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Managing Diversity and Creating Equal Opportunity at Workplace

Introduction

Despite the expanded role of women in the workplace over the last three decades, the proportion of women continues to decline at progressively higher levels in managerial hierarchies the higher the level in the organization, the fewer women are found. Understanding the work environment is crucial to understanding what occurs there. Sexual behaviour at work takes place in an organization having its own culture, its own norms and regulation, a hierarchy of job classifications, and diverse tasks carried out by a variety of people. (Kilbourne 2001)

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While organizations differ along these dimensions – some have a rigid hierarchy while others have fewer formal levels of command or are organized along with a matrix – other aspects are relatively similar across companies. For example, people are more likely to think of an affair as taking place between a male manager and a female secretary than between a female manager and a male secretary because women tend to work as secretaries, men as managers.

This is true in all kinds of organizations – hierarchical and non-hierarchical. (Manning 2004) Men and women are not randomly distributed throughout organizations. Each individual worker has identical productive characteristics like being ambitious, competitive, and dominant but in fact many restaurants ignore individuals because of their gender. Even though, law protects employee from discrimination but discrimination in restaurant still happen to each individual especially to women. It is not only because of their gender but also the wage gap faced by women nowadays. In fact, many men find it difficult to accept women managers in workplace just because they see that women as a weaker sex or as sex objects. (Kilbourne 2001)

Bramley Construction Ltd. [BCL], a multinational company, employs candidates from various diverse regions in the world. With its current establishment, which is in Asia, its’ task force is predominantly Asian. Being a construction company, the majority of the employees are male and experienced. In a construction company, the vocational health hazards are numerous and hence, health and safety is an essential department of the company.

The employees’ dependency on this department is quite high. The introduction of Mary Harper, a white, as the Health and Safety Director is bound to raise objections among the employee as she is of the opposite gender and of a different race and age. They would be rather comfortable with a person of the same race who could empathize with them and understand their sentiments. Hence, the conflicts within the workplace arise. (Kilbourne 2001)

Diversity in a workplace involves how the employees perceive others and themselves which affects their interactions. The diversity this current situation brings about is the:-

  • The diversity of gender
  • The diversity of age
  • The diversity of ethnicity

We would discuss each diversity conflict within the workplace in detail.

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The Diversity of Gender

One of the salient features of the workspace culture is the emphasis on expertise and proving oneself and one’s expertise. Men, especially in the third world countries, are not used to see women managers as their work cultures and policy are still orthodox and traditionally. The idea of women managers, especially a young woman, at an elevated post is new to the Asians and hence it is unacceptable to them. Male dominance is a major player in the Asian countries, where at some places, even in these times, women are not granted equal status along with men. According to their beliefs, women are considered inferior and weaker.

They are considered incapable of earning the living and are meant to be dependent on men. Male chauvinism is still very much prevalent and practiced in these countries. The presence of a young woman as their supervisor serves a severe blow to their blown-up ego. No matter how advanced their society has become around them, the dominating male egoism which they have inherited from their forefather, serves as a mental blockage in their workspace. The idea of being instructed around by a member of the opposite sex is highly unacceptable to the group. (Manning 2004)

Also, the position occupied by Mary is of Health and Safety Director. This position, according to the workforce’s belief should go to someone who has been exposed to the hazards employed at work, that is, someone who has practically faced the hazards themselves. The male workforce would be rather uncomfortable discussing their health and safety with a lady, especially a young one. Thus, conflicts arise among the men-folk and they resort to the age-old tricks of taunts and offensive remarks regarding her inexperience and sexuality to get rid of her from the post. (Sims 2006)

The Diversity of Age

It is stated that in the Barmley Corporation Ltd., the newly appointed Health and Safety Director, Mary Harper, is younger than most of the male workforce. From this statement, let us assume that the average age of the task force to be around the mid-forties, and that of Mary to be around late twenties or thirties. Hence, they belong to two different generations. The workers are characterized as the ones with a strong work ethic who value personal growth, and individuality.

There is a tendency to question the establishment of authority and have a trend toward a work structure that is predominantly less hierarchical in nature. The trend is away from long term professional relationships. On the other hand, the younger layer lot, are self, reliant and confident. They are more family oriented than the older lot. They exhibit a host of skills to improve their present positions. Hence, the presence of different generations with their own attributes within the workspace brings about conflicts. Their approach towards their work and the importance of their work in their lives is very different.

