Diversity has several definitions. According to Schmidle (2010), workplace diversity is a people issue, focusing on the differences and similarities that people bring to an organization. It is usually defined broadly to include dimensions beyond those specified legally in equal opportunity and affirmative action non-discrimination statues. Diversity is often interpreted to include dimensions which influence the identities and perspective that people bring, such as profession, education, parental status and geographic location.
If you think of diversity and all of the categories it can be a bit overwhelming. Schmidle did leave out several categories that include age, gender, income level, social status, political views, religion, and marital status. The word “diversity” has a kind of conflict ring to it but it doesn’t necessarily mean it is a bad thing. Diversity can in fact be a good thing.
Schmidle later goes on to discuss some of this positive outcomes of diversity including one of the most important aspects of diversity which is learning new things from others. If we are around the same people everyday that are the exact same and do things the exact same it is hard for people to think outside the box. This paper will discuss positive and negative aspects of diversity focusing on age. It will also discuss other forms of diversity as well.
When discussing age diversity it is important to discuss the different categories. Individuals over 60 are considered to be the Traditionalist generation. Individuals in their mid-40’s to 60’s are baby boomers. Those in their late 20’s to early 40’s are in the Generation X category and the most recent generation is Generation Y who are early 20’s or younger (Bell, Narz, 2007). Each one of these groups has been described as having certain characteristics.
Traditionalists are defined as having a more traditional working environment. They typically work 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 but are said to work late and weekends during busy periods if necessary. Traditionalist are also said to be hard working, loyal employees who respect authority. It is typical for wives of this category to have been home with the children while the male is or was at work bringing in the sole income. Traditionalists are retiring from the work force at a steady rate but still remain influential in today’s working environment (Bell, Narz 2007).
Baby Boomers are the children of Traditionalists and also thought to have a strong work ethic. A difference between Boomers and Traditionalists is that they are dual-career couples with the women working as well as the men. Boomers are said to question authority and have also been labeled the “me generation” (Bell, Narz 2007).
Generation Xers are the children of Baby Boomers. They have grown up watching their parents working to try and have it all and have been affected by their parents working hard and late hours. They are more family and parent oriented, optimistic and confident. They are said to not have a very strong loyalty to their employer and tend to work for someone that best fits their needs (Bell, Narz 2007).
Generation Y are the children of Generation X and are also called the millennials, the internet generation, and also the Echo Boomers. This is due to their computer knowledge and also due to them being one of the largest generations since the Baby Boomers. At a young age they were introduced to different lifestyles and cultures in school. Being that they were exposed so young they tend to have more accustomed to different races, sexual orientation, and ethnic groups.
Generation Ys like to be challenged and want flexibility and telecommuting options. They are also family oriented and want to work part time or time off when having children (Bell, Narz 2007).
After describing these different groups it is clear there is a difference in attitude, respect, loyalty, goals, and work ethic. Putting all of these individuals in a working environment together would seem like a very bad idea. Schaefer 2010 States:
The popular press paints a picture of generational divide at work. Mature workers (Traditionalists and Baby Boomers) are portrayed as loyal and hardworking, but dinosaurs when it comes to innovation and technology. Younger employees (Generation Xers and Millennials) are viewed as innovative, but disrespectful, lazy, and egocentric.
Taken at face value, these stereotypes can lead to conflict and turmoil in the workplace. Schafer later describes that this is not the case and actually have more similarities than differences. She also informs the reader that age diversity is a value to our organizations and will be a “an important component in the divers workforce of the future.” (Schaefer, 2010).
What are some benefits and who does it affect? One benefit is respect. By respecting others differences productivity increases which can affect an employee and an organization economically, financially and competitiveness (Green, 2008). By being more productive the company makes more money, which makes it possible for them to be competitive. When a company makes more money it is easier for them to give raises and bonuses. Also when a company has diversity in the workplace it can reduce lawsuits and increase marketing opportunities, recruitment, creativity, and business image (Green, 2008).
Diversity is not only positive. It can be if you have the right group of people working but for the most part managers will find obstacles and challenges. When I was managing I always said it only takes one individual to destroy a group’s character and flow. This type of person looks for problems and gets the rest of the group members worked up. Something simple like a gossiper can ruin a group’s charisma. If a group member is racist or not accepting of particular member’s religious views or sex it can also affect the rest of the group (Green, 2008).
This can lead to the loss of personnel and effect work production which in turn affects the employees and organization economically, financially, and its competitiveness. Also if an individual is not socially accepting of others it affects the companies view to the customers and shareholders. The chain fast food restaurant Chik-Fil-A has recently announced it does not support same sex marriage. The public exploded with outrage and tens of thousands of people vowed to never eat there again. If a business employs an individual who voices their discrimination, prejudice, or stereotyping of a particular group the same outcome could happen if left unchecked.
