successful implementation of diversity initiatives.

 

5. Multi language skills. Managers should be capable to communicate in more than just their native tongue. Understanding foreign language or other dialects offers insight into a cultural and its people.

 

6. Fair and unbiased. Managers shall always maintain unbiased and fairness attitude. Cross cultural biases and personal prejudice shall be eliminated at all as it will affect the performance and motivation of workers. Evaluation of workers shall be performance based and shall never based on racial, gender, education level, origin and any other differences.

 

7. Ability to resolve problems. Managers shall have the ability to resolve problems that is acceptable to all parties regardless of the ethnicity, religious, background, education, gender, age or groups.

Culture

The culture of an organisation tends to vary; this creates an element of uniqueness. Culture is basically a set of values that is in place within an organisation, this could have evolved over several years. The individual culture of an organisation could vary from the smallest aspects, such as how managers address each other and other members of staff, to how the organisation organises its customer service department.

The culture of an organisation could be positive or negative, for example in a positive environment, employees may feel that they can easily approach their seniors with any work or personal issues in the workplace, so that they can express their views and opinions. However, where the culture is negative in the workplace, employees may feel oppressed or unable to express their opinions at work.

As a global organization comprised of over one hundred and fifty thousand individuals, cultural diversity within Accenture is not merely a case of representation of different nationalities or ethnicities. Instead, Accenture embraces a broader definition of cultural diversity based on multiple dimensions: generational, gender, physical ability/disability, race, society, educational level, national/regional origins, language, religion, sexual orientation, family status and work experience (Accenture Global Inclusion Portal 2007:para. 3).

Four types of culture

Power culture - the culture within the organisation is dominated by one or just a few individuals who are the sole decision makers for the whole organisation.

Role culture - In this culture, the organisation is influenced by the roles that people are specified to do; they tend to work to rules that they are required to follow.

Task culture - The culture is controlled by the tasks that people need to carry out; teams are likely to form as a result of the task.

Person culture - In this culture, employees are able to express themselves and make their own personal decisions.

Cultural Diversities

 

In terms of global firms, 'the great divide' between business countries is Relationship-Focus versus Deal-Focus. On the one hand you have the Relationship-Focused, formal Monochromic Reserved natures of Japan, South Korea and Singapore and on the other, you have the Deal-Focused, Informal Monochromic and Moderately expressive USA. (Gesteland, 1999). In general, diversity covers many areas such as religion, music, arts, manners, and attitude.

Empirical Evidence for Cultural Diversity

Having completed a detailed review of the literature available on cultural diversity, the material ranged from "The influence of cultural diversity on end-of-life care and decisions" (Werth Blevins and Toussaint, 2002),  to "East meets East and East meets West: The case of Sino-Japanese and Sino-West joint ventures in China" (Li, Karakowsky and Lam, 2002). However, the overwhelming proportion of the material centred around the following six areas outlined below. The remainder of this article will be spent on detailing the arguments for cultural diversity from the various writers and attempting to extract the key strands.

        Economic Benefits

        Strategic Alliances /  Joint Ventures

        Leadership

        Learning

        Marketing

        Ethics

When decisions have to be taken it is necessary to compromise attitudes, points of views and beliefs. This implies that diversity in this aspect has a more challenging character for companies. Taking decisions requires close interaction between the cultural diverse group members and the converging of meanings. (Adler, 2002, p.109)

Ethics

Ethics is defined as rules or standards governing the conduct of a person or the members of a profession, according to dictionary.com. Ethical behavior is that which is accepted as morally "good" and "right" verses what is "bad" or "wrong". Agreeing on weather or not a certain action or decision is ethical is not always a simple issue (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2005). Since ethics vary and can change, this causes trends in organizational behavior.

Differing attitudes towards ethics might also cause problems as in the following example (Copeland, 2003) where a new foreign employee wanted to thank her manager for having been chosen for the job by given him a present. The manager rejected the present explaining that this contradicts to the company's policy. The employee felt offended and quit the company. In this case the company could have lost a skilled employee because of different attitudes towards ethics.

Is it possible for a manager to be ethical?

Every organization-inevitably-has an ethical climate and is important for a manager to understand the full impact of their company's ethical climate. An organization's climate powerfully affects managers' sensitivity to ethical issues, their ability to make sound management judgments and their willingness to take action based on those judgments. A company's ethical climate can simply evolve, shaped by hiring and promotion decisions, prevailing industry and community norms. There are obstacles that erode manager's instinct to think and act ethically,

 Pressures for conformity: ethical issues can pose problems that are not generally easy to solve and involve many emotions and different personal values. Norms of conformity arise from the ways organizations usually integrate members. Individuals that are at the entry level of an organization are often reluctant to question established policies and practices, because they may be unsure about their own judgment.

