Diversity is an incredibly important characteristic for workplaces today. A greater awareness and sensitivity regarding diversity in the workplace can empower leaders to grow a more effective organization as well as deliver the highest quality products and services.
Diversity Leadership Skills
Leading and developing a more culturally sensitive environment can, and will, eventually influence the organization and society on the whole.
Peter Drucker (2005) said, “Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights; the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard; the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.”
In order to be successful, leaders must understand their people and the way they interact in the workplace. Awareness of diversity and the implications of having diverse employees working on the same team can prove beneficial to leaders interested in maximizing efficiency and effectiveness.
Positive and Negative
Diversity in the workplace is generally focused on working effectively with people who are different from you in the categories outlined in the law, i.e. race, gender, religion, etc. (Notter, 2005). Workplace diversity can be a double-edged sword presenting both positive and negative relationships with performance.
From a positive perspective, demographic diversity can bring a broader range of knowledge and experience, therefore, positively impacting performance. However, workplace diversity can negatively impact an organization with regard to group processes such as communication, integration, and cooperation, which can then reduce performance (Park & Overby, 2012).
By understanding each employee’s unique core values and attitudes, employers can enhance their ability to:
- Recruit the best employees
- Retain them
- Maximize their loyalty and fulfillment
- Improve inter generational cooperation and understanding
Differences Between Values and Interests
Leaders need to possess a strong leadership posture to address the tensions and dilemmas an increasingly diverse community presents. Additionally, leaders need to recognize ways in which their behavior is not only dependent upon, but must also adjust to various internal, external, and personal circumstances.
In other words, leadership must look beyond the societal pressures to become diverse and truly consider the associated implications.
To do this, leaders must first recognize that there are differences between the values and interests of individuals from different generations. Then they need to ask themselves how many or what percentage of the workforce is different.
The numbers alone may indicate that a leader should be proactive regarding a certain kind of diversity. Conducting such an inventory will show that a leader may have multiple races, cultures, religions, etc in their workforce or that they may be more homogeneous.
Whatever the representation, the awareness of those numbers can lead to action that can increase productivity and morale within an organization.
Diversity Leadership Qualities
Diversity education and awareness for leadership and the organization, on the possible impact of diversity is one of many tools that can be used to become more effective.
Understanding what the group likes or prefers can help drive buy-in or motivation of the organization. It could also lead to a better understanding of how to capture their enthusiasm and take advantage of their unique talents.
If a leader has a diverse workforce, then they should have an education program that will identify and address differences and bring the groups together in an effort to build diverse teams. “If we don’t talk about why we’re different and our different perspectives, we don’t come to the best decisions,” and, “. . . the more people are willing to invest in honest communication about these issues, the better the outcome” (Dittman, 2005).
Lowering Standards to Achieve Diversity is Not the Solution
When leaders lower standards to achieve diversity, it creates significant, long term implications for the work environment. If it is known that hiring qualification standards were lowered to achieve greater diversity, employees will then start to question how their organization determines who gets promoted, and so on.
This becomes especially complex and problematic in the face of the statutes that make it illegal to discriminate against anyone on the basis of race or ethnicity (Clegg, 2000).
As much as a leader attempts to mitigate the tensions and dilemmas due to an increasingly diverse community, there are deep implications that must also be considered. Imposing diversity upon an institution can create resentment and stigmatization as well as break the law, and compromise an organization’s mission.
Furthermore, forced diversity practices tell some employees that they aren’t going to be valued, hired, or promoted, because they have the wrong melanin content or ancestry (Clegg, 2000).
Diversity as a Competitive Edge
Whether we agree with it or not, a diverse workforce is a reflection of a changing world and marketplace (Kepner, Wysocki, Green, & López, 2002). Though diverse work teams can bring high value to organizations, they may be unattainable without the proper leadership, education, and training.
When a leader becomes aware and respects individual differences, the entire workplace or organization will benefit by possessing a competitive edge, as well as increasing work productivity.
Leaders that embrace diversity can benefit, but only by creating a fair and safe environment where everyone has access to opportunities and challenges.
What Has Been Your Experience With Diversity in the Workplace?
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