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Chapter: Principles of Management : Directing

Managing Cultural Diversity

Experts indicate that business owners and managers who hope to create and manage an effective, harmonious multicultural work force should remember the importance of the following:


Managing Cultural Diversity


Experts indicate that business owners and managers who hope to create and manage an effective, harmonious multicultural work force should remember the importance of the following:

 

ü Setting a good example - This basic tool can be particularly valuable for small business owners who hope to establish a healthy environment for people of different cultural backgrounds, since they are generally able to wield significant control over the business's basic outlook and atmosphere.

 

ü Communicate in writing - Company policies that explicitly forbid prejudice and discriminatory behaviour should be included in employee manuals, mission statements, and other written communications. Jorgensen referred to this and other similar practices as "internal broadcasting of the diversity message in order to create a common language for all members of the organization."


ü Training programs - Training programs designed to engender appreciation and knowledge of the characteristics and benefits of multicultural work forces have become ubiquitous in recent years. "Two types of training are most popular: awareness and skill-building," wrote Cox. "The former introduces the topic of managing diversity and generally includes information on work force demographics, the meaning of diversity, and exercises to get participants thinking about relevant issues and raising their own self-awareness.


ü Recognize individual differences - Writing in The Complete MBA Companion, contributor Rob Goffee stated that "there are various dimensions around which differences in human relationships may be understood. These include such factors as orientation towards authority; acceptance of power inequalities; desire for orderliness and structure; the need to belong to a wider social group and so on. Around these dimensions researchers have demonstrated systematic differences between national, ethnic, and religious groups.


ü Actively seek input from minority groups - Soliciting the opinions and involvement of minority groups on important work committees, etc., is beneficial not only because of the contributions that they can make, but also because such overtures confirm that they are valued by the company. Serving on relevant committees and task forces can increase their feelings of belonging to the organization.


ü Revamp reward systems - An organization's performance appraisal and reward systems should reinforce the importance of effective diversity management, according to Cox. This includes assuring that minorities are provided with adequate opportunities for career development.


ü  Make room for social events - Company sponsored social eventspicnics, softball games, volleyball leagues, bowling leagues, Christmas parties, etc.can be tremendously useful in getting members of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds together and providing them with opportunities to learn about one another.


Flexible work environment - Cox indicated that flexible work environmentswhich he characterized as a positive development for all workerscould have particularly "beneficial to people from nontraditional cultural backgrounds because their approaches to problems are more likely to be different from past norms."

 

ü Don't assume similar values and opinions - Goffee noted that "in the absence of reliable information there is a well-documented tendency for individuals to assume that others are 'like them.' In any setting this is likely to be an inappropriate assumption; for those who manage diverse work forces this tendency towards 'cultural assimilation' can prove particularly damaging."


ü Continuous monitoring - Experts recommend that business owners and managers establish and maintain systems that can continually monitor the organization's policies and practices to ensure that it continues to be a good environment for all employees. This, wrote Jorgensen, should include "research into employees' needs through periodic attitude surveys."

 

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