The world has become globalized, thus requires individuals from different backgrounds, cultures, races, ethnicities and beliefs to work together. The workplace has not only become diversified but has also exceeded traditional geographical barriers. Employees are no longer subject to the conventional, insular marketplace. Rather, they have been forced to adapt to the increasingly competitive global economy. A diverse workforce implies that the firm has rich human resources, which if well managed, can be very productive. However, a diverse workforce is also a recipe for discrimination. Human resource departments are currently faced with a dilemma as to how they should manage the optimum balance in order to ensure maximum output. The fact that each and every person is normally viewed from one perspective, such as from a particular race, ethnicity or background, may hinder equitability and promote biased perceptions amongst employees. Hence, proper strategies must be put in place to ensure that the workplace remains free, fair and transparent and that the employees remain focused and motivated towards the organization’s objectives (Esty, 1997). This paper shall review discrimination in a diverse workplace and propose ways through which the management and supervisors can effectively monitor and manage their employees.
Workplace diversity demands that people accept, value, acknowledge, understand, and celebrate differences between them and their colleagues or juniors be it in terms of age, ethnicity, culture, gender, sexual orientation, religion, physical ability or class. Various researchers and authors have shown that for the workforce to reach its maximum productivity, a firm must ensure that its employees’ differences are converted into a common pool of resources that positively generates interest and support (Losyk, 2001) (Charlesworth & Macdonald, 2007) (Koonce, 2001). Otherwise, if such an embracive culture does not flourish, firms are bound to become discriminative which would lead to the loss of highly capable and productive employees. Several groups have been identified as in need of specified attention. These are women, the physically disabled, the aged and those who face discrimination based on religion. If a firm can successfully identify and protect these fragile groups, then it is guaranteed to succeed.
Discrimination can be termed as treating some people in a different manner from the way others are treated. It can then be said to occur when an employer treats a person in a less favorable way than his or her fellow colleagues through means such as job assignments, promotions, termination of the contract, and compensations. This is normally due to prejudices held against such individuals based on race, culture, ethnicity, beliefs or religion (Green, 2003). Basically, the law tries to establish equal opportunities that institute a level playing field for those who are seeking for employment as well as for those already employed. It dictates that all persons should be employed in a free, fair and transparent manner, given their fair remuneration, trained in the course of their jobs if need be and eventually promoted as soon as they acquire the desired skills or on the basis of their workplace performance. People should not be exempted from such benefits merely on the basis of color, age, religion or belief, disability, nationality, ethnic background, sexual orientation, gender, or pregnancy. However, the law is never sufficient. It is left to the firm to ensure that its diverse workforce is not only not discriminated against but also embraced in order to promote maximum output (Goodman, 2010).
There are various forms of workplace discrimination. First, individuals may be discriminated against based on their gender. Luckily, discrimination based on gender has been on the decline in the past few decades due to globalization and the fact that women are exceedingly excelling in most industrial sectors. Discrimination based on gender in the workplace implies that some employers give weight to the employee's gender, rather than the skills they possess, which later dictates the kind of pay to be awarded, their eligibility for promotion or the responsibilities to be held. For instance, women may be preyed upon by their bosses for sexual favors in order for them to be hired, promoted or receive a salary increment. In today’s world, physical barriers no longer limit an individual’s choice of career or workplace. In addition, recent times have seen women shift from their traditional housewife role to a central role in employment. In the last three decades, there has been a sharp increase in dual income families as well as financially stable single parents. This change in the traditional sector implies that women are no longer confined to the traditional set-up. Hence, firms must institute measures and formulate strategies which ensure a level playing field in an otherwise increasingly diversified workplace (Gregory, 2002).
