In today’s global market and corporate economy, the importance of understanding the power of cultural diversification within the workplace is very important. The ability to interchange and collaborate on set goals and objectives facilitates the process of attaining such goals at high performance level. With the influx of several cultures into the corporate world, it is important for managers to analyze, learn, adapt, and exemplify how a diverse work system must function.
In post modern time, the organizational behavior behind getting a task done was generally focused on the individual critical thinking working method, but with increasing competency in the market, the need to accept the team process of completing a task has become evident. Transitioning from the standard individual workplace and into a diverse one is difficult especially on societies with a hardship in adaptability and those with a strong traditional belief. The acceptance of diversity is something that must me learned and understood taking into consideration ones surroundings and behavior influences.
As a child, a person’s understanding on what culture similarities and differences are solely depends on his/hers family, friends, peers, literature, media, and etc. Learning to embrace diversity is hard but not impossible; in every society there are always difficulties in accepting other groups of people that don’t comply with the existent group’s way of life, and this is when the ability to accept and embrace play a role. Having the knowledge on how to perceive situations and surroundings is ones defensive mechanism that allows a person to know what to do in a certain situation. When faced with the unexpected, this knowledge based perception becomes what is known as bias.
According to a research article, “Our biases serve as filtering lenses that allow us to make sense of new information and experiences based on what we already know (Nadler, 1997). This bias can sometimes be of positive nature giving an individual the ability to adapt and tell right from wrong, but sometimes bias can also form a negative perception of people based on sole belief crating ignorance, prejudice, and/or stereotype. Development of accepting diversity in a workplace is sometimes difficult and takes time to adapt since everyone comes from different backgrounds. This is something that cannot be acquired or pressured on people in short notices or time constraints, such as development classes or short group sessions. Management in a work environment must use techniques of group encouragement and cooperative training to allow everyone to understand and exemplify each other’s strengths and abilities.
Examples of such techniques can be: * Developing an atmosphere that is safe for all employees to ask for help. People should not be viewed as weak if they ask for help. This is what helps to build great teams — joining weakness with strengths to get the goal accomplished. * Actively seeking information from people from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. Also, including everyone on the problem solving and decision making process. * Including people who different than you in informal gatherings such as lunch, coffee breaks, and spur of the moment meetings. * Creating a team spirit where every member feels a part of (Nadler, 1997).
Human Resource Development (HRD) is the process in which the department of human resource is recognizing certain qualities and attributes individuals possess when handling new entrants in hiring or promoting. Having the ability to recognize what abilities individuals have, better allocates certain individuals with others to form a high performance team. By working jointly to train and collaborate with supervisors and management will assist in better teaching individuals the correct way of completing a task or job process.
The development of what is known as “soft skills” such as diversity, communications, and social networking skills will promote a better work system and decrease employee turnover. The key is to promote job likeness and positive attitude with employees for a positive organizational result. Along with a focused human resource development initiative, organizations must understand the importance of the internal and external factors that make up the entire success. Internally, organizations must take into consideration the behavioral influence its people incorporate into every day operations in regards to its long term gains.
What influences the behavior of these individuals is the type of culture the organization has. Culture is defined as, “the aggregate of beliefs, norms, attitude, values, assumptions, and ways of doing things that is shared by members of an organization and taught to new members” (2010, p. 370). This definition of culture best describes how an organization is built and how it functions on everyday operations led by individuals with a strategy of positive leading. According to authors Lussier and Achua, “all organizations have a culture, whether they acknowledge it or not.
Every organization has a culture, distinguished by its own beliefs and approaches to problem solving and decision making. An organization’s culture is manifested in the values, norms, and expectations that leaders preach and practice, in its employee’s attitudes and behavior, in ethical standards and policies…” (2010, p. 370). The importance of leaders to understand the type of culture that his/her organization has is important to continue a process of strong work ethics, team effort, and skill development.
In leadership studies, there is a power of culture that defines how well an organization can create and internal unity of its people, and also how well it adapts to its external environment in areas of sustainability and consumer/competitive preferences. The cultural power of internal unity generally describes how management supports the organization’s vision, mission, goals, and strategy. Having a strong internal normative order can change the workforce into a creative one where individuals come together to share and develop new innovative ideas that will benefit the entire organization.
It is important that management encourages its employees in a positive way by using motivational and identification tools, to increase individual desire and interest in his/her job to increase performance while also taking into consideration each and every single employee. While it is important to motivate employees to like their job, having rules and certain guidelines also promotes social control by setting certain requirement to maintain a safe and secure working environment.
