Diversity in the Workplace: Bridging the Gap

Words: 2049
Topic: Business & Economics
Updated:

Diversity management is an important aspect in organizational culture. The present study attempts to identify the relation between diversity and the management perception and satisfaction in the organization. The study used a mixed method approach to measure the satisfaction of the top management of a major Korean company, and indicate the methods that respondents deemed suitable for diversity management.

The findings of the study indicated a positive correlation between the status of the status of the groups, the ethnic and gender belonging, and the satisfaction level. Additionally, education, leadership, and alignment of management systems were considered as the most appropriate methods of managing diversity in the organization.

Introduction

With the phenomenon of globalism and the tendency of the business going global, the issue of diversity becomes a major aspect to consider.

The rationale of managing diversity in the work place can be seen from different perspectives, among which is the findings of several studies, namely Jackson, Joshi, & Erhardt (2003) and Webber & Donahue (2001), cited in Prieto, Phipps, & Osiri (2009), who found that “various forms of diversity are associated with greater innovation, improved strategic decision-making, and organizational performance” (Prieto, Phipps, & Osiri, 2009, p. 13).

On the other hand, diversity in the work place might lead to increased conflict, reduction of social cohesion, and increased turnover (Prieto, et al., 2009, p. 13). In that regard, it can be stated that the management of diversity can be seen in different contexts, where diverse workforce can serve in a positive or negative way.

Diversity can be defined in various manners, which include racial, ethnic, age and gender contexts, and in that regard, the most suitable definition is the one covering all of the aforementioned, and at the same time linked to workplace.

Thus, diversity can be defined as the “differences among people that are likely to their acceptance, work performance, satisfaction, or progress in an organization” (Stockdale & Crosby, 2004, p. 12). Diversity management, in such context, refers to

systematic and planned programs or procedures that are designed (a) to improve interaction among diverse people, especially people of different ethnicities, sexes, or cultures; and (b) to make this diversity a source of creativity, complementarity, and greater organizational effectiveness, rather than a source of tension, conflict, miscommunication, or constraint on the effectiveness, progress, and satisfaction of employees (Stockdale & Crosby, 2004, p. 12).

Problem Statement

The problem considered in this study is mainly related to that the existent diversity in an organization, not properly managed lead to an increase in conflict between various groups. A review of the literature indicates the positive effect of training programs in managing diversity and reducing prejudices and bias within the organization.

Nevertheless, the review indicates the lack of research in the area of social identity and intergroup attitudes, between low and high status groups. Working in a company comprised of diverse cultures, the issue of diversity is a major aspect for the employees’ and for employees’ perceptions.

The Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to add to the body of information regarding the management of diversity. In that regard, a mixed method research was used to answer the following research questions:

  1. How the employees from different groups perceive the treatment of the management in the company?
  2. What are the methods that the employees from different groups considered as effective in reducing the tension between the groups?
  3. What is the relation between the proposed methodologies and the employees belonging to certain group in the organization?

The first question was answered through the collection of quantitative data on the employees’ perceptions, and their belonging to a certain group. The second question was reached through a series of unstructured interviews with the same participants on the methods they deem most appropriate to effectively manage the diversity in the organization. The third question was attempted to be answered through identifying a correlation between the employees’ perceptions in the first set of data and the categories of methods they identified in the second.

Literature Review

Diversity and Performance

The influence of the diversity in the workplace on the performance can be explained through the amount of money annually spent on diversity, where it is estimated that such amount reaches $8 billion (Prieto, et al., 2009).

Accordingly, the aspects of diversity that can have a negative effect on organizations correspond to the proposed scope of the present study. These aspect were outlined in Watson, Kumar, & Michaelsen (1993), cited in Prieto, Phipps, & Osiri (2009), as mostly motivational and psychological, such as lower levels of psychological commitment, higher levels of turnover intent, higher absenteeism ration (14).

Accordingly, the latter have an influence of communication, which in turn have an impact on the communication of the organization. Other forms of diversity impact, or in other words, badly managed diversity, can be seen through the possible occurrence of prejudice forms, which might create an emotional conflict between the employees (Kenneth, Todd, & Kathryn, 2007, p. 39).

Perceptions of Diversity

An important aspect can be related to the perception of diversity by the employees themselves, including the management of the organization. A study by Kenneth, Todd, and Kathryn (2007) found that senior managers on organization perceive positively the approaches toward managing diversity, in term so training programs (42).

Accordingly, the reactions of the employees toward such interventions are likely to be positive, making the efforts and the resources, devoted to such matter, worth the investments. Additionally, a major importance is paid toward the implementation of diversity programs, where “[p]oorly conceived and poorly administered diversity programs can cause more harm than good (Kenneth, et al., 2007, p. 42).

Diversity and Intergroup Relations and Communications

As stated earlier, the relations between different groups within an organization is an important aspect of diversity management, in addition to being a measurement scale of the positive or negative impacts of diversity. An important aspect of intergroup relations is contact.

In that regard, the contact hypothesis is one of the oldest and most venerated hypotheses in intergroup research, which states that “prejudice is reduced between members of different groups who come together under the optimal conditions of equal status, a common goal, personal intimacy, and sanction from authority” (Paluck, 2006, p. 585).

Diversity Management

In assigning a model for diversity management, several models were proposed by different scholars, which include Gary Powell’s model, Taylor Cox’s early model, Roosevelt Thomas’s model, and others. One of the models that present interest to the present study is Taylor Cox’s revised model.

This model outlines five components, reflecting the activities that must take place in order for an organization to become multicultural (Stockdale & Crosby, 2004, p. 61). The components are leadership, research and measurement, education, alignment of management systems, and follow-up (Stockdale & Crosby, 2004, p. 61).

