As the United States enters its third century as nation, its representation diversifies. The country, more specifically, its workplaces, is comprised with peoples of varying cultures, races, and religions. These differences can potentially lead to misunderstanding and conflict instigated by intolerance and ignorance of said differences. Therefore, it is imperative for professionals and managers to have an awareness and appreciation for others whose background, beliefs, and values differ from their own. Comprehension about one another is necessary to work together efficiently and effectively for various reasons. To achieve the best outcome, managers and professionals must create an environment where differences are appreciated and valued; creating an atmosphere precipitated by mutuality of benefit and respect of these differences.
Differences between societal members may afford some certain privileges while denying others the same privileges. Many people in society are unaware of their privileges, and thus strive in some areas without cognizance of aid. For example, being a citizen of the United States is a privilege because it provides a multitude of socioeconomic advantages. According to Jones (2003), understanding privileges requires the identification of ways a socially constructed organization gives preference to certain groups while simultaneously disadvantaging other groups.
I saw with my own eyes, how human nature tends to overlook advantages and benefits that we never considered. While completing the Lefties for a day assignment, I realized being right handed was a privilege I had not realized. The world seems like it was made for right handed people; for example, in schools today there are very few left-handed desks and the mouse for the computer is set on the right side. Not only did I neglect to consider these advantages, I never realized how many tasks my husband (a left handed person) must do as a “righty.” He cuts with his right hand, eats as a right handed person, even sometimes needs to write right handed because some pens don’t produce ink when they are held in the direction that a left handed person holds a pen. In America, we use our right hand to say the Pledge of Allegiance and in court, we have to place our right hand on the bible. Standard daily tasks aren’t just designed with the right-handed person in mind but it almost seems that they are preferred socially. Consequently, I realized that not only do right handers benefit from privileges but certain gender, racial, and ethnic groups do as well. According to the Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, “Women who work full time earn just 74 cents for every dollar men earn...women of color who work full time are paid even less, only 64 cents for every dollar men earn” (Buccigrossi et.al, 2003). I think we are trained to observe inequities in the balance of preference, but not enough emphasis is delivered to observing the benefits gained from someone’s disadvantage. As professionals it is imperative to recognize what privileges are granted to certain people and check how this effects groups other than the ones that you are member to.
Diversity in the workplace brings an assorted range of ideas and perspectives to any project. As a nurse, it is important to understand diversity because nurses work with diverse groups of people with different beliefs and values and have to accommodate these patients during their stay in the hospital. It is important to be flexible and respectful for others view points. It is important to listen to the patient to find out about their beliefs on health and illness. One experience I had recently in my hospital was being assigned to an Arab woman in the Labor and Delivery Unit. She was accompanied to the hospital by her husband. Although the woman could speak some English, the only time she spoke directly with me (her nurse) was when her husband was not in the room. I knew that this is customary and acceptable in the Arab culture and that her husband acts as the intermediary between his wife and the world. After her baby was born, I placed the newborn immediately to the mother’s breast to allow her to breastfeed, but was told by her, that this is not the tradition of the Arab culture. She continued to tell me that she will start to breastfeed her baby on the third day of life and will formula feed till then. I stopped persuading her to breastfeed and respected her decision. When a male technician came to draw blood, I made sure that her entire body was covered except her arm. Again, this is customary in the Muslim culture. I was able to provide culturally competent care to this patient by asking questions and listening to the patient and her husband. My previous knowledge and understanding of the Arab culture also helped to minimize cultural psychological discomfort.
The need for wide cultural comprehension is important for various causes. One, to avoid the potentially offensive areas. Second, it allows the professional to accommodate the background of the client, patient, etc. and to ease relations between different people. Lastly, it allows the individual the opportunity to benefit from the value of another’s background. This provides a more diverse, and therefore, reasoned and informed approach to professional practice. We should consider instances when a party other than ours is being disproportionally disadvantaged. The exercise with my left hand, opened my eyes to the advantages I receive everyday but ignorantly overlook.
Buccigrossi, J., Robinson, M., Pfeiffer, C. (2003). Business Case for Diversity with Inclusion. In Business Case for Inclusion and Engagement. Retrieved September 3, 2011, from http://workforcediversitynetwork.com/docs/business_case_3.pdf
Jones, S. (2003). The Right Hand of Privilege. In The Multicultural Advantage. Retrieved September 3, 2011, from http://www.multiculturaladvantage.com/recruit/diversity white-men-diversity/Right-Hand-of-Privilege.asp