The external adaptation of cultural power describes the impact of outside influences such as consumer preferences towards the organizations product,
or environmental awareness that must be taken into thought to reduce its negative impact on sustainability. Example of an organization who takes into consideration an external analysis is Southwest Airlines who ranks the highest in competitiveness within its market, taking into account the importance of customer preferences in keeping affordable price levels, consumer loyalty through programs of frequent flyer, and employee needs in both financial and health needs. Table 1.1 displays the total rating amount Southwest Airlines received against its competitors American and United Airlines.
Along with a strong power of culture within an organization or group, the ability to acquire certain characteristics of performance to increase production or service is important. There are two types of performance ratings in organizational culture; one is a high performance mark that identifies an optimum group of individuals working together towards a similar goal or objective and one with a low performance mark indicating a lack of agreement with individuals with a strong concern for self-interest different from the general census. Low-performing organizations have four major characteristics of poor quality; these include insular thinking, resistance to change, politicized internal environment, and unhealthy promotions.
Examples of organizations with an insular method of thinking are those with upper level management who believe and dictate what decisions to make based on their own knowledge and concern. This type of business strategy is ineffective since cooperative group decision making is not used, causing a decline in operational performance. Managers who always think their right, demotes interest and desire for individuals to work. This thinking method is evident in businesses where upper level management does not receive or disregards information channeled through operational levels of production.
The organizations that are resistant to any changes in strategies or techniques are generally those that have continuously followed set guidelines and norms for long periods of time. This type of continuous and repetitive process categorizes this performance culture as low. Having the same type of methods of completing a work process makes the job more concerned with keeping one’s position rather than expanding and seeking innovations. Businesses that follow this type of performance rank low since adaptability with external changes becomes difficult causing a negative impact to organizational success.
Similarly, a highly internal politicized organization suffers from the lack of culture and team sharing when it comes to decision and critical thinking. Powerful leaders or executives tend to make the decisions and instruct followers on what to do next; followers simply agree to avoid reprimand or disapproval. Last, the use of negligent promotions from management places unskilled personnel in top level positions where strategic thinking is required. Having someone in the decision making spot without having the sufficient amount of knowledge or training, jeopardizes the entire operation and success of the overall organizational purpose.
The opposite of a low-performing culture in an organization is one who is highly recognized for team development and value sharing within all levels of operations and management. An organization with a highly valued purpose and mission is usually accepted by its followers who share its similar views and thoughts. High performance organizations tend to also encourage communication between management and employees to sustain a strong culture to assure everyone is on the same path following the same values. A direct description of a standard high performing cultural organization is described as, “a culture of discipline-where everyone is responsible to the values of the company, to its standards, and to the purposes it serves” (2010, p. 375).
The characteristics that identify a strong performing culture is one with reinforcement tools, intensely oriented people, oriented results, and a major emphasis on achievement and excellence. Examples of such reinforcement tools include the use of slogans and ceremonies, in which the organization shares its values with its employees. Having such a tool makes much feasible the entry of new employees by directly displaying the core values and meaning.
By being people oriented the organization exemplifies the importance of being a democratic business rather than an autocratic one where a single management official makes all the decisions. Individuals, who work in organizations where they are treated with respect and acknowledged for their contribution, tend to become more committed and hold their positions for longer periods of time. Setting goal markers and rewarding individuals based on total outcome versus the set marker improves individual desire to continue working at their best attainable performance or better.
It is determined that what influences an organization’s culture is the impact that the external environment has on the overall behavior of employees or followers. There are four distinct types of cultures that have been developed taking into account the organizational strategic focus along with the external turbulence. A competitive culture is one that represents a leader that encourages and values a highly competitive work network (2010, p. 385), in this kind of organizational environment the need to always be on top of the market is intense. Being competitive is a must to avoid falling back in face of competitors that may produce similar products and drive one’s profitability down.
Leaders in upper level management tend to create certain goal marks to promote his or her employees to work harder in return for profit gains and revenue increases; this type of working environment allows everyone to challenge themselves against the skills of others. Companies that exemplify competitiveness in the market include Pepsi Co. and Coca-Cola, Wing-House and Hooter’s, Dominoes’ and Papa John’s, etc. These companies are constantly monitoring each other in order to sustain greater performance than the other.
Cooperative culture is when an organization represents a leadership belief in strong, mutually reinforcing exchanges and linkages between employees and departments (2010, p. 384). This type of organization tends to allows for employees to take on the task of decision making and developing ideas that can be advantageous to the overall performance. Management encourages relationship building between co-workers in order to increase skill and knowledge sharing in hopes of creating innovations. In today’s market with the constant change of diverse work groups, this type of cultural development is highly regarded and implemented. The adaptive culture is one that represents a belief in active monitoring of the external environment for emerging opportunities and threats (2010, p. 384).
