Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Essay on Managing Workplace Diversity - Workplace diversity essay
Essay on Managing Workplace Diversity
The corporate world in the era of globalization is very much different from workplace environment several decades ago. There was a time when laborers were compelled by their employers to work for twelve to fourteen hours a day without additional compensation. Workers were forced to work on dangerous conditions often exposed to potential injuries and accidents. Employers were denied their health care benefits and subjected to harsh and dangerous work environment. Female employees were either victims of sexual harassment by their managers or victims of discrimination as they were given less salaries compared to what is being received by male employees despite doing substantially the same nature of work. Female employees were likewise given lesser opportunities for promotion and increase in pay. Unions were also considered a taboo as companies denied their employees the opportunity to form or join unions and to be represented by a union. African Americans, the Latinos and the Asian employees also complained about racial discrimination as they were denied equal employment opportunity simply because of their race.
In view of the decades of lobbying in Congress and marching on the streets to solicit the help of the public for the protection of women, employees, unions and the minorities, laws have been finally passed requiring the avoidance of discriminate in workplaces and requiring all employees regardless of their gender, race, sexual preference, or age to be given equal opportunity in the workplace.
Corporations have began to realize that diversity can play important role in the company and that managing a mutually inclusive environment can give the company competitive edge in the 21st Century. According to Marlene G. Fine (1996), diversity is
’s greatest strength in the global economy. “But it is, and will remain, an unrealized strength unless we are able to create multicultural discourses that incorporate the diverse voices of all workers” (10). America
A research was conducted involving a company which is engaged in a land-based casino business. It also operates online casino business which accepts bets for games in poker and sports book. For the purpose of this research, however, the focus will be on its land-based casino operation involving more than two hundred employees. This casino was chosen because of its present composition of employees which is a mix of American, Asian, Middle Eastern and European employees. Its policies were evaluated to determine how well the company manages diversity in the workplace and effectively communicate to its employees.
The Company’s Problem
In the past the company had experienced incessant arguing, gossiping and backbiting among its employees. Initially, the management thought that these were merely isolated incidents that pose no threat to the company. They thought that the employees were simply pressured and tired with the demands of the job and that the bickering will eventually stop. The arguments, disagreements and complaints among employees continued however. It was only when fighting actually started between two employees that the company finally realized that they have a problem. Investigation was conducted and it was found out that cross-cultural clash was one of the root cause of the disagreements. Apparently, an Asian employee got irked because of a remark made by another employee. The Asian employee retaliated by speaking something against the other employee and a fight ensued.
At the time the bickering and quarrels became frequent, the company also notice that absenteeism and tardiness among employees also increased. The company thought that these two factors were related to each other. The situation became worse when these quarrels among the employees have affected the service the company provides to its clients. There was one time when the company received a complaint from a client that two employees spoke in Spanish in front of her and that the client felt she was disrespected by the two employees. As a response to complaints coming from customers, even attempted to impose English-only policy. But fortunately they decided to discontinue it when they learned that the same thing was done by a manager of Dunkin Donuts in
. This however created adverse reactions coming from the customers themselves, the people whom the manager thought he was trying to please and protect (Cristina M. Guez, 2006, p.1). New York
Review of Related Literature
According to Kelli A. Green (n.d.), globalization has paved the way for the opening of the economy to the whole world resulting in interaction among people from diverse culture, beliefs and backgrounds. Because of its potential for yielding greater productivity and competitive advantage, Diversity issues are now considered important and are projected to become even more important in the future due to increasing differences in the U.S. population. The article also highlights the different benefits of fostering diversity in the workplace such as productivity, reduction of risks for lawsuits, increase marketing opportunities, recruitment, creativity and improve business image.
An anonymous author who wrote an article in Black Enterprise (1993) said that success of the management diversity program requires support from the management. He cited a study conducted by Towers Perrin involving 200 organizations which found that 54% of senior human resource managers said that management support for work force-related programs had increased over the last two years - recession and economic woes notwithstanding. Two factors were the leading contributors: 95% attributed the increased support to greater senior management awareness, and 89% acknowledged the need to attract and retain a skilled work force. The article also highlighted that acceptance of diversity is a new tried. The old company practice is to assimilate diversity by expecting people to hide or adapt their cultural differences for them to fit in the company’s dominant culture.
