Cultural Diversity In Your Workplace Exxon Chemical Case Commerce Essay


Cultural diversity can be opposed to monoculture. Indeed, having a cultural diversity means having plenty of different cultures among a group, a company, a firm. Having diverse cultures is an important quality point.

Cultural diversity is sometimes misused to mean the variety of human societies or cultures in a specific region, or in the world as a whole; but these phenomena are multiculturalism rather than cultural diversity.

This assignment will show how important cultural diversity is in the company and several study cases will show how companies try to use the best of cultural diversity. The American group EXXON CHEMICAL pointed out the problems of monoculture among its offices. We will see how can this group change and bring cultural diversity as one of its core value.

I. What is cultural diversity?

a) Cultural diversity in your workplace

Globalization is the main point that we must take into account in a company in order to succeed with cultural diversity. Indeed, globalization brings people to move so that's why people, images, symbols, information, capital, goods and so on increasingly move from one corner of the world to another and people communicate with other people many miles away. As a consequence, individual people are increasingly facing different influences and ideas from other parts of the world. People with a different religion, different ideas, speaking whether french or Chinese meet with other people from all around of the world speaking swiss-german and Portuguese. Over more Medias such as the internet and means of rapid transportation facilitate such encounters. These points explain how and why do multinational firms expand globally and is composed of many different cultures in their workforce. Today working in a monoculture company barely exists.

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Thus, globalization and cultural diversity brings organizations to become very dynamic places where individual experiences mustn't be forgotten. Societal fields, organizations and individual people are challenged by their co-workers speaking different languages, having different norms and values and believing different religions. All these points must be known and must be encountered during exchanges and also confrontations and difficult moments and discussions. Cultural diversity is quite a new point for many companies and countries but it has to be today one of the main point of the company to provide its success and its long life time. Today many of us will have to deal with different situations and questions such as:

What does it mean to a hospital when patients with various religious beliefs need tailor-made care?

How are production and service delivery affected when people from all parts of the world come together to communicate and work in a company?

What are the consequences when citizens representing different identities, traditions, languages and beliefs send their children to mixed schools?

Do people with different ethnic backgrounds get equal opportunities in the labor market?

Cultural diversity faces both risks and opportunities.

Risks: working with different cultures can lead to problems of communication; there can be some conflicts of ideas and even some exclusion.

Opportunities: but having plenty of cultures among a team is also a great point. Indeed, people having different points of views, ways of doing and thinking bring up very innovating ideas, the team is more creative and production and service delivery is renewed.

In consequence to use the best of cultural diversity, we need some policy, maybe sometimes a leader to frame the meeting and the team work and to react in case of conflicts. Managing the differences of languages, cultures, religions and traditions under one "umbrella" are some of the main obstacles faced by the international businesses. People coming having various and different backgrounds not only have differences of social setup, but also needs to face the cultural impact and all the influences it can have on the psychological side.

Moreover, "the problem of general acceptability of other cultures and religions has been an issue ever since. It is indeed a fact that human beings feel more at ease with those of their own like and are not too enthusiastic to work in diverse teams". Every one shows and uses his social and cultural norms in business world. International business strategies must encompass all the social and cultural aspects of the native countries. When a company wants to expand its business to other countries all its plans of actions need to be customized; because what might be suitable in a certain culture may not work for another. The constraint of English language as the mode of communication in the western business world is also an imperative issue.

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Globalization must be seen as a positive effect for groups, individuals and companies. Exchanges are more intense and the prospects of business success are much higher and beneficial around the globe. The international business strategies should be realistic and free of all bias based on religion, culture, race or ethnicity. With the most constructive and realistic approach we must have, firms can introduce international markets and extend their sphere. The most important point is to make people feel "one". Companies must take into account the respect of all religions, ethnicities and races in training workshops, by having fair company policies, by using a standard setting by the senior management, having social gatherings and events where employees from diverse ethnicities may get the opportunity to exchange, feel important and seen as an added value for the company.

b) Exxon chemical case

The EXXON CHEMICAL group is an American company that made a survey to ask to the workers of the European offices to give their point of view about culture and diversity in the company. This survey was important for the workers but also for the head-quarter because it sorted out that there was a huge problem of cultural diversity in the company. Indeed, according to the workers who answered the survey, monoculture was the vision that they had of their company. Belonging from a different country and so culture was hard in this American group. Most of the workers didn't feel at ease working all the time in English, not having women at executive places etc…

