Facts About the Positive and Negative Implications of Workplace Diversity
What is Diversity?
“The inherent differences that exist between individuals, groups and nations, as a result of their deep-rooted attitudes and persuasions - all of which come together in the modern workplace, and then impact on unit performance - either positively or negatively to varying degrees - affecting unit performance and output.”
Valuing Differences and Diversity in the Workplace
So, as we read above, the term diversity, when related to the composition of people in the workplace, the usual connotations are differences in race, age, or physical appearance. Diversity is present across the world, to a greater or lesser degree, but the idea of diversity is particularly evident in South Africa, which has long been a melting pot of many different nationalities and races.
Diversity need not be limited to racial differences. It is true that diversity includes differences that are self-evident, such as age, gender, height, weight and skin, eye aye and hair colour. We must remember however, that there are less evident differences - such as personality, styles, abilities, motivations, goals and cultural background. These, coupled with our distinguishing attributes, combine to make us diverse and unique individuals.
But, of course - if we take into account the recent UNIQUE fossil discoveries in South Africa:
No other country in the world can boast the oldest evidence of life on Earth extending back more than 3 billion years, the oldest multi-cellular animals, the oldest land living plants, the most distant ancestors of dinosaurs, the most complete record of the more than 80 million year ancestry of mammals, and, together with several other African countries, a most remarkable record of human origins and of human achievements through the last eight million years!
Every unique employee brings his or her unique self into the workplace. It is important that this uniqueness is recognised, accepted, and valued by peers, leaders and subordinates, just as it is important for an employee to value the uniqueness of OTHERS as well. These differences provide a range of skills & abilities that a team can tap into, to become self-sufficient and successful. An organisation NEEDS new and different ideas to stay ahead of the competition and to survive. In making decisions and finding solutions to problems, it is always important to look at situations from different perspectives. In short, valuing diversity is one of the keys to ANY organisation’s success.
But take heed: As much as an organisation can benefit from having a diverse workforce, it may also prove challenging if not handled properly. In fact, if workplace diversity is NOT valued and managed effectively, it may actually lead to unnecessary stress, low productivity and possibly even high staff turnover.
Knowing the importance and complications that can come along with diversity in the workplace, how should we deal with diversity in order to MAXIMISE it’s advantages?
Here are some suggestions:
Recognize the value of ALL contributions, AND the people who make them
- Remain open-minded
- Place your organisation’s team’s agenda above your personal agenda
Encourage open and honest discussion of differences
- Acknowledge diverse styles, abilities and motivations, & the benefits or problems that may arise
- Ask for ideas about how to enhance the benefits, and counteract the problems that result from differences
Make a conscious effort to include people with different ideas and approaches
- Consciously seek out others with whom you might not ordinarily come into contact
- Control the impulse to exclude people who are known for being difficult or complex
- Recognize that sometimes it is not a SINGLE idea that provides a solution, but a single idea ENHANCED and EXPANDED by many others
Support alternative ideas and approaches
- Allow people to express their complete ideas or thoughts before asking questions about them
- SHOW you are listening by maintaining eye contact and nodding
- Take notes if necessary
- Don’t view differences as either superior or inferior
- Valuing differences strengthens an organisation by providing it with a VARIETY of resources that can be tapped into and maximized.
- Having people with a variety of styles, attributes and motivations provides room for flexibility, creativity and dynamic interactions.
- In today’s fast-paced times, the organisations with the greatest competitive advantage are those that can make the MOST of their people’s diverse styles, abilities and motivations.
- Although we continue to appreciate our similarities, let us also celebrate, support, and VALUE the differences that make us unique!