Managing Diversity at the Workplace

The previous articles in this module discussed the ways and means of attracting diversity and how to recruit diverse teams. This article discusses how to manage diverse teams and to ensure that diversity is actualized in practice as opposed to merely paying lip service to the concept. Many organizations proclaim that they are committed to diversity while in reality; the work culture in those organizations is parochial, gender insensitive, and racist.

Hence, it is imperative that organizations not only preach diversity but also practice it. The best way to start would be to sensitize the middle management and the layers below them to gender, racial, and alternative lifestyles. This can be done by a concerted action in the form of training sessions and workshops where the message of diversity is percolated down to the lower most levels. The point here is that unless diversity as a term is understood and practiced by the middle and lower level employees, the efforts of the top management would go down the drain.

In many organizations, it is common for the managers to discriminate against particular racial and ethnic employees because they would be playing favorites with those employees of their own kind. These needs to be avoided at all costs and the senior leadership should send an unambiguous message that discrimination and harassment would not be tolerated at any cost. Further, in Asian countries, it is often the habit that employees lapse into their own language without considering the implications that it would have on the employees who do not speak their language. These needs to be avoided at all costs as well and strict enforcement of the language of communication (whether it is local or global) must be done. The point here is that in many industries, the managers need to communicate in the language that the workers are comfortable with. Therefore, there are no issues in this case since the language of communication can vary. However, in corporate settings and in services sector companies, there are employees from diverse backgrounds who feel lost when the manager and the employees communicate in languages other than the official language of communication.

The next aspect is that the workplace must be gender sensitive, which means that managers and employees must not comment on matters that are sensitive to women. For instance, it is common in many organizations to pass overt and covert comments against women and to speak in demeaning ways. This must be avoided at all costs and we cannot emphasize more the importance of being gender sensitive at the workplace. The point here is that unless the work environment is free from gender stereotyping and racial and ethnic biases, the output from the organizations suffers.

Finally, as mentioned earlier, the senior leadership has to start with the middle management since they are the ones who deal with the boots on the ground and hence, they are in the best position to actualize gender and racial sensitivity. Unless the middle management is brought on board to actualize diversity, the workplace would remain insensitive and racist which definitely affects productivity.


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