Cultural diversity in the workforce has both advantages and disadvantages. Just like anything implemented in business, there are always things that are great in one perspective and of course things that are not going to work well in every situation. An example of this is resolving conflicts in the workforce due to cultural diversity. What can a company do to resolve conflicts in the workforce because of cultural diversity? There are, however, things that companies can do to help resolve these conflicts. In this paper these topics will be discussed.
First of all, what is cultural diversity? According to Thomas, “Diversity is not synonymous with differences, but encompasses differences and similarities”(1996). Many people concentrate on the differences but what must be understood is that it is both the differences and similarities simultaneously that make up diversity.
Some of the advantages of a cultural diversity in the workforce is that the employees are more likely to have an “improved understanding of customers, increased productivity, a variety of viewpoints and spoken languages”(Vogel, 2010). In an office that has employees of different cultures, these employees are more likely to be more understanding and respectful of other’s culture and lifestyle. According to Vogel “Having people of varying cultures, backgrounds and languages working together can improve customer service. Their collective backgrounds and experiences make them more understanding of various lifestyles and better able to relate”(2010). Because of this, employees are better able to serve and understand customers or clients better which is also better for a company’s future business. When a company is better able to understand their clients or customers culture and language, the better that company will render customer service and in the end this will secure the company’s future business with their clients. Another advantage of having a culturally diverse workforce is getting new perspectives from a workforce of different cultures and backgrounds which can benefit a company’s competitive edge. According to Vogel another important factor in having a culturally diverse workforce is “Hiring native speakers to a variety of languages can increasingly benefit a business. It is equally important to hire employees who know sign language” (2010). Carnevale said it best in October 1994, “Welcoming diversity is directly connected to the bottom line.”
Of course with the advantages of having a culturally diverse workforce there are potential disadvantages because of having a culturally diverse workforce. “Negative attitudes and behaviors in the workplace include prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination, which should never be used by management for hiring, retention, and termination practices” (Green, Kepner, López, & Wysocki). Because of these types of negative behaviors, the very things that make a culturally diverse workforce an advantage can also unfortunately make for these disadvantages in the workforce. One must remember that the very basis for having a diverse workforce is to include qualified people from all backgrounds so employees that a manager hires need to understand that respect for each other is required and that negative behavior will not be tolerated. According to Alexis “In managing a culturally diverse workforce, clear and simple language about tasks is encouraged, and explanation of what needs to be done to achieve them” (2005).
What can a company do to resolve conflicts in the workforce because of cultural diversity? According to Koonce, “Diversity facilitators say that it's important to introduce the ground rules at the start” (2001). If ground rules are introduced in the beginning then everyone is aware of what is expected and required when respecting each other while working with a culturally diverse workforce. It is also a good idea for a company to have a good a diversity training program. Koonce also reports that “Providing people with cross-cultural communication and diversity training can accelerate cooperation in multinational work teams, facilitate group learning, and reduce cultural misunderstandings that might otherwise arise, advises Ross” (2001). This type of training will help managers and employees understand their counter parts better. When people have an understanding of why another person does what they do because of their culture, it makes it easier for them to be considerate. It also intrigues many people to learn more about each other and embrace the other’s differences. A great example of this in terms of culturally diverse people put together is the topic of food. Many times people will get together and cook different things from their culture so that everyone can experience something from the other person’s culture of food. This is also a great concept for getting people to bond which helps people to get them to know each other, learn from each other and work together better. These type of activities can be added to diversity training to help bring employees together, understand one another much better, and work as a strong team. This makes for great business and productivity which in turn is great for the future of the company.
In conclusion, cultural diversity in the workforce has its advantages and disadvantages. The bottom line is that cultural diversity in the workforce has more advantages than disadvantages as long as employees and managers know what is expected from the beginning. There also needs to be a zero tolerance for disrespect of each other and negative attitudes towards each other. With diversity training and activities to get people to communicate and understand each other better, this gives a company a great competitive edge because of all the different talents of its employees. So in the end cultural diversity in the workforce is a very smart move on behalf of a company that wants to be able to be extremely competitive, stay on top of their game and render the most diversely competitive service. These advantages affect the bottom line in a positive way and that is why businesses are interested in a culturally diverse workforce.
Alexis, O. (2005). Applied leadership. Managing change: cultural diversity in the NHS workforce. Nursing Management - UK, 11(10), 28-30. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Carnevale, A. P., & Stone, S. C. (1994). Diversity beyond the golden rule. (Cover story). Training & Development, 48(10), 22. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Green, K. A., Kepner, K., López, M., & Wysocki, A. (n.d.). Diversity in the Workplace: Benefits, Challenges, and the Required Managerial Tools. Retrieved March 10, 2011, from University of Florida IFAS Extension: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/hr022
Koonce, R. (2001). Redefining Diversity. (Cover story). T+D, 55(12), 22. Retrieved from EBSCOhost. Accessed March 12, 2011.
Thomas Jr., R. (1996). Redefining diversity. HR Focus, 73(4), 6. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Vogel, N. (2010). The Advantages of Cultural Diversity in the Workplace. Retrieved March 10, 2011, from eHow: http://www.ehow.com/list_6319502_advantages-cultural-diversity-workplace.html