Creating a corporate culture that allows for diversity to thrive is not easy. It does not happen overnight. According to Josh Greenberg, Human Resource Managers seeking to create a mutually inclusive environment must overcome different challenges. The first is communication. Perceptual, cultural and language barriers must be overcome. The second is the natural tendency of the people to resist change. The third is the formulation of strategies in the implementation of diversity program in the workplace. The fourth is the actual integration of the diversity program in the workplace which requires the continuous monitoring of the program and assessment of its effectivity after its implementation.
Results of the Study
Diversity in the workplace is essentially one of understanding and acceptance. It means an understanding and acceptance that the workplace is composed of individuals who are unique and different. Employees are all unique in the sense that no two persons are alike. Employees are also different because they have different languages, races, and ethnicity. They also exhibit differences in the way they dress, their political values, religions and religious practices and in the manner they interact with each other.
Instead of imposing serious sanctions such as suspension or even termination against the erring employees, the company realized that the proactive solution to the problem is to examine its root cause. After investigations have been conducted, the company found out that the disagreements and conflicts were the result of the diversity of cultures among the employees. The company found out that the employees the employees only misunderstood and misinterpreted their fellow employees. They also discovered that the diversity existing in the company which they neglected to focus their attention to was causing the destruction of the company.
As a result, the company sought the assistance of its Human Resource Manager to be able to find out the solution to their problem which they identified as cultural diversity. Some of the possible options agreed upon were the creation of a homogenous workforce so as to avoid cultural clashes or the creation of a team by the management whose sole task is to plan and conduct the necessary training, programs and activities that will create an inclusive environment within the company. It was agreed that plan to create a mutually inclusive work environment will be included as part of the corporate goals and integrated in the policy manual of the company.
The company realizes that not all diversity training is successful. According to a comprehensive study of 830 mid-size to large
workplaces, the diversity training conducted in these companies were “ineffective and even counterproductive” in creating a mutually inclusive environment (Shankar Vedantam, 2008, p.1). A study of 31 years of data from 830 mid-size to large U.S. workplaces found that the kind of diversity training exercises offered at most firms resulted in a 7.5% drop in the number of women in management, reduction in the number of black female employees by 10%, and the reduction of the number of black managers was reduced by 12% (Shankar Vedantam, 2008, p.1). US
The Human Resource Director thought that the root cause of the conflicts is the lack of understanding among the employees about each other’s differences. They thought that if the employees will learn to understand and accept the uniqueness and their differences, employees will begin to respect each other and there will be harmony in the workplace. When the programs were prepared, a company-wide communication was sent informing the employees about the problems the company has encountered. They informed the employees that there will be several changes the company desires to implement which they hope will foster a harmonious work environment for the employees.
Emphasis was given first by the company to the manner of its communication with its employees. The company’s principle is if its intention is to foster an inclusive work environment, it must also learn to use inclusive language within the company (Lenora Billings-Harris, p.1). For example the company does not only mention the term gays in its company manual but it speaks of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals (GLBT) in their internal communications. In addition, the company not only prohibits gay jokes, gestures and rumors, but it also takes affirmative actions so that gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexual employees can actually feel that the company takes care of their needs and provides for their protection. It is also worth stressing that similar to big companies like Exxon Mobil, Ford and American Express, this company has provided its same-sex partners substantially the same benefits as heterosexual couples. The company now provides same sex domestic partners with medical care, adoption assistance, benefits, family leave and bereavement leave.
For purpose of improving camaraderie among employees, one of the programs created by the company to address cultural diversity is the sports festival. Realizing that a majority of the male employees were hooked on basketball and tennis, the company organized a tournament of seven (7) different basketball teams. The Human Resources Manager arranged for the reservations in an indoor basketball court and prepared the rules. For female employees, tennis competitions were also organized. The Human Resources Director also encouraged the people from the management to support the sports tournament. He was able to convince them to give out major prizes to the winners and the runner-ups in the tournament.