Therefore, EXXON knew that diversity and internationality was an important key to a full success. To do so, important changes had to be done such as changing demographics and values and having a real effectiveness of multicultural teams. The major points that had to be solved were (all these points will be discussed below):






Of course, the results of the survey were alarming and there also was a threat for the company. Indeed this could lead to a demotivated workforce, problems of communication, a limited contribution, a huge loss of productivity and capacity of innovation. In order to solve these main problems the headquarter of Exxon Chemical decided to communicate much more and to of course give a feedback of the results of the survey so that they could show that they have full understood the problems within the company and the team members. Exxon Chemical also decided to change its policy and change its recruiting process. For now on, women and minorities would be advantaged. The working contracts and conditions would be more flexible. The working climate will be an important point and must be very good so that all the workers feel comfortable in their company. Finally Exxon Chemical wants more support for employees and their families involved in international career moves. Training and development will have a crucial role in the American group.

All these points that the headquarters wanted to use will probably be very useful for the effectiveness of the company, and will obviously improve productivity and innovation in all the teams around the world.


Exxon Chemical case study p.155 to p. 162


- Johns, Gary. Concordia University. "Social Behaviour and Organizational Processes".

Organizational Behaviour: Understanding and Managing Life at Work. Harper Collins

College Publishers, 1996.

III. Valuing the "Group Dynamics"

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can

change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

Margaret Mead.

An explanation of the notion behind "Group Dynamics"

Basically, Group dynamics refers to a system of behaviours and psychological processes occurring within a social group, or between social groups. Adapted to our specific context, it deals with the way that how companies are putting every means in place to improve quality of work between members of a multicultural group. Here, we are talking about interaction of individuals within a relatively small group. The number is, in fact, predominant to let social interactions develop themselves. In a larger group, managing the cultural differences becomes impossible because of the distance created by the number.

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When we are talking about multicultural, we face the barrier of comprehension, which is not only based on the differences of language. A different culture drives some different behaviour: the way to think about something, the manner to react to an idea, and so on. Actually, the main objective for companies is to create a healthy environment in order to improve efficiency.

That's why the notion of "Group Dynamics" ask obviously some fundamental and basic questions :

Is the relationship between individuals conducive to achieving the groups goals?

How is formal and informal power used to build consensus or reach decisions ?

Is the structure and size of the group an asset in pursuing both the task and maintenance functions of the group?

Does the combination of individuals produce the right culture?

Group Structure & Size

The performance of an effective group can be linked for a first approach, on its size and, by extension, on his composition. The range of a group can be at least of two people. It's the minimum to compose what we can call a "group". On the other hand, a group can be composed at maximum by several hundred people, to manage larger tasks. As we said before, the best way to manage a project is to reduce as much as possible the size of a group assigned to it. The classic combination is a number about ten people, but be careful to not endanger the workload and the goal(s)! Of course the number should be kept to a minimum, but don't forget to analyse the importance of the task(s)! Larger groups can indeed see appear some problems:

The rise of some conflicts, because of the plurality of viewpoints.

The lack of the development for social relationships

A decrease of the participation for some members

An individual recognition which can be embedded

For a second part, we should ask ourselves about the necessity of skills and performance in a group. We have to measure the quantity of skills to succeed in a task, which are needed to hire the correct number of people. Pre-tests are necessary too, in order to avoid a possible poor performer, who will slow down the progression of the group. At the end, and this last point is mainly due to hazard, we should pray for having the good combination of leaders, and followers, to avoid interest conflicts, or member rivalries. Indeed, even if a company make diagnostic tests to evaluate the leaders and followers, some things are necessarily missing. In reality, some followers are maybe leaders, and some leaders can be overwhelmed by the tasks, which are assigned to them.

Diversification is the main factor in group development and skills requirement. Even if a multicultural group may take longer to reach performance, (because of the differences of cultures, languages, and interpretation), once they found their balance, they are at least equally productive as a group composed of similar people. In fact, a multicultural group is more creative than a "normal" group, because of the possible multiple ideas coming from each culture present in this group.

