Cultural Diversity in an Organization

There is no single definition to define cultural diversity in an organization. This topic has been studied from a variety of perspectives ranging from disciplines such as anthropology and sociology, to the applied disciplines of organizational behavior, management science, and organizational communication. There have been so many changes in the cultural make-up of organizations that it becomes imperative for leaders and supervisors to understand cultural diversity and how it can impact their organization.

Culture diversity has been defined as the representation in one social system of people with distinctly different group affiliations of cultural significance. For some it refers to an appreciation of good literature, music, art, and food. From the biologist perspective, it is likely to be a colony or grouping of bacteria or other microorganisms growing in a nutrient medium in a laboratory Petri dish. Culture is a full range of learned human behavior patterns. Culture is viewed as a complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, customs, and any other set of capabilities and habits acquired by humans in a society.

Culture is a powerful human tool for survival, additionally it is a fragile phenomenon that is constantly changing and easily lost because it exists only in our minds. Our written languages, governments, buildings, and other man-made products are merely the outcome of culture, these products are not culture within themselves, and is often referred to as corporate culture; although that isn’t the best description since a large number of non-profit organizational or charity could also be viewed as having its own organizational culture even though they are definitely not corporations.

Another definition is a pattern of shared basic assumptions that a group of individuals learned as a means of solving it’s problems that has worked well enough to be viewed as being valid and is passed on to new members as the proper way to perceive, think, and express emotions in relation to those problems. As a result of culture being so deeply rooted in an organization’s measures of success or failure, (and because of its collective experience, any organization that needs work to change its structural mindset will be facing an uphill battle by way of investment of time, resources and work.

Therefore, in cases such as this, organizational values are more important today than at any other time in history as a result of the personal and societal context in which a business operates constantly changes. The values that an organization lives by are important factors to a variety of stakeholders. The relationship between internal and external stakeholders in an organization cannot be underestimated. From a societal standpoint, the values of the company need to meet society’s expectation with regards to environmental stewardship and social responsibility.

Therefore, failing to meet these expectations can be a very significant impact on the financial performance of the organization. It is imperative for the values to meet the needs of any new shareholders that are only investing in companies that meet the socially responsible investment criteria in order to attract potential candidates; the organizational values need to meet the needs of the new employee who is considering working in an organizational culture that aligns with their personal values.

In today’s society where companies and organizations are constantly discussing impending workforce shortages across all spectrums and professions, such as accounting, teaching and the public service sector, it is imperative to build sustained organizational cultures. Organizations are comprised of different type cultures just like there are various types of personalities.

In an “Academy Culture” this is where the employees are highly skilled and more often than not, will stay with the organization while working his or her way up through the ranks of the company and in return, the company provides a secure and stable environment in which employees can develop and exercise their skill sets. Using the comparison of a professional sport team, culture is compared to being a “free agent” who has a highly sought after prized skill that is in great demand.

This type of culture is often found in fast-paced, high-risk organizations such as being in the investment banking business. Leaders can have a positive or negative impact on organizational culture which can become a viable part in determining the level of individual, group and organizational effectiveness. It’s important for leaders to understand the impact they have on culture, and its implications for effectiveness at the individual, group, and organization level. Most managers and supervisors know how to lead, in many cases they may need to refine the methods used to do such.

Leaders at the upper echelons in organizational design play a vital role in making sure the message of the organization gets across to all employees. Leaders also have the responsibility to guide employees to maintain behavior that reflects all aspects of the organizations core values. This includes understanding them, believing in their importance, practicing them, communicating them, and rewarding behavior that reinforces the core values. One individual practicing the core values of an organization can create a contagious effect, and in result others may be apt to do the same.

With the sum total of the psychology and attitudes which are communicated by the leadership team to the employees and the ethics, value and beliefs which are incorporated for the execution of work and obtaining business objectives. It is where the company’s employees elect to participate in criminal and unethical practices, and view them as being the norm. The rationale is that the management and employees have rationalized that participating in white-collar crime and illegal behavior to achieve goals and targets are perfectly justified.

Therefore, the means which to control such behavior associated with immortal, illegal and unethical practices can be non-existent in a deviant organizational culture. This pattern of behavior is exhibited in leaders possessing a charismatic demeanor to correcting illegal and unethical behavior. Spearheading change in an organization can be a difficult task and members must be highly motivated to want to participate. Leadership is considered to be a key element in the change process may be lacking because the nature of change was not effectively communicated through the ranks.