Aside from sports activities, the Human Resource Director also organized team building activities such as seminars and workshops. Several activities were conducted by the host of the diversity training workshop. These activities include case studies that made learning about cultural diversity entertaining and fun. These activities taught the employees the value of learning to accept each other without appearing as if the host was lecturing. The diversity training host also conducted singing and dancing activities wherein the employees of different culture were mixed together to compete with the other teams. Outdoor and indoor activities were also prepared which required the team members to cooperate with one other.
The company also ensured that minority groups were adequately represented. This is manifested by the fact that the grievance committee of the company that handles complaints against erring employees includes members of the minority groups
Important Piece of Legislation that Contributed to Workplace Diversity
A. Civil Rights Act
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is considered as one of the most important piece of legislation in the 20th Century. It was enacted as a response to the growing racial tension involving the African Americans who were subjected to discrimination by the white Americans (John B. Smith, 2004, p.1). Although slavery had been abolished during these times, a series of laws, called the Jim Crow Laws, were however passed in some part of the
as a means to perpetuate slavery. These laws provided for the separation of treatment between them (Juan William, 20004, p.2). It recognized and gave legality to the denial to African Americans of their right to get jobs, to study in schools, to stay in hotels and dine in restaurants. United States
The Civil Rights Act was intended to annul these laws that discriminated against the African Americans. Its purpose is to protect African Americans from being mistreated in the society and to finally recognize that we are all equals. Thus, after this law was enacted, President Lyndon Johnson remarked, “Those who are equal before God, shall now also be equal in the polling places, in the classrooms, in the factories, and in hotels, restaurants, movie theatres and other places that provide service to the public" (Tim Funk, 2004, p.1).
B. Equal Pay Act
The Equal Pay Act seeks to address compensation discrimination in the workplace. It requires that men and women be given equal pay for equal work done in the same establishment. This protects women who are victims of discrimination in the workplace. The application of this law requires that the job or the work performed need not be identical but the jobs must also be significantly equal. It is not a defence under this law that job titles between two workers are different or that they belong to different departments. What is material is that the nature of the job and the job content are substantially the same.
C. Pregnancy Discrimination Act
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits employers from discriminating against female workers based on pregnancy, childbirth or other related medical condition. This law prohibits an employer from refusing to hire a female employee because of her pregnancy or pregnancy-related condition. The law also grants sufficient protection to female employees to take their pregnancy and maternity leave with pay.
D. Age Discrimination in Employment
Decades ago, older workers were placed at a disadvantage as they were discriminated by their potential employers simply because of their age. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects people who are in the age of 40 from employment discrimination based on age. This law prevents employers from any actions that “would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s age.” 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(2) (2000). Employers, therefore, are prohibited from firing, refusing to hire or from treating differently their employees simply because of their age. This law also applies in every phase of the employment relationship from job advertisements, interviews, hiring, compensation, promotion, discipline, job evaluations, demotion, training, job assignments and terminations. This law has been made to apply to acts of the employers which may appear to be neutral but may in fact have disproportionately negative impact on older worker. This was the ruling of the court in the case of Smith v.
, 125 S.Ct. 1536 (2005). In this case, the city, in an attempt to bring the salaries of their younger police officers up to the regional average, adopted a policy that would give proportionately higher raises to officers having less than five years experience. Though the pay raise discrepancy may be based on the yeas of experience, common sense however dictates that older officers will be prejudiced by the policy considering that they are the ones who are more likely to have served for at least five years. The Supreme Court recognized in this case ruled that the plaintiff may file a claim based on age discrimination simply by proving disparate impact even without direct evidence of discriminatory intent. City of Jackson, Mississippi
Many companies openly declare that they are discrimination-free and that they maintain an inclusive work environment. Saying it and practicing it, however, are two different things. Companies often fall short of what is expected of them while some make it a point to avoid discrimination. On the other hand, some companies do not only avoid discrimination but they work towards achieving an inclusive work environment.
The company which is engaged in casino business is truly committed to achieving an inclusive work environment and ensuring that it turns employee diversity into its assets. This is reflected not only in its human resource practices such as in recruitment and selection of employees, but also in selecting employees for promotion, supporting activities designed to improve employee camaraderie and conducting of seminar and trainings for the employees.
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