Different groups such as; a nation, a group of people, a corporation, profession or organization have different cultures, i.e. different fundamental norms and values. Each culture is different in how its people prefer to face situations, approach each other or solve problems, and this often raise differences when they relate to people from other cultures. These ‘typical’ traits can be stereotyped in their principal tendencies and situational conducts but it does not imply that every member of the culture group has the same traits, Ngomsi (2009). Disparities have existed in the workplace as long as people came together for a common purpose. Economists and business professionals have had close examination of the role of workplace diversity and realized that the challenges brought by it are enormous.
Challenges of diversity in the workplace
Some times in any work place certain types of comments, jokes and flirtation maybe accepted or taken for granted. As much as there will be excuses for such small behaviors, it should not be encouraged or given space to go on since such behavior will grow bolder and more rooted into the culture with time, (Ferraro, 2007). Many individuals may not realize it, but this is actually discrimination towards other employees and staff. The management or employer should ensure that every employee, regardless of their gender, race, religion, cultural background, physical ability, social class, financial status or employment level feel treasured and given equal recognition like anyone else.
Negative diversity in the workplace create unnecessary tension and hate that lead to high employee turnover, poor communication within the office, resistance to change, and forming of small employee ‘mafia’ groups. The company will in this case face poor performance by the employees that lead to low profits and ultimately dissatisfaction of the stakeholders, (Ferraro, 2007).
Types of discrimination at the workplace
There are many types of discriminatory cases that include; racial, gender and age. Typically, most of these discrimination cases happen when one is attempting to gain advantage unfairly against a workmate or is simply being unprofessional, (Ngomsi 2009). All discrimination types are illegal and companies, individuals, employers, businesses or any other entity can be sued based on the following discriminations:
- National origin or racial discrimination: is discrimination of a person based on where he was born, his race, physical characteristics, language, ancestry or culture.
- Gender discrimination: is often referred to as sexual discrimination and involves prejudice against an individual based on sexual orientation.
- Age discrimination: from the name shows that this is unfair treatment of a person on regards to their age. This is also referred to as ageism. Often, older members of the society are prejudiced against based on their age.
Laws passed to counter diversity in the workplace
Throughout the United States history, the government has passed many laws and acts that try to minimize and rid the society of discrimination of any form. Here, we will look at some of the major laws that have passed to counter this vice and the time when they were passed.
- 1964 Civil Rights Act – This may as well be regarded as the first major breakthrough in the American history in countering discrimination. This legislation was passed to ban discrimination of individuals based on the color, race, gender, religion and ancestry.
- 1967 Age discrimination in employment act – This act lays down guidelines for employment pensions and benefits; it aims at protecting citizens aged over forty years from being discriminated against by employers and co-workers.
- 1968 Civil rights Act – This act forbid any form of discrimination including religious, racial, physical ability, family status and one’s country of origin in reference to selling, renting or financing a house.
- 1978 Pregnancy discrimination act – This act was intended to shield women against prejudice at work, terminated or denied promotion based on existing or upcoming pregnancy.
- 1990 Americans with disabilities Act – proscribed discrimination of persons who are challenged physically, mentally or by persistent ailments like HIV/AIDS, epilepsy or cancer.
Factors that affect diversity in the workplace
Cross-cultural differences arise in a workplace because of variety of factors, some are positive, others unavoidable but unfortunately, many are negative. These factors may include Ethnocentrism, History and stereotyping, Language and Generalizations of groups and cultures.
Every business organization seeks to have an easy and efficient way to communicate with its employees, give instructions to them and manage its staff well. The fairness and discrimination theory may overlook any differences existing among staff in the office or workplace in the name of fairness, but this is not the easy way out because these factors will always present themselves out anywhere in the working environment. Instead, employers, employees and co-workers in general should embrace acceptance, embrace and compromise when dealing with fellow workers of different gender, race, age or social class, (Eriksen, 2006).
For an objective and successful management according to Samuel C. (2006), “it is not as hard as it may seem to say that every employee is equal irrespective of gender, color, language and age”. This definitely translates to good employer-employee relations, office environment relations, communication and ultimately high output and performance.
Certo, Samuel C. Supervision, (2006). Concepts and Skill 6th Edition. Delaware, US. Irwin/McGraw-Hill.
Eriksen Thomas Hylland, (2006). The Making and Unmaking of Difference (pp. 13–36). Bielefeld. University of Oslo/Free University of Amsterdam.
Ferraro, Paul J.& Cummings, Ronald G (2007) Cultural diversity, discrimination, and economic outcomes: an experimental analysis. NY, USA.
Ngomsi, Emmanuel (2009). Intercultural and Diversity. Lawyers and Settlements. Web.