Secondly, employees may be discriminated against on the basis of their age. Some companies may opt to hire employees in the lower age brackets but seek to deny them promotion. In addition, they may choose to fire employees in the older age brackets in order to keep costs associated with retirement benefits as low as possible. Whereas such policies reduce the company’s expenditure in the short-term and the long-term, it has a negative impact on the firm’s employees. Not only is there a high employee turnover, which leaves the firm at a loss in its human resources, but the firm is also left with a lowly motivated and unproductive workforce, which leads to lower output thus rendering it uncompetitive (Gregory, 2001).
Thirdly, discrimination may occur on the basis of one’s physical capacity. The fact that an employee may be physically disabled should not serve to rule out that they are not mentally capable. In fact, some great world leaders have been faced by countless physical disability barriers. In addition, recruitment, promotions or appraisal should not be done on the basis of one’s facial looks but on one’s output (Davidovich, 2003).
In addition, discrimination may occur on the basis of religion. Today’s world is a global village. This demands that employees, be they Christians, Muslims, Hindus or pagans, to work together in order to achieve the laid down organization objectives (Wolf, 1998). Despite having come from different backgrounds and holding different beliefs which might result in multiple conflicts, employees are bound to meet the firm’s objectives. Therefore, in order to promote a smooth working relationship in an otherwise diverse workforce, the human resource department should ensure that suitable strategies are put in place in order to avoid or resolve any conflicts.
Finally, discriminative practices may be based on a person’s race or ethnicity. Until the civil rights movements in the 1960s, African Americans were ill-treated in most workplaces merely on the basis of race. Although these practices are rare in current times, the older generations may still harbor various prejudices due to the fact that they grew up in a society that ostracized some races or ethnicities. In addition, minority ethnic groups, such as immigrant Hispanics in the United States, may be discriminated against in several workplaces. Despite the fact that they possess the required skills, some firms have been known to pay lesser wages. Such practices deter the employees’ morale and reduce a firm’s output (Jackson, 1993).
There are various benefits associated with a diverse employee layout. First, there is likely to be increased creativity and innovation. Diverse people form a pool of information that leads to unique ideas. Secondly, diverse cultures, ethnicities, races and backgrounds may lead to increased productivity if well managed. Thirdly, new processes and a different way of doing things may be hatched in a diverse workplace. A simple deviation from the customary way of doing things may lead to the emergence of a new, efficient and simpler procedure. Finally, a diverse workplace may result in a different attitude towards work or the organization’s objectives. The rich background offered by a diverse population is a sure recipe for interaction and the emergence of new, exciting opportunities. However, these benefits come at a cost. First, the firm is forced to make mandatory accommodations for its diverse workforce. For instance, it may require interpreters and translators who increase the firm’s expenditure. Secondly, a diverse workforce may lead to strained workplace relationships due to different perspectives, attitudes and prejudices (Mayhew, 2010).
Therefore, in order to manage a diverse workforce effectively, managers, supervisors and employees must acknowledge their differences and embrace their colleagues. Various strategies can be used to keep the workplace conflict-free. First, the human resource department should train its employees on being accommodative. The department must encourage their employees to embrace their colleagues through a personal initiative and as a sign of appreciation (Esty, Griffin, & Hirsch, 1995). Secondly, jokes based on gender, color, race, ethnicity or any other discriminative basis should not be made at the workplace. A co-worker may be offended by an otherwise no-offense-meant joke. Thirdly, the firm should stamp out stereotypes and prejudices in its employees. It must have a strict recruitment procedure which weeds out applicants who would otherwise cause workplace wrangles by making inflammatory or derogatory statements based on an individual’s background, culture, ethnicity, religion or race. In addition, the firm must factor in cultural, religion or ethnic holidays in its calendar as well as cater for other related traditions. Whereas not all traditions can be catered for, employees should be made to feel as part of the firm’s community. Finally, the firm must include all employees in its decision-making process. This will ensure that all decisions made are universally accepted. In controversial scenarios, appropriate channels of communication and feedback should be left open in order to promote a unified workforce (Green, López, Wysocki, & Kepner, 2011). If these simple protocols are well established, a diverse workforce is bound to have a higher output than any other workforce.