Therefore, the organizational values are more important today than at any other time throughout history because of the personal and social context that a business operates under continues to change as a result of the variety of the makeup of the multiculturalism of a group or organization in relation to the various different social structures and belief systems. Therefore, the difference in race, language, ethnicity, values systems, religion, and local cultures that make up various groups in a community also account for diversity.

Cultural diversity encompasses the cultural difference that exists between people such as language, dress and traditions, which may form the many barriers to miscommunitications and misunderstanding. As result of the mixed findings from research, and the social and legal imperatives for organizations to accommodate various cultures, managers have the responsibility in deciding not whether, but when and how to exploit and capitalize on the positive attributes of cultural diversity while avoiding its downsides.

The initial step is to understand that one of the primary objectives of diversity is to acknowledge people’s individualities which will require an organization to transform from mono-cultural to a multicultural model of operations. Sub cultures and groups are then expected and encouraged to adopt the culture of the leadership that is characterized by many in current American organizations.

Multicultural organizations have an advantage in attracting and retaining the best talent as a result of the capabilities of a diverse labor pool. Organizations which are able to attract and retain qualified minority group members and keep faith with them through fair and equitable career advancement gain a competitive advantage and derive high quality human resources dividends. Having a misunderstanding to the various cultures is one of the biggest economic and social challenges facing organizations in

America as it relates to unlocking the barriers to the acceptance of cultural diversity in the economy and society is due in part to the challenges that stem from ignorance and from prejudice. Society often systematically fails to respond adequately to cultural diversity which in most cases happens as a result of a job applicant’s accent or style of dress which is a marker of his or her ethnic difference and it can be interpreted in a positive or negative way by the “gatekeeper” who allocates job interviews or the selection panel who on decides who gets the job.

A cultural difference such as an accent should be viewed as a plus to any organization and the managerial staff should welcome this due to cultural diversity issues are far more than managing the interactions between members of the workforce, it also involves interaction between culturally different members of any organizational even though at times the company may feel that they have the right methods for managing individuals.

For any team or workgroup to achieve the company’s goals, they need to ensure that the presence of cultural difference do not hinder team progress. More importantly, it is important to understand cultural difference to ensure clear communications whereas the simple example such as “I agree” means something totally different to people of various cultural backgrounds. Therefore, in a meeting environment or interaction after someone has said that they agreed may warrant a follow-up to ensure that the actions are going to yield the desired end-state.

It is imperative that effective organizational communication, from a managerial and human resources perspective, focuses on openness in communication between senior management and the employees, resulting in employee engagement and increased productivity. However, in a cross-cultural diverse environment, building and maintaining rapport for business relationships depends on the effective use of language and understanding differing communication styles. These and other aspects are discussed to bring awareness to opportunities that can foster better communication at ll levels of the organization. By reminding ourselves that ccommunication is a process by which you convey your message to someone or a group of people and if the message is conveyed clearly and unambiguously, then it is known as effective communication. In effective communication, the message you send would reach the receiver with very little distortion. However, a communicated message becomes successful only if the receiver understands what the sender is trying to convey.

When your message is not clearly understood you should understand that you are facing a barrier to communication. Barriers to effective communication could cause roadblocks in your professional endeavors and it can be one of the major hurdles in achieving your professional goals. Therefore, by utilizing the approach to understanding organizational communication within a board context focuses on group process and leader-member or superior-subordinate relationships.

Communication occurs on multiple levels and in multiple forms. To have a better understanding of the culture of an organization, employees’ need to come to terms with how the organization’s participants communicate with one another. At a time when e-mail has become the preferred method of communicating, people are as likely to have a teleconference as a face-to-face meetings, communication is changing in both speed and delivery modes.

In order to maintain this level of commitment to consistency in communication, this should be the means in which to encourage each person to be motivated to make changes. However, all leaders in an organization should support management of this corporate culture change by becoming role models for the employees in the organization. Through the need for consistency in communication to support organizational cultural can never be assumed that the vision of the organization is fully understood by all.

They need to be transparent in styles as they continually and consistently articulate of the company’s future. By doing such, this will allow them to change the perception of people as to what is important for them and the organization. Therefore, by company leadership remaining consistent in their duties and responsibilities to the employees, this will allow leaders to understand the various employees’ roles in the formal communication process and can be frequently utilized to tap into additional tools for the purpose of communicating their vision.