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How important is it for managers today to have a good understanding of cultural diversity in the workplace?
Introduction of Cultural Diversity
"Cultural diversity" is the joint of human societies or cultures in a specific region, or in the world as a whole. (The term is also sometimes used to refer to multiculturalism within an organization. There is a general agreement among normal anthropologists that humans first emerged in Africa about two million years ago. (Smithsonian, 2008) Since then they have spread throughout the world, successfully adapting to widely differing conditions and to periodic tragic changes in local and global climate. The many separate societies that emerged around the globe differed clearly from each other, and many of these differences carry on to this day. As well as the more obvious cultural differences that exist between people, such as language, dress and traditions, there are also significant variations in the way societies organize themselves, in their shared idea of morality, and in the ways they interact with their environment. (David Crystal, 2008)
Cultural diversity is presented as the contrast of cultural uniformity. Some (including UNESCO) fear this hypothesis of a trend towards cultural uniformity. To support this argument they emphasize different aspects: The disappearance of many languages and dialects, regarding for example the languages of France, without legal status or protection (Basque, Breton, Corsican, Occitan, Catalan, Alsatian, Flemish, Poitou, Saintonge, etc.). Nervousness of people on the preservation of their traditions as in New Zealand, coastal regions in Australia, North America, Central America; Increasing cultural superiority of the United States through the distribution of its products in film, television, music, clothing and nutritional products promoted in audio-visual media, consumer products almost standardized on the planet (pizza, restaurants, fast food, etc.). (UNESCO, 2001)
There are several international organizations that work towards protecting helpless societies and cultures, including Survival International and UNESCO. The UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, adopted by 185 Member States in 2001, represents the first international standard-setting instrument aimed at preserving and promoting cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue. (UNESCO, 2001)
The European Commission-funded Network of Excellence on "Sustainable Development in a Diverse World" (known as "SUS.DIV") builds upon the UNESCO Declaration to investigate the relationship between cultural variety and sustainable development. (SusDiv, December 2005)
Cultural Diversity at workplace
When our world is shrunk to the size of a village, it's easy to appreciate how diverse our fellow coworkers, friends, and neighbors are. And indeed, the world is getting smaller. New technologies are bringing faraway lands straight to our desktop, companies are importing and exporting to foreign countries, and employers more than ever are hiring international staff to better serve the diverse population. Because of it is so important to understand how to interact appropriately with internationally diverse groups no matter the situation. (Kathryn, 28 May 2009)
For several months, Tracy Smith from the human services division of the City of Bloomington has trained hundreds of city employees, including many engineers and transportation experts, on how to work with customers who come from different backgrounds. Besides translating important phrases like "Please stay off the hot asphalt" in Spanish, Russian, Somali, and Hmong, Smith also helps educate city professionals on culturally specific practices such as exacting body language cues, familial roles, and religious differences. "It is about having awareness that people in different cultures do things differently," she explained. Smith also coordinates local speaking series featuring Bloomington citizens who have unique cultural experiences, such as former refugees, to share their thoughts about moving to and living in Minnesota. Obviously, it's impossible to clutch complex cultural nuances in just one sitting, but to help you interact with people from other cultures; Minnesota LTAP has compiled the following short list of helpful tips. (Kathryn, 28 May 2009)
It's important to remember when interacting with people from different cultures not to stereotype them based on your previous experiences with their culture. People develop different sets of values, preferences, and styles of communication based on a various number of factors in their lives. Just because one person was raised in the same country as another doesn't mean they'll hold the same values. (Kathryn, 28 May 2009)
Language and communication differences are undoubtedly the most difficult obstacles to overcome. To easiness communication strains with non- English speakers, try to avoid jargony words, speak slowly, and be patient. Remember, the English language is infamous for its grammatical and pronunciation complexities, and even native English speakers sometimes slip over correct spelling and word context. (Kathryn, 28 May 2009)
Most Americans judge their daily schedule on the hands of a clock, understanding productivity through the maximization of time. But other countries, especially Latin American and African nations, often see time as plentiful rather than passing. The concept of strict deadlines, therefore, can be confusing to non-Westerners. (Kathryn, 28 May 2009)
Individual versus collective
One of the most significant differences to consider when working with people from different cultures is the individual against collective mindset. For example, many Americans operate as individuals, gauging their successes or failures on their independent contributions to their company; this is often valued as a characteristic of independence and self-made success. Socialist cultures, on the other hand, value employees who work well in groups and have loyalty toward other employees as well as their company. This can sometimes change workplace dynamics and make it more difficult to measure accomplishment based on Western standards.