The ideas of the young woman are likely to be new and improvised. She is expected to think outside the box which accounts for her quick rise within the company. However, the older employees who are stuck with the traditional ideas and monotonous role within the company, is unable to grasp the newer techniques and take time adjusting to the newer technologies. Hence, the huge generational gap between the workforce and Mary Harper is another reason for the ongoing conflicts between the two groups. (Hofstede 2005)

Diversity in Ethnicity

In the current establishment of the BCL, the majority of the taskforce are the natives, Asians. Their culture, language and way of life are way different from the western countries. One major form of their cultural conflict is rooted in ethnic differences in values /and behavioural styles. Their approaches towards their work, their needs and their expectations from the job too are different. These differences can be attributed to their ethnicity. The Asian personality tends to be low-key, quiet, who speaks when there is a requirement to speak. Asian style of participation revolves around cultural norms of self-effacement, deference, modesty and collective decision making and consensus building.

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Asians are considered to be very good listeners and thorough – clean workers. Their performances are very strong when working as a team. Contrastingly, the whites are rather outspoken and would never let out a chance to voice out their opinions. The whites are good leaders and tend to offer very good managerial services. Thus, Mary Harper can attribute her rise within the BCL to her ethnicity. Her traits are aggressive, self-promoting, direct and articulate and a risk-taker, which prompted her to higher positions within the BCL. These contrasting traits of the Asians and the Whites are probably another cause for the clash between the two groups.

Now that we have discussed the reasons for the conflicts at BCL we would now discuss steps which must be taken by the CEO in order to resolve the conflicts and provide equal opportunities to its employees, and in turn utilize the diversity in the company to their benefit.

Conflict management is a procedure that is regarded as a long-term management solution to visible obstinate conflicts. It can be formulated as a benchmark for the selection and range of ways by which managers control grievances. It is method of making people understand the view of the others and aligning the feel of rightfulness. (Black & Mendenhall 2003) Therefore, Mary Harper should be first counselled by the upper management, where all her grievances could be heard and all her suggestions be given ear to.

All the problems which she encounters at her workplace need to be discussed and taken in mind. Dealing with diversity is the task of the managers and this should be explained to Mary in a calm manner. The grievances of the local employees should also be addressed such that Mary too is made aware of the problems of the locals and she can take steps to resolve it.

Conflict management

It can be stated that workplace in modern world generally are comprised of people with diverse backgrounds, aptitudes, personality characteristics, approaches towards learning, and the way they react to the behaviours of others they encounter in day to day activities. Thus it is quite natural that conflicts come to pass within and amongst teams. Thus, in today’s management scenario, conflict management assumes immense significance. (Zimmerman 2006)

In this context we need to analyze the current issues at the outset of the discussion. Team and hierarchy activities are vital features in every organisation and need to be directed towards an ideologically shared goal. The lack of trust dynamics in the workplace results in the cropping up of conflicts. Dissatisfaction and annoyance start to creep in. Thus efficient team building should be in place to counter these misbalances.

Teambuilding should organize the workforce and encourage them to acknowledge change and concentrate on incessant enhancement of initiatives and projects. It should also promote suppleness, improvement and creativity amongst the employees. Team dynamics facilitate the workforce to focus on designated tasks and inspire each other. They assist in building faith, reliability and enhance communication. (Black and Mendenhall 2003)

One major issue in the Bramley Construction Ltd. [BCL] is efficient communications. The Tent City project team experiences an uncomfortable situation with the information they obtain from the Manager. The communiqué appears on the news earlier than the team receiving. Thus under such circumstances few conflict issues has been observed with regards to the different teams. It has been frequently observed that incapability to communicate and work effectively results in individual, team, or organizational conflict circumstances. In this case the key issues and the grievances must be taken care of before it affects the overall performance of the teams and stalls the project operations. Individual interviews may be carried out to identify the issue and subsequently needs to be addressed effectively. (Sims 2006)

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Other potential issues in relation to team conflicts may be identified as minute team conflicts and Team-wide disagreements. Workplace conflicts may involve situations such as disparity, insensitive or offensive remarks, or complicated behaviour exhibited by some team members that may aggravate tension throughout the entire team and negatively impact efficiency. Team-wide disagreements or enmity thrust by inherent viewpoints can considerably decrease team fluency and hold-up or interrupt the team’s productivity – be it in inventory management, engineering, customer relations, or internal operations for example human resources and finance.

