There are challenges to managing a diverse work population. Managing diversity is more than simply acknowledging differences in people. It involves recognizing the value of differences, combating discrimination, and promoting inclusiveness. Managers may also be challenged with losses in personnel and work productivity due to prejudice and discrimination and complaints and legal actions against the organization (Devoe, 1999). Some of the main challenges of diversity in the workplace include communication barriers, increased tension within the workforce, resistance to change, group cohesiveness and interpersonal conflict, lack of implementation of diversity in workplace policies and lack of efficient management of the diverse workforce. Communication barriers lead to problems in a company attempting to create a diverse workplace. For example, when a U.S. company hires employees of other cultures whose first language is not English, employees and managers may experience difficulties communicating with one another. This can lead to misunderstandings and a decrease in productivity. Even if a manager gives instructions about completing a certain task to an employee who fails to fully comprehend the instructions, the employee may make mistakes if he tries to complete the task without receiving clarity. Ineffective communication of key objectives results in confusion, lack of teamwork, and low morale, therefore, sometimes it helps for companies to hire bilingual employees who can mediate and reduce language and communication barriers. Tension may develop among people from different cultural or ethnic backgrounds because of very different views concerning lifestyle, religion and politics, when these concepts are introduced into a work environment. Because of the different views, discrimination, stereotyping, harassment and exclusion may develop within the workforce. When diversity is not accepted in an organization, much of the time this is due to varying levels and kinds of discrimination. Some types of discrimination which exist are gender, race, sexuality, religion, disability, economic class or cultural background. When people assign an identity to an entire group, rather than judging each individual on their own merits, it presents challenges because these conceptions are typically inaccurate and are based off wrongful stereotypes. Already, there are rising tensions among the disadvantaged groups jockeying for advancement. Employers are being put into the uncomfortable position of having to decide which disadvantaged group is most deserving. Negative attitudes will also arise from this which may lead to harassment of others who are different from the person(s) provoking this behaviour. Therefore in order for diversity initiatives to be successful, it is important to eliminate organizational tendency to exclude people for reasons which have nothing to do with the job. Opposition to change might also become a major challenge because although workplace diversity benefits an organization as a whole, some employees and managers may not react positively to changes made. Employees who oppose workforce diversity usually reject new ideas and make work environments more difficult. If the company doesn't handle opposition properly, workplace diversity initiatives may not provide the intended benefits to the company. To deal with opposition, companies should explain the reasons for diversity and what benefits changes in diversity bring to management and employees. Alleviating fears some people possess about workplace diversity may reduce much of the opposition. Group cohesiveness and interpersonal conflict may also arise and this is because, although employee diversity can lead to greater creativity and better problem solving; it can also lead to open conflict and chaos if there is mistrust and lack of respect among groups. This means that as organizations become more diverse, they face greater risks that employees will not work together effectively. Interpersonal friction rather than cooperation may become the norm. Implementation of diversity in workplace policies is also important because although on paper workplace diversity may seem like a good idea, many companies experience challenges when attempting to implement those changes. Employers must develop strategies for implementation, analyze results and make necessary changes if results do not meet the established goals. The implementation process may present challenges to everyone involved, and frustrations may arise because implementation is not as smooth as expected. To help with implementation, employers may decide to hire experienced professionals who specialize in workplace diversity. Experienced professionals understand the challenges and know how to handle them. Companies must not have lack of effective management in the changes in policies, but this usually presents a challenge for many organizations. Challenges in managing workplace diversity can stem from several reasons, such as taking the wrong approach to solving diversity issues. For example, a company may adopt affirmative action policies in an attempt to solve diversity problems. Affirmative action is about giving opportunity to previously disadvantaged workers. Hiring based solely on race may not solve diversity issues. According to “Lawrence Herzog of H.Careers”, managers face challenges when new employees from diverse backgrounds interact with long-standing employees. Some companies however offer training programs to managers to help them effectively manage their newly diverse departments.
Some studies have also indicated that companies that do not invest in solid diversity policies are often plagued with problems such as; high employee turnover rates, increase in absenteeism rates and lawsuits within the company. High employee turnover rates can be costly because each time someone leaves the company, time and money have to be spent on recruiting potential new hires, interviews and subsequently, training new employees. The University of Florida IFAS Extension indicates that workers who do not accept the hiring of a more diverse workforce may even decide to leave a company. In a small business situation where it can be hard enough to attract and retain quality workers, this could be harmful to productivity and result in rebellion among the remaining workers. Absenteeism is another problem which afflicts organizations who lack diversity initiatives; this ends up being expensive because morale goes down which results in less productivity due to low spirits and absenteeism. Lawsuits also increase when discrimination and harassment occur in the workplace, because it opens up the organization to costly lawsuits which do not benefit anyone; not the victim, or the employee. Research shows that these problems which can occur are directly related to a non-investment in strong diversity initiatives. It is therefore in a company’s best interest to promote diversity, but overcoming these challenges sometimes takes effort.