Additionally, another theory that can be used to govern the present is the social identity theory, one point of which is that “low-status groups with permeable boundaries are expected to show an out-group bias in favor of permanent employees (the higher status group)” (Christian, Porter, & Moffitt, 2006, p. 463).

Accordingly, this theory outlines the deficiencies in the research conducted in this area, due to the complexity of sampling, and accordingly, due to the differences in the perceptions of both groups. A suggestion can be made is that low and high group are not necessarily associated with position held by the majority of the group, rather than with the majority in general.

In that regard, the example of “a merger between two corrugated board producing companies”, in which the post-merger status is most likely to be an important diversity variable for “employees who identified strongly with the premerger organizations” (Christian, et al., 2006, p. 463) is close parallel to the organization which is the subject of this study.

Methodology

Study Design

This study implemented the mixed method approach, in which both quantitative and qualitative data will be selected. The rationale for choosing such method can be seen in that the integration of both methods “is likely to produce better results in terms of quality and scope” (Sydenstricker-Neto, 1997).

Additionally, it can be stated that the objectives of the study are correlated with the mixed method approach, in which different objectives will be reached through different data.

The instrument used in the survey to measure the perception of the employees and their satisfaction was a four-point Likert scale which enabled the respondent to reflect the perception, and accordingly, correspond belonging the employee to a certain group with the degree of satisfaction (see Appendix 1).

The gathering of quantitative data was implemented through a series of semi-structured interviews, where the usage of the mixed approach allowed provided the following advantages:

  • Testing the consistency of findings
  • Clarifying the results of one method using the other.
  • Stimulation of new research questions
  • Expanding the level of details in the study.

Participants

The participants of the study were the top management of the company, in which I am currently, employed. The company is Korean, and thus, the upper management is predominantly Korean as well, mostly males with a few females.

The American management comprises a smaller portion of the management, in which the groups include Caucasians, African Americans and very few females. The selection method of the participants was random selection of stratified sample from the populations’ stratum of the top management of the company’s, which employs 200 employees.

Data Collection and Analysis

The quantitative data was collected electronically, where emails containing the survey were randomly sent to the top management of the company. Accordingly, the emails contained a request for interviews, upon agreement of which the date and the time were assigned on an individual basis.

The total number of surveys sent was 30survey, with return rate of 90 percent (27 surveys returned). Among the returned surveys all respondents agreed to the interview, although on different dates, and different time intervals.

The quantitative data was analyzed using Microsoft Excel 2007, where the mean score of satisfaction was composed based on the answers. Independent measures were conducted to determine possible differences between the satisfaction level and the belonging to a particular group in the test.

The qualitative data was reviewed were the answers were categorized, based on similar content of the answers (Creswell, 2003). The themes that were used to categorize the contents used the Cox revised model, indicated in the literature review. Additionally, the qualitative data and the resulting themes from the analysis were linked to the quantitative data, with the highest and the lowest scores, manually. Accordingly, the scores within each group were outlined.

Findings

The findings confirmed the social identity theory of the higher and lower status groups were the highest scores of satisfaction were found to be correlated to the participants being in the highest status group, i.e. the Korean male top management, while the lower were found to be of the African American Females.

The interpretation of the qualitative data result indicated that education, leadership, and alignment of management systems to be the most occurring themes ion the result., which show unexpected results, in which the high-status group mostly indicated learning as the method to enhance the diversity in the group, while the lower-status group indicated the alignment of the systems of the organization with the management vision.

The practical implications of the findings clearly indicate the need for diversity training program as well as restructuring the management processes in the organization.

The correlation between the belonging to specific ethnical group, the status in the company and the satisfaction, can be seen as sign of the indicated negative influences of the unmanaged diversity in the organization.

Accordingly, it can be stated that there is a need for future research in which the implementation of diversity management approaches would be measured in order to determine the effectiveness from the company’s perspective.

Conclusion

It can be concluded that the importance of diversity management cannot be overrated, and in that regard, the acknowledgement of the problem is a clear sign that such problem can be resolved. The present study contributes to the field of diversity management by providing the perception al analysis of diversity from within. Accordingly, the findings of the study can serve as the basis of new policies in the company, directed toward managing diversity.

Appendices

Employee company satisfaction poll questions
Appendix 1: Employee Company Satisfaction Poll Questions

References

Christian, J., Porter, L. W., & Moffitt, G. (2006). Workplace Diversity and Group Relations: An Overview. Group Processes Intergroup Relations, 9(4), 459-466.

Creswell, J. W. (2003). Research design : qualitative, quantitative, and mixed method approaches (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.

Esty, K. C., Griffin, R., & Hirsch, M. S. (1995). Workplace diversity (1st ed.). Holbrook, Mass.: Adams Publ.

James, L. O. (2004). The Psychology and Management of Workplace Diversity. Personnel Psychology, 57(4), 1041.

Kenneth, P. D. M., Todd, J. H., & Kathryn, S. O. N. (Writer). (2007). A Longitudinal Evaluation of Senior Managers’ Perceptions and Attitudes of a Workplace Diversity Training Program.

Konrad, A. M., Prasad, P., & Pringle, J. K. (2006). The handbook of workplace diversity. London ; Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.

Paluck, E. L. (2006). Diversity Training and Intergroup Contact: A Call to Action Research. Journal of Social Issues, 62(3), 577-595.

Prieto, L., Phipps, S., & Osiri, J. (Writer). (2009). Linking Workplace Diversity To Organizational Performance: A Conceptual Framework.

Stockdale, M. S., & Crosby, F. J. (2004). The psychology and management of workplace diversity. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub.

Sydenstricker-Neto, J. (1997). Research Design and Mixed-Method Approach: A Hands-on Experience. Social Research Methods.