With regards to conflict management here are some significant aspects to be considered by a manager. Conflict isn’t essentially always a negative feature. When occurring in an open and direct manner, it assists in handling issues and generating a constructive consensus. An organizational culture that holds such a viewpoint is called “constructive confrontation” and can be a constructive instrument. (Hofstede 2005)

Conflict is the consequence of individuals hold dissimilar conjectures. It is important to reflect on what beliefs one’s stance is based on and then analyze perspectives of the others involved. It is also important to concentrate on the issues rather than the involved parties. To a large extent conflict arises from underlying issues that manifest into problems in due course of time. Since they’re never brought to the fore, they never heal and leak out in all your interactions with that person. Thus as a manager it is important that one encourages his subordinates to be open, direct and honest. (Black & Mendenhall 2003)

Solution

The key to managing miscellaneous personnel is increasing character awareness of and understanding to differences of age, gender, and race. There are quite a lot of ways by which the differences among personnel can be handled. Language exercise is a way to encourage an organization that is multicultural in nature. Martha being the minor group can be made to undergo language training which prompts her to understand and communicate with the local employee.

Martha’s exposure to the local language and her understanding of the local customs and culture would let out a large amount friction between the two groups. Being able to communicate in the local dialect would fizz out a lot tensions between the two groups. Martha’s efforts to understand and communicate with the locals would also prompt the locals to conform to her needs and expectations. (Zimmerman 2006)

It is a well known fact that the basic ideology of a company is to make profit but each company develops its identity based on its vision and goal. It is here the aspect of amalgamation of vision and goal with system dynamics or ability comes into play. It is necessary to analyze and evaluate the potential of the company. It is also important to make the employees aware of the strategies to be incorporated by the management.

The most effective and creative approaches and problem-solving strategies best used with a given problem are based on complete understanding of the problem and its related scenario. It is the full knowledge on a certain problem that makes it possible for managers and employee to device methods that is creative and effective at the same time. However, the managers and employees must be given opportunity to think freely.

Freedom of thought and expression is the most effective strategy that a company can implement in order to encourage the “outside the box” procedure. To achieve this goal a company must encourage its staff to sit together under informal scenarios and chat on different elements not necessary on a specific official topic. This would encourage creative ideas and understanding and ultimately the measure of “outside the box” thought process would develop.

A creative worker always possesses the ability to bring out ideas, effective or ineffective, but it would reflect the active mind behind the day-to-day work schedule. A creative worker would follow the laid down policies of the company but at the same time would be energetic enough to formulate strategies that would be motivated towards the benefits of the company. This freethinking and creative approach would create a vibe of cultural openness that would accommodate all cultures, races and colour. As a result, there would hardly be any real conflict at all. However, there would be competitiveness and it is a welcome note as long as it is creative in nature. (Black & Mendenhall 2003)

Conclusion

It is true that Globalization has led employers to push for implementation of fewer directives of industrial relations, less standardization of the employment affiliations, and a greater focus on the workplace as the centre of gravity of managers. However, a manager can act as a counter force against resistance to change. However, the manager can channel this resistance into constructive mode by changing position or shifts and no necessarily axing personnel.

Thus, a manager is a person who maintains the equilibrium of a company through various phases. However, leadership is that part of a manager that is responsible for the art of creating industrial relations of any kind, between people engaged in the industry, such as relation between employers and employees, relation between individuals entering into commercial contracts, relation between investors and debtors etc, in order to maintain true cooperation of all concerned along with motivating the entire deal into a positive favour.

Martha Harper, being the new inductee in the establishment, should be made to undergo a total training on how to communicate, understand, and empathize with the locals so that icy barriers which have developed between two groups could be broken and they be made comfortable communicating with each other. The task of the CEO would be that he influences Martha to take charge of the diversity management herself and address the employees herself.

Bibliography

Black, J. S & Mendenhall, M 2003, “A practical but theory-based framework for selecting conflict management training methods”, Human Resource Management, vol. 28, no. 4, pp 511-530.

Hofstede, G 2005, Culture’s Consequences: International Differences in Work-Related Values. SAGE, London.

Kilbourne, J 2001, Two Ways a Woman Can Get Hurt: Advertising and Violence; Rereading America Cultural Contexts for Critical Thinking and Writing, 5th Edition, St. Martin’s Press, New York.

Manning, C 2004, Principals and Practices: Human Resources Today, National Book Trust, Auckland.

Sims, R L 2006, ‘Comparing attitudes across cultures’, Conflict Management, vol. 13 no. 2, pp. 101-113.

Zimmerman, D. (2006). On the Path of Success: Facts and Fictions. IBL & Alliance Ltd, Auckland.

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