I think for the most part we could all agree the older generation was not as accepting to different races, religion, and sexual preference as much as the younger generation is. This certainly does not mean a younger person would not be discriminatory or that all Traditional workers are discriminatory but it is something managers need to understand.
Business will typically have a note on discrimination in their by laws or employee hand books that any form whether it be for age, sex, ethnicity, sexual preference will not be tolerated. Colleges employing individuals will have this as well.
An example of this is the University of California’s system wide non-discrimination statement: “It is the policy of the University not to engage in discrimination against or harassment of any person employed or seeking employment with the University of California on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, pregnancy, physical or mental disability, medical condition (cancer-related or genetic Characteristics), ancestry, marital status, age, sexual orientation citizenship, or status as a covered veteran.
This policy applies to all employment practices, including recruitment, selection, promotion, transfer, merit increase, salary, training, and development, demotion, and separation. ” (University of California, 2011).
Having non-discrimination statements like this allows employees, the public, shareholders, and other colleges or competition see discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated at the school. This can help the business have a positive image to all who read it. It is fairly uncommon to find a current business without some form of discrimination statement. The one from the University of California above is very descriptive and most that I have found do not go into this much detail.
The University of California also has their Principles of Community: “We recognize, value, and affirm that social diversity contributes richness to the University community and enhances the quality of campus life for individuals and groups. We take pride in our various achievements and we celebrate our differences.” (University of California, 2011).
These types of guiding principles allows the community and any other readers know the University welcomes differences in individuals. If someone was having any reservations about attending this University or working for them this further assures the individual the University would welcome them no matter how different they are.
Age diversity can also affect the way a person is treated. If you think about front-line management, mid-management, senior management you typically vision an older individual at the senior management level, a slightly younger individual at the mid-management level, and again a slightly younger individual at the front-line management level. Does age have to do with getting promoted? If I simply get older will I be promoted? Apparently it does not but it does have a huge impact on getting dismissed.
If an employee is more than twenty percent younger than their superior they are more likely to be let go. If the employee is less than twenty percent younger than their superior they are less likely to be let go (Giuliano, Leonard, Leving, 2006). This study shows a superior is much more likely to dismiss someone who is considerable younger than them compared to if the employee is rather close in age. The workforce demographics are also shifting. It has been reported workers in the age group of 55-64 there will be 36.5 percent more compared to 2006. That is a drastic increase. What about those ages 65-74 and employees 75 and up? There is projected an 80 percent increase in both.
This means people are working longer and past the retirement age (Schaefers, 2010). This also lets us know age diversity with the Generation X needs to be paid attention to by employers. Many feel we have a solid understanding of this group already while others feel we have been focusing on the Traditional workers more. Whatever the case it is pretty clear employers will need to be prepared to provide for this generation and others who follow. How do we do that?
We need to understand how each generation feels and act. Mature workers value loyalty from and to the company. They often few their younger co-workers as not having enough company allegiance. Generation Xers are considered to be loyal to a team, boss, or project but not necessarily a company. Baby Boomers and Traditional workers may view this as disrespectful and it could cause conflict (Schaefers, 2010).
We need to understand the core values of generations. Many values are shared between generations. The Traditionalists raised the baby Boomers. The Baby Boomers raised the Generation X and the Generation X raised the Generation Y. It is easy to understand some of the traits of the older generations have been passed down especially family. It did take some negative steps at times. The traditionalist taught their children to work hard and be loyal.
This had a kind of family second effect and the Generation X was affected by this. They are very family oriented and family always comes first. So an employer would need to know that if they plan on keeping Generation X employees around they need to allow them to have flexible schedules and they need to be able to take time off for family(Schaefers, 2010).
We need to expand our communication approaches as well with the other groups coming up. The millennial generation is extremely technology oriented and it is very important in their lives. This generation does most of their business through electronics and technology as well as their personal life (Schaefers, 2010).
One of the major characteristic an employer should have and should instill on all employees is to show respect to one another. A younger employee does not want to get disrespected for a possible new and out of the box idea just as an older employee doesn’t want to disrespected for doing something the same way for so long. We have all heard treat others like you would like to be treated and it holds a lot of weight when trying to get different generations to work in a cohesive and productive manner (Schaefers, 2010).
Productivity is another topic employer and employees are concerned with. Some feel the older workers do not work as hard or are productive as younger employees. Some decide this is true whether or not it is and respond to it. Making comments or speaking to other employees and management about the lack of work is one form. The truth is studies have shown this is not necessarily true in all cases. A three year study was conducted with a hardware chain.
