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Impacts of Diversity on Employee Communication

Diversity Leads to Prejudice

According to Allen (2009), interpersonal communication in a diverse workforce is susceptible to prejudice. Consequently, organizational leaders and workers are required to choose their words correctly and structure a message in such a way that it is void of ambiguous phrases. Beamer (2007) maintains that jargon and phrases can have vastly diverse connotations and effects on employees with different cultural backgrounds.

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Condon and Yousef (2001, p. 123) argue, ‘Taboo topics of conversation, biases in spiritual, political or social issues and the nuances of life experience differ between cultures, making it a challenge for co-workers to find common ground when communicating.’ Besides, different cultures use varied approaches to handle conflicts at workplaces. For instance, in the Netherlands, people associate arguments with effective communication at workplaces. Consequently, the Netherlands tolerates arguments during conversations and conflict resolution. On the other hand, In Japan, public disagreement is deemed to be odious (Penley & Hawkins 2005). Indeed, the Japanese do not express their anger in public, and this leads to communication challenges in a multicultural environment. Employees who are not familiar with the Japanese culture may not be able to know when organizational leaders are happy or unhappy with their actions. Consequently, it is hard for employees to know the likes and dislikes of their leaders.

Cultural Oddities

Penley and Hawkins (2005) allege that in the past, organizational leaders were at liberty to come up with distinct communication techniques for dealing with suppliers, customers, and business associates. Today, however, entrepreneurs and corporate leaders have to analyze the cultural oddities of their suppliers, customers, and business associates before contacting them. In the United States, business associates show appreciation by grabbing their partners’ hands in firm greetings.

However, this does not work among the Chinese. Hence, when an American wants to communicate with a Chinese business associate, s/he is expected to be conscious of his/her non-verbal cues. Instead of a handshake, the Chinese prefer a smile and slight bow for compliments. According to Samovar, Porter, and McDaniel (2010), unconscious hand gestures, posture, and traits may create a gap between workers or business associates with diverse cultural backgrounds. Hence, individuals should be careful of both body language and verbal communication when dealing with a diverse workforce or business partners with a different cultural background.

Eradication of Colloquialism

In the past, the use of slang and jargon was common among organizational leaders and employees in the United States. According to Samovar, Porter, and McDaniel (2010, p. 43), ‘the U.S. business was driven by sport and war metaphors because the rules of business tended, for years, to mirror the rules of engagement.’ Nevertheless, organizations no longer use metaphors because they hire workers with diverse cultural practices. Stahl et al. (2010) allege that diversity has abolished the use of colloquialism and slang in the United States’ organizations. Prior to their abolishment, some foreign employees had problems communicating with their American co-workers. For instance, a candidate from the United Kingdom was unable to avail of his acceptance letter in time after an American client left a message claiming that he required a ‘John Hancock’ to complete the transaction. The candidate could not understand how John got involved in the dealing. However, everything was clarified later, and the deal went on as expected.

The consciousness of Generational Differences

Apart from cultural diversity, organizations also face a generational difference. Indeed, a majority of institutions have four generations of workers who interact in their daily activities. Ting-Toomey and Chung (2012) claim that it is important to understand how each generation communicates so as to guarantee effective communication among the generations. Vesa (2006, p. 335) posits, ‘Communication across generations is often fraught with assumptions, frustration, and misunderstanding.’ Baby Boomers interpret messages differently relative to Generation Y and the Millennials. Therefore, cases of disputes are common among the generations.

Wanguri (1996) alleges that the way a fifty-year-old male interprets a phrase is entirely different from the way a twenty-five-year-old female may understand the same phrase. For instance, for a fifty-year-old man, the term “communication skill” may refer to official speaking and writing capacity. On the other hand, a twenty-five-year-old female may consider the phrase to refer to text messaging and email. Hence, organizational leaders and employees are supposed to consider these differences to avoid cases of miscommunication among generations.

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Stereotyping and Misconceptions

Cross-cultural communication is prone to stereotyping and misconceptions. Wood (2013) claims that employees tend to prejudge their colleagues due to their cultural affiliations. Prejudgment inhibits interpersonal communication among employees at workplaces. Wood (2013, p. 112) argues, ‘Different cultures like to receive and trust the information they receive from different sources in different ways.’ At times, some employees are reluctant to receive instructions from their managers due to prejudice. In such a case, managers are forced to reach their staff members through proxies. For instance, some managers use team leaders to relay their messages.

In the United States, some employees do not like to be appreciated in public. Instead, they like being appreciated in private. Consequently, the majority of American organizations have abolished the culture of sticking congratulation messages on notice boards. Today, most organizations congratulate industrious workers through individual letters. It avoids cases of such staff members feeling embarrassed.

Reference List

Allen, B 2009, ‘Diversity and organizational communication’, Journal of Applied Communication Research, vol. 23, no. 2, pp. 143-155. Web.

Beamer, L 2007, ‘Learning intercultural communication competence’, Journal of Business Communication, vol. 29, no. 3, pp. 285-303. Web.

Condon, J & Yousef, S 2001, An introduction to intercultural communication, Bobbs-Merril, Indianapolis, Ind. Web.

Penley, L & Hawkins, B 2005, ‘Studying interpersonal communication in organization: A leadership application’, Academy of Management Journal, vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 309-326. Web.

Samovar, L, Porter, R & McDaniel, E 2010, Communication between cultures, Cengage Learning, Wadsworth. Web.

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Stahl, K, Maznevski, M, Voigt, A & Jonsen, K 2010, ‘Unravelling the effects of cultural diversity in teams: a meta-analysis of research on multicultural work groups’, Journal of International Business Studies, vol. 41, no. 1, pp. 690-709. Web.

Ting-Toomey, S & Chung, L 2012, Understanding intercultural communication, Oxford University Press, New York. Web.

Vesa, P 2006, ‘The impact of relational diversity and socio-cultural context on interpersonal communication: Nordic subsidiaries in Japan’, Asian Business & Management, vol. 5, no. 3, pp. 333-356. Web.

Wanguri, D 1996, ‘Diversity, perceptions of equity, and communicative openness in the workplace’, International Journal of Business Communication, vol. 33, no. 4, pp. 443-457. Web.

Wood, J 2013, Interpersonal communication: everyday encounters, Cengage Learning, Boston. Web.

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