Cultural diversity doesn't just require differences in dress and language. It also encompasses different ways of thinking, managing, and communicating. Diversity is a concept that counters discrimination and embraces the inclusion of people with various experiences and backgrounds such education, parental status, geographic location, language, and culture. Diversity is about learning from others, providing support and respect to those with similar and different experiences, and creating an encouraging workplace that welcomes new opinions. Whether they're your coworkers, friends, or customers, it's always important to be polite, respectful, and inviting to others. And if you find yourself hesitant around unfamiliar cultural behavior, remember Smith's number one rule. "Just ask the person." (Kathryn, 28 May 2009)
Importance of cultural Diversity at workplace
A more reasonable and suitable "ideal" is one of multi-culturalism (cultural diversity). Multi-culturalism is based on the idea that cultural identities should not be discarded or ignored, but instead, should be maintained and valued. The importance of cultural diversity in the workplace has been, for the most part, accepted in American business. This is illustrated by the increased presence of women and minorities in the business world. Diversity has gone from being a moral and /or legal issue into a business necessity. As we move further along in the 21st century, it will be necessary for business owners to struggle in a more global ground. A study by the Hudson Institute for the U.S. Department of Labor found that 85% of the new entrants into the workforce in the next decade will be women, minorities, and immigrants. If you want your business to be successful and competitive in the future, you will have to utilize these human resources and participate in these diversity trends. (Dwayne Lynch, 2009)
A more realistic and suitable "ideal" is one of multi-culturalism (cultural diversity). Multi-culturalism is based on the idea that cultural identities should not be discarded or ignored, but instead, should be maintained and valued. The importance of cultural diversity in the workplace has been, for the most part, accepted in American business. This is illustrated by the increased presence of women and minorities in the business world. Diversity has gone from being a moral and /or legal issue into a business requirement. As we move further along in the 21st century, it will be necessary for business owners to compete in a more global arena. A study by the Hudson Institute for the U.S. Department of Labor found that 85% of the new entrants into the workforce in the next decade will be women, minorities, and immigrants. If you want your business to be successful and aggressive in the future, you will have to utilize these human resources and participate in these diversity trends. Dwayne Lynch (2009)
Cultural Diversity matters to every single one of us, both professionally and personally. When a group or segment of our population is excluded or exploited, all of us are denied. For our businesses and communities to not only survive, but to thrive, each of us needs to be aware and sensitive to ALL the members of the community. Our communities are rich with human resources. When all segments are respected and utilized, it benefits everyone involved. A great many of us live on the "margins" of society. In this nation, our popular culture, or ideal for business success, is white, young, heterosexual, Christian, and male. In regards to cultural diversity in the workplace, you are on the margins if you are:
have ANY ethnic background that is non-white
are not a heterosexual
are not a Christian
are not between the ages of 21-50
If you can answer "yes" to any one of these criteria, you live in the margins. This means that there are obstacles, prejudices, and stereotypes about YOU as an individual. You can not automatically assume that society's view of you is clear or based only on your individual character, qualifications, or accomplishments. Unfortunately, you may be put in the situation to "second guess" or question one's motives in their interactions and responses to you. (Dwayne Lynch, 2009)
Another fact this criteria illustrates is that more of us live IN the margins than do not. More of us DO NOT fit the societal prescription of what is normal and acceptable. While this all may be true, we all must do our best to function as productive, happy individuals. So what are we to do? We can all struggle for change. We can all be proactive in our decisions and lifestyles rather than reactive to ignorance and intolerance. When a white woman snubs an ethnic woman, for instance, she is harming herself as well. The white woman lives in the same margin as the ethnic woman, and she is only perpetuating and cementing her place there. (Dwayne Lynch, 2009)
America is the most diverse nation in the world. Cultural diversity in the workplace is becoming more and more desired. Our ethnicity, religion, life experience, etc., makes each of us unique. Ideas our nation once embraced about assimilation are now inappropriate and outdated. For someone who lives on the margins to assimilate into a single idea of acceptance to fit into society is a gross violation of their individual identity and rights. This means that we all need to learn to accept what is different from us and respect it. (Dwayne Lynch, 2009)
Managing Cultural Diversity at workplace
The management of cultural diversity in the workplace can be considered a response to the need to recognize, respect and capitalize on the different backgrounds in our society in terms of race, ethnicity, and gender. Different cultural groups have different values, styles, and personalities, each of which may have a important effect on the way they do business. Rather than punishing or roasting these different management styles because they do not conform to the traditional white (male) management methods, employers should recognize these differences as benefits. Not only can diverse management styles achieve the same results as traditional methods, but cultural diversity in the workplace can also help improve the company's competitive position in the marketplace. Diversity, or sensitivity, training is now common place in the corporate world. However, small businesses need to be aware of these issues as well. As a small business owner, your awareness and respect of cultural diversity in the workplace truly matters to your employees and your client base. You must create a balance of respect and understanding in the workplace to have happy and optimally productive workers. In addition, it is important that you AND your employees are aware of the importance of respecting diversity when dealing with your clients, when you work effectively with your community, both you and the community benefit. (David Crystal, 2008)
Cultural diversity is very important at workplace these days. As a manger, you have to understand the cultural diversity in every phase within organization. You have to monitor and control the diversity for the company because everyone has equal rights to work at workplace. So being a good manager, understand and manager the cultural diversity at workplace.