Management and Diversity
In order for management to make diversity work, managers must first understand the definition of diversity. Most simply explained, diversity encompasses all of the ways in which individuals are both similar and different. According to Lee Gardenswartz, “Diversity involves variations in factors we control as well as those over which we have no choice. These factors give us areas of commonality through which we can connect with others and aspects of difference from which we can learn” (24). These same factors also represent areas of trouble where conflict may develop. Today, cultural diversity is a business reality. The ability to build bridges between people from different countries, with different ethnic backgrounds, is as important as any other business function. Working in a culturally and ethically diverse organization does not mean eliminating differences in styles and approach, but celebrating those differences and revealing all of the strengths that diversity brings to an organization (Henderson 229). There is a multitude of ways in which humans are both alike and different. Some of these differences have an impressive effect on our opportunities and experiences, while others have relatively little impact at all. Diversity can be seen as “four concentric circles,” at the center of which is personality (Gardenswartz 24). Personality is a distinctive aspect that gives each person his or her own particular style. This core aspect pierces all other layers. Beyond the central core of personality are the six internal dimensions of diversity. These are aspects over which people have little or no control. They include gender, age, sexual orientation, ethnicity, physical ability, and race. In addition to internal dimensions, external influences such as social factors and life experiences also have an impact on how people are treated at work. Some examples of these external influences include: where an individual grew up or lives now, whether they are married or have children, how their religious affiliation guides them, and the amount and type of education they have. Finally, the fourth layer encompasses organizational influences related to factors such as seniority, the kind of work an individual does, their level within the company, and their work location (26-34). All of these layers together form one’s own diversity filter. The human resource approach focuses on the relationship between people and the organization, and recognizes that cultural diversity includes every employee. It must be understood that people are the most important resource in an organization. The challenge is to successfully apply skills, insight, energy, and commitment to make an organization better. According to George Henderson, “an organization is only as effective as the people who operate it” (4). Henderson introduces several challenges that may affect diversity in an organization. First there is the challenge of getting women and minorities into senior level management positions. “Women and minorities account for more than fifty percent of the American work force but they comprise less than five percent of the senior management positions” (5). It is also important for management to know the difference between affirmative action, valuing diversity, and managing diversity. Affirmative action refers to legally stated written plans and statistical goals for recruiting, training, and promoting specific underutilized groups. Valuing diversity means that every member of an organization is to be valued and managing diversity emphasizes managerial skills and policies needed to maximize every employee’s contribution to the organizational goals (6-8). Another challenge that must be met by many organizations is to design ways for employees to expand their individual comfort zones. Once diversity is accepted as an organizational value, new assumptions about its positive benefits surface. “There is the belief that employee...
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