Workplace Diversity: Choosing an Approach
Almost every workplace in America can document an increase in gender, ethnic and national diversity over the course of the last few decades. This increase in diversity brings a wider variety of perspectives that can encourage productivity and allow ideas and innovation to flourish. But as HR managers know, the very combination of different backgrounds and perspectives that fuel innovation can also fuel conflict and miscommunication. If we all understood each other perfectly, then the challenge of difference would be diminished, but the benefits would be diminished as well. Modern HR mangers recognize that embracing diversity does not mean reducing difference, but respecting it, and using it as an advantage in the pursuit of workplace morale and productivity.
But while most HR professionals agree on a common goal—a workplace culture of productivity and mutual respect—they often disagree on the methods required to get there. As an HR professional, your responsibilities include planning and directing training sessions for your workplace, and this means choosing a philosophical approach.
Do you want your mangers to apply different expectations to employees based on their cultural backgrounds? Or do you want your mangers to encourage uniform expectations and workplace assimilation? How do you want your managers to handle conflict resolution when conflicts are rooted in cultural differences?
Consider your reaction to the following statements as you choose your training program models:
Men and women are fundamentally different and communicate in different ways.
- Stereotypical expectations about gender should play no role in workplace discussions.
- Some cultures reward humility, therefore a humble, quiet person from such a culture should be given the same leadership opportunities as an American employee who strives to be direct.
- Leaders are direct. Therefore a direct candidate, regardless of cultural background, is the one most qualified for a leadership position.
- Because of her cultural background, this employee may be embarrassed by excessive public praise, so this praise should be tempered or withheld.
- This employee has done well, and deserves excessive praise.