Evaluations and rewards: if managers find that they are not rewarded for attention to ethics, they may decide that ethical behavior is not worth for effort. Many evaluation systems intensify these problems because they focus on short-term results, while the positive effects of responsible work are subtle and pay their dividends in long-term.

  Job pressures and crises: performance pressures, deadlines and crises create another obstacle for a manager to act ethically, because in that case its natural focus is to put out the fire.

 It is also about self-restraint: An act isn't proper simply because it is permissible or you can get away with it. An ethical person often chooses to do more than the law requires and less than the law allows.

Ethical dilemmas and decision making

 Ethical problems are managerial dilemmas as they represent a conflict between an organization's economic performance as measured by its revenues, costs, benefits, and its social performance as measured by its obligations to people inside and outside the organization. Manager should resolve those dilemmas in a case-to-case basis, due to the fact that there is not any general prescription Often, managers are predisposed towards certain choices because of their own levels of moral development, the definitions of what is "right" according to the organization in which they work the informal cultural preferences and sanctions, and the pressures of the immediate situation.

Philosophers have developed three common ethical frameworks that managers may follow when they found themselves puzzled to an ethical dilemma.

 Utilitarianism:  Doing good for the majority, even if it harms a few. The ethical action is one that provides the greatest good for the greatest number. It can be argued that common obedience to central rules would be effective if those making the rules did not have self-interests of their own.

Individual Rights (Universal Law):  Individuals have inalienable rights. Actions are wrong to the extent that they violate the rights of individuals; the more serious the violation, the more wrongful the action.

   Social Justice: Fair treatment and compensation for all. Last but not least, having an awareness of the origins of potential ethical dilemmas helps managers become sensitive to the roles played by their own moral development, their company's ethos, the social culture in which they operate, and the demands of the immediate situation.  Through their awareness of the contributors to ethical dilemmas, managers can examine a fuller range of choices of action available to them and select ones that promote higher levels of social morality.

Managing Diversity is not Affirmative action

"Affirmative action is a diagnostic approach - a remedy for race and gender discrimination" (William, 2003, p. B.10). Diversity consciousness cannot be simply mandated into a system, integrated into a corporate culture, or prompted by financial incentives.  It is reflective of an attitude that organizations and their staffs must adopt that allows them to change their basic concepts about workers and converts "them" into "us".

 Managing workplace diversity strives to ensure that when an individual is hired, that individual should be able to trust that he or she has been chosen because of his or her unique qualifications, not because of gender or ethnicity.  "We cannot encourage diversity when we are blind to that which makes us diverse" (Marshall, 2003, p. B.07).  We have moved from the use of words like fairness, inequality, and injustice toward terms such as ethnic diversity, political correctness, and cultural consciousness.  Have we changed our perceptions of the problems of workplace inequality or just the way we describe it?

Conclusion

Diversity refers to human qualities that are different from our own and those of groups to which we belong but are manifested in other individuals and groups.  Many dimensions of diversity include but are not limited to: age, ethnicity, gender, physical abilities/qualities, race, sexual orientation, educational background, geographic location, income, marital status, military experience, parental status, religious beliefs, work experience, and job classification.  Diversity as a concept focuses on a broader set of qualities than race and gender. In the context of the workplace, valuing diversity means creating a workplace that respects and includes differences, recognizing the unique contributions that individuals with many types of differences can make, and creating a work environment that maximizes the potential of all employees.

Recommendations and Guidelines for the managers

Several of these recommendations for a plan of correction include a "ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY" in regards to inappropriate personal behavior, conduct and or any actions deemed offensive. If managers are allowed to stay in place the corporation will continue to suffer the legal ramifications thus causing a stigmatism and or decline in the reputation of the company which in turn can cause a decrease in stock prices and company stature.  The "ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY" will allow the company to relieve its self of the "bad Apples" or employees unwilling to change. As identified by the case study the continued employment of these types of employees can be costly discrimination and harassment legal awards of hundreds of millions of dollars. (Trevino and Nelson 2004).

Guidelines for managers

* Before you can engage others, you must be engaged. How well do you know yourself? How good are your listening skills? How well do you know your people?

 

* How patient and tolerant are you? Are you a role modem for the Golden Rule? Does your staff trust you?

 

* Discuss the company's mission statement and its promulgated list of values. If your company doesn't have these, ask your company to devise them. Listen to their rationales. What is important to them? What are their own values?

 

* Apply common sense, fairness and sensitivity. If your workers want more religious expression on the job, seek a broader frame of reference than your own--a questionnaire,

   

 

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