Group Development

Find the good combination in order to manage a task does not ensure succeed in it. Actually, every member of multicultural group, and in a larger extend, every member of a group, have such different personalities, linked with different reactions, needs, characteristics… It is of course more marked in a multicultural group.

That's why people have to acclimate themselves, and there are several phases:

FORMING: Members have to familiarize themselves with the objectives of the project and, of course, other members, who may come from different horizons. An exterior person has to accompany the members in guidance, job definition and tasks analysis.

STORMING: Also known as "counterdependent stage", it deals with the searching of identity in each member. The group encounter some difficulties linked to the different ways each person sees the manner to solve a task. Everybody wants to arise, and needs some recognition for his/her skills. This stage is delicate, and can last for a long time if there is a lack of comprehension.

NORMING: This phase is also known as the "peace" phase. Members start to resolve their issues, and begin developing their social agreements. They are building cohesion and agreeing on the group norms, which will rule their work.

PERFORMING: This phase is related to maturity. Members understand them and know their way in order to work. The mutual assistance and the creativity are very important here, in order to move toward accomplishing the tasks.

ADJOURNING: When the project is done, and because of the close relationships built during its realisation, members may become emotional due to the end of it.

Group Functions

Three functions have an influence on effectiveness and productivity of a group:

Task Functions

First, the group have to initiate the project, by proposing ides, manner to defining problems, setting goals and tasks… Then, he has to search for relevant informations in relation with the different goals, which have been set up. Asking for suggestions and/or for ideas is a good way to run the global advanced of the group. Giving them during brainstorms of the group allow some members to go further in their accomplishment. Summarize and restating the different ways initiated by researches allows the group to have a better global vision, more synthetic. Finally, the phase of tests is running: it consists in checking if the direction of reflexion works in practice.

Maintenance Behaviour

To ensure that the group will be preforming well, social and emotional support is very important. Knowing each other, his/her feelings, is fundamental.

First, by encouraging other members, you improve their will to do better, and value their contribution. It also improves group atmosphere, and to continue in that way, expressing group feelings and sensing moods and relationships will help too. But, there will necessarily have some tensions, that's why harmonizing different problems created between members is very important. In the same time, it's important to remember the rules, norms and roles of each member, to avoid any problems linked to this. Don't hesitate to admit your mistake in such a group like this, it will be more efficient than persisting in a wrong way. Finally, keep open the gates of communication is the best way to keep exchanges fluent and efficient. Never let an idea without a response!

Self-Interest Behaviour

This third part deals with each behaviour that influences negatively the efficiency of the group work.

Be aware! Do not listen and restate propositions, displays a lack of respect are some dominating and controlling attitudes, which clearly handicap the whole group. Seeing things with his/her own interest deals with the same problem, don't forget that you are part of a group! In extension, manipulating to reach a goal isn't constructive. Talking about goal, a good behaviour will be to focus on the important tasks, do not search for insignificant details that will slow down the progression!

Group Norms

At the beginning of the group development, a high amount of time is used to know each other, and setting social standards, including the definition of a correct behaviour. These standards are directly linked to the norms put in place by the group's evolution. So a "good behaviour" can be very different, because of the social environment, which is necessarily not the same from a team to another.

The recognition of these norms is very important, and a new member who joins the team may be lost at first, until he finds how to react properly. In fact, it is true that for a team leader manager, norms are more strictly executed, in order to improve the efficiency of work. But rearranging a bit the personal space for a member is essential, because of every person live different.

Group norms include:

Loyalty norms: proving that a member can be loyal to a company by, for example, working hard (during holidays, or weekend…).

Dress norms: Very fluctuant depends of the company.

Reward norms : reward given for benefits, or sanction taken for perks.


Even if there are official roles in a group (secretary, manager, team leader…), there are some emergent roles in a group, in touch with how a person is. For example, you may have in a group the confident one, the clown who always laughs, the gossip and so on…

These roles have an influence on relationships, as two people may be opposite, and have conflicts. Also, not assigning clearly an official role, can slow down the progression.


Cohesion is the main factor that will help the group succeed. Several aspects reinforce the group cohesion: internal successes, high social and emotional behaviours, and some external threats. Group size may influence the cohesion, if there are two many people, we can face the formation of subgroups, not clearly set, and who will causes members to withdraw input.