One store was staffed with only employees over the age of fifty, while the other five stores were staffed with younger employees. The over fifty store was considerably more productive in major business aspects than two of the other five stores and was close to the other three in sales generated against labor costs (Robbins, Judge, 2011). This is an impressive study that can refute arguments that the older individuals are not worth employing.
Employers carry mixed feelings about older worker. Some feel they are more loyal, have more experience, better judgment, and stronger work ethic. Others feel they lack in flexibility and are not accustomed to today’s technology. When these employers are looking for new hires it is common for the older applicants to be looked over and if they are hired they are usually the first to go when it comes to layoffs (Robbins, Judge, 2011).
The opportunity to quit is also a concern for employers. Given that an older applicant has fewer employment opportunities it is thought some employers hire these individuals based on the idea that they will not leave once hired. The younger applicant is thought to have greater opportunity and a more willingness to change jobs or jump ship if the job is not what they expected. They younger generations are also thought to expect the employer and business to take care of there needs better than the older generations (Robbins, Judge, 2011).
Some companies realize the value in older employees and actually make attempts to attract them. Boarders and the Vanguard Group have realized the value and have offered benefits and options that lure them in. Flexible hours and part time work are a couple of the things the older workers are looking for. Since most have at least thought about retirement if not already been retired, these groups of workers enjoy spending time with family and doing the things they enjoy. Most states have agreed that a mandatory retirement is not necessary the pool of aged workers has increased dramatically. No longer is it required for individuals to retire at the age of 70.
This has led a lot of workers to reinter or continue to be a part of the labor force. Some have lost loved ones and wish to socialize which they would not be able to do if they simply stayed home. The opportunity gives them a reason to try and make new friends and also gives them a reason to stay busy. Others may have not prepared or had the opportunity to save up a proper retirement with today’s increasing prices and declining economy (Robbins, Judge, 2011).
The employee’s job satisfaction needs to be considered when it comes to the diversity of age in a workplace. Employees over the age of 60 who are non professional’s satisfaction rate decreases during their middle ages and increases as they get older. Professional employees who were over the age of 60 however continually increased as they aged (Robbins, Judge, 2011).
One of the ongoing concerns with diversity is if they want it. As discussed there are many advantages of having diversity in the workplace. If a company wants to grow it is important to allow new and different people to bring different things to the office table. This is so true that some literature can be found on how to increase workplace diversity. The most important decision for a company is to decide what kind of diversity they need. It may not be the best idea for a company whose main product is A company that sells women’s jewelry may n
Robbins, S.P., & Judge, T.A. (2011). Organizational Behavior(14 ed.). Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.
Notter, Jamie (2009). Generational Diversity in The Workplace. Retrieved 30 August 2012 from Convergence Media: http://www.multiculturaladvantage.com/recruit/group/mature/Gen eral-Diversity-in-workplace.asp
Schaefers, Kate (2010). Age Diversity in the Workplace. Retrieved 31 August 2012 from Careers Thought Leaders: http://www.careerthoughtleaders.com/blog/age-diversity-in-the- workplace/
Schmidle, Deborah and Woods, Susan (2010). Workplace Diversity. Retrieved 31
August 2012 from Catherwood Library: http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/library/research/subjectguides/work placediversity.html
University of California (2011). Managing Diversity in the Workplace. Retrieved 27 August 2012 from University of California: http://ucsfhr.ucsf.edu/index.php/pubs/hrguidearticle/chapter- 12-managing-diversity-in-the-workplace/
Green, Kelli A. and Lopez, Mayra (2008). Diversity in the Workplace: Benefits, Challenges, and the Required Managerial Tools. Retrieved 31 August 2012 from University of Florida: http://www.edis.ifas.ufl.edu/hr022
Greenberg, Josh (2004). Diversity in the Workplace: Benefits, Challenges, and Solutions. Retrieved 31 August 2012 from AlphaMeasure,Inc.: http://multiculturaladvantage.com/recruit/…/Diversity-in-th- Workplace-Benefits-Challenges-Solutions.asp
Bell, Nancy Sutton and Narz, Marvin (2007). Meeting the Challenges of Age Diversity in the Workplace. Retrieved 31 August 2012 from New York State Society of CPAs: http://www.nysscpa.org/cpajournal/2007/207/essentials/p56.htm
United States Department of Labor (2010). Employee Tenure Summary. Retrieved 4 September 2012 from United States Department of Labor: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/tenure.nr0.htm
Giuliano, Laura, Leonard, Jonathan and Levine, David I. (2006). Do Race, Age, and Gender Differences Affect Manager-Employee Relations? An analysis of Quits, Dismissals, and Promotions at a Large Retail Firm. Retrieved 4 September 2012 from http://moya.bus.miami.edu/~lgiuliano/Quits.pdf