Workplace Diversity in Organizations Leads to High Performance

Workplace diversity refers to a set of individual, group or cultural differences in the workplace of an organization (Prasad, Pringle, & Konrad, 2006:1-22). People differ in many ways. Demographically, people are of different gender, age, appearance, race, tribe and color. People may also possess different skills and abilities which are used to achieve organizations’ goals. Konrad (2006: 164-189) says that Workplace Diversity in a deeper perspective include the differences in terms of beliefs, values, cognition and behavior.

Members of an organization’s staff may hold different stereotypes which may positively or negatively impact on the performance of an organization. Negative stereotypes bring in personal bias and irrational convictions about the organizational operations and structure. This may bring down the success of the organization. On the other hand, positive stereotypes take into consideration all aspects that are important to the organization as it attempts to achieve its goals. Therefore, the interpersonal differences managers and other members of an organization’s workplace experience each day is crucial (Konrad, 2006: 164-189). An organization’s management and staff encounter frictional forces against each other that place them in different categories of competence, cultural beliefs, religious convictions, age factors and physical appearances.

Business orientation to globalization has led firms and organizations to touring various nations and countries around the globe, so that members of staff engage with people from different cultures across the world. Workers often meet and interact with global business friends and partners (Crossan & Olivera, 2006: 16-30). Owing to the current demographic trends and business environment, work demands that many workers interact across diverse grounds and identities regularly and frequently.

Given the diversity of workers in their workplace, an organization is always placed in a difficult situation to deal with such diversities in the most justifiable and equitable way. This does not just come as an obvious accomplishment but requires a long term commitment to management of diversity. The best practices for managing diversity are always welcomed by employees who respond by rewarding the organization with higher morale and better performance (Prasad, Pringle, & Konrad, 2006:1-22). However, it is not generally believed that diversity in an organization’s workplace produces positive results, neither is it generally considered otherwise.

With the diversity of thoughts and beliefs, people hold different opinions on the effectiveness of using workplace diversity as a strategy to improve the performance of an organization’s workplace and the organization in general. While some groups of corporate individuals and firms believe that workplace diversity leads to improved performance of an organization, other schools of thought dispute this claim.

There are some people who argue that workplace diversity brings about success in an organization. Pitts (2005: 15-31) hold the view that increasing workplace diversity increases the performance of an organization. It has also been postulated by some researchers that workplace teams with diverse backgrounds, abilities, skills and training are more likely to generate creative ideas and problem solving techniques than their homogenous counterparts (Thompson, 2003: 96-111). Some successful organizations use workplace diversity to enhance innovation, which is one crucial way to increase productivity and improve the performance of an organization (Cabrales, Medina, Lavado and Cabrera, 2008: 37-40). Workplace diversity in this case is enhanced through teamwork. Smith et al (2005: 346-357) say that the introduction of new products and services in an organization depends on the ability of its members to combine knowledge and exchange ideas. Consequently, teamwork is considered effective in creating and perpetuating innovative ideas (Thomson, 2003: 96-111). Diversity is thus necessary for good innovative ventures.

Workplace diversity, according to some researchers, also brings together members of all the relevant disciplines and fields of expertise. As a result, collective decisions and actions often include a wide range of issues affecting the performance of the organization (Van Der Vegt & Bunderson, 2005: 532-547). This also encompasses full-range perspectives of all the diverse members of the multidisciplinary team.

Workplace discrimination, being one of the practices that go against workplace diversity, is negatively related to work attitudes (Triana, Garcia, & Colella, 2008: 817-843). Discrimination against individuals based on their culture, race, ethnicity or gender leads to a decrease in attitudinal outcomes such as affective commitment to the organization (Goldman et al, 2008: 952-977). This then results in general poor performance of the organization. When people are negatively treated at their place of work, for example through racial discrimination, they develop negative attitudes towards their work. This makes them affectively less committed to their organization. McKay et al (2007: 35-62) suggests that workplace diversity increases employees’ commitment to their organization. As a result, improved organizational performance is the most likely occurrence.

Another argument that supports workplace diversity as a means of boosting an organization’s performance is that as employees become more diverse, an organization embraces different workers’ attitudes to work. As a result, commitment to performance rises and the organization’s performance improve. Sungjoo & Hal (2010: 214-235) suggest that those organizations that use new diverse components of their workplace – different races, women, immigrants and the disabled – will benefit from the pool of potential talents and skills. In this case, the organization will be able to make use of a strong employee base as well as responding positively and effectively to the changing needs of its target population. This is in line with the representative bureaucracy theory which postulates that if an organization resembles its citizens, then it will be more responsive to their needs. Employing and retaining diverse workers will therefore position an organization to be a substantial presence in the economic system. In this regard, organizations that strive to hire and retain diverse employees will be more effective and respond well to their target group’s interests and concerns.

Workplace diversity also leads to job satisfaction. According to Sungjoo & Hall (2010: 214-235), employees feel safe in environments with high levels of diversity management. This means that job satisfaction is higher for workers who embrace workplace diversity. If the employees realize that there is a strong workplace diversity emphasis, they will feel appreciated and become motivated to increase their production and hence increase the organization’s performance.

However, as much as it seems plausible to consider workplace diversity as one of the leading causes of a company’s increased performance, it may also be argued that work diversity introduce flaws to an organization’s system. Cabrales et al (2008: 37-40) suggest that workplace diversity may be the source of conflicts in an organization. It is often believed that diversity perpetuates conflict, leads to blackmail, reduces cohesion, degrades effective communication and amputates coordination within work teams in the organization. However subtle this argument may look, its support is relatively massive and should not be downplayed under any ground of argument. Under situations of conflict, it is always difficult, or even at times impossible to agree on any development programs (Sethi, Smith & Park, 2001: 73-85). In some organizations, good ideas may be generated but the group may not be able to obtain the necessary human resources and financial holdings to develop new products. This may be further propagated by misunderstandings due to diversity in the organization’s place of work.

In a situation of an organization’s radical innovation, team collaboration is necessary because there is uncertainty associated with innovation. In such a situation, the disadvantages of diversity override the benefits. Excessive arguments, discussions and conflicts without consensus, as is always the case in diversity, hamper innovation.

Diversity may also impact negatively on the performance of an organization if ineffective employee motivation techniques are employed. The marginalized groups may face intimidation rather than motivation in their diverse groups. Ideas generated by individual employees with substantially different backgrounds from the dominant groups are often ignored (Konrad 2006: 164-189). Organizational performance review system and operations may not include the exceptional contributions of new groups in the organization. Moreover, retention is proven to be a mammoth task under situations of diversity.  Demographically different workgroup members from the majority employees often feel out of place and may leave the organization. This may be a blow to the organization if such individuals had exceptional contributions to the organization’s performance.

Having considered both sides of the coin, it may not be easy to determine with certainty the best way to go regarding to diversity. However, the propositions that support diversity as one of the contributing factors to an organization’s improved performance are sufficiently acceptable and convincing (Cabrales et al., 2008: 37-40). While the case against diversity doesn’t argue on sufficient basis, propositions of diversity give more justifiable reasons for the superiority of diversity over non-diversity in an organization’s attempts to maximize its value through increased performance. Therefore, it is worth appreciating the fact that workplace diversity in an organization truly leads to high performance.

 

References list

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McKay, P.F. et al. (2007). Racial differences in employee retention: Are diversity climate perceptions the key? Personnel Psychology, 60, 35–62.

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Smith, K.G., Collins, C.J. & Clark, K.D. (2005). Existing knowledge, knowledge creation capability, and the rate of new product introduction in high technology firms. Academy of Management Journal, 48, 346–357.

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