Organizations that lean on becoming adaptive are the ones that bare risks in changing and implementing their procedures based on what the external environment is doing. Acknowledging the changes in consumer preferences and taking the time to research and engage in changing the overall method of operation is an example of an adaptive culture. Last, the bureaucratic culture is formed when a leader values order, stability, status and efficiency (2010, p. 385). In contrast to the adaptive culture, the bureaucratic culture is structured to follow a set form of guidelines and policies. This kind of culture will strive to maintain stability within its operations without any consideration to changes or innovations. What keeps these organizations operational is stability and repetitiveness; however, with constant changing external factors such as economic welfare and global sustainability, many organizations have to divert from this path and become one who encourages flexibility and change.
Having a diverse culture in an organization is difficult especially when differences in making decisions and completing task vary from person to person. According to a global research program intended to describe the dimensions and framework of cultural differences, it describes sets of values different individuals appreciate varying from one region of the world to another. One behavioral factor is individualism within oneself, this is defined as a psychological state in which people see themselves first as individuals and believe their own interest and values are primary. This kind of individual does not promote collaborative thinking or relationship building at the workplace, while it still may be present, the percentage is low.
Nations that hold high individualistic organizations are those that promote individual achievement; everyone has the ability to strive towards something for themselves. Countries such as The Unites States, Great Britain, and Canada represent a majority of individualism in organizations. The opposite is collectivism; this kind of organizational behavior describes a collective and team effort workplace, where everyone is responsible for a groups success. Organizations that are considered collective form group work sessions and team goals that encourage everyone to help each other out. In the case of failure, the loss is distributed among everyone; nobody is left to themselves. Nations that revolve around a collective environment include Greece, Japan, and Mexico.
Another dimension in global culture is the level of masculinity and femininity within the organization. This type of influence does not necessarily have to do with gender or percentage of upper level management of different gender. Having a high level of masculinity generally describes the behavioral tendencies of being assertive and competitive. The exact definition of masculinity is a culture that emphasizes on assertiveness and a competitive drive form money and material objects (2010, p. 392). What this states is that organizations that have a masculine tendency are those that strive to be the best; the organization must compete against others and win.
Having a drive for money and material objects describes the need to accomplish a goal or purpose to receive valuable results. Studies indicate that nations that display such masculinity in business and organizations are Japan and Italy. On the other side of the spectrum, femininity is described as a culture that emphasizes developing and nurturing personal relationships and a high quality of life (2010, p. 392). This kind of influence in organizations tends to focus majorly on the best interest of others, rather than being competitive. These organizations have more concern on providing quality to the market, offering emotional along with physical well being. Nations that are considered to preserve feministic views are Sweden and Denmark.
Organizational diversity is mainly considered as a type of culture that must be embraced in order to utilize the most of human resource which provide new insights to developing and promoting a consumer product that may be demanded. Embracing diversity is advantageous to organizations by opening new doors to marketing strategies that retain longer relationships with consumers. Having different view on product development allows for flexibility and the sharing of ideas. It also has a tendency to retain talent within the organization; this is true since many individuals view diversity in a workplace as a plus and comfort zone where they can express themselves.
Members who feel comfortable in their workplace working alongside others who may have similar thoughts or cultural preferences will most likely stay longer. Absenteeism on site would decrease tremendously and the amount of resignation would also decrease with long-term members due to diversity encouragement. This is cost beneficial since high turnover of employees imposes costs to the organization, and having long term members increase job satisfaction which results in better quality and overall gains. The support of diversity also allows for members to interact with one another to form innovative methods of working forming cost saving and even better output products.
However, with the positive outcomes of embracing diversity there are several negative downsides if not assessed or managed correctly. Having a very diverse culture may pose a chance or competitiveness or unwillingness to work from employees. Some may view the presence of another person from a completely different background as offensive or threat. It is important to acknowledge what members do and how to assess everybody’s differences and values.
Communication can sometimes be blocked due to lack of communication skills, and differences of perception. The sender of a message may want to say something, but due to differences in culture, the receiver may decode the entire message incorrectly. It is important for leader to train employees on how to communicate messages and understand the appropriate language and expressions that can be used in the professional organizational environment.
While achieving organizational diversity, leaders are constantly challenged with obstacles that make it difficult for them to organize a group of people with different backgrounds. It may not be impossible but may sometimes pose risks of having conflict within the workplace. One of these obstacles are individuals who are prejudice against others; prejudice is the tendency to form an adverse opinion without just cause about people who are different from the mainstream in terms of their gender, race, ethnicity, or any other definable characteristics (2010, p. 398). Examples of prejudice occurrences in an organization can be the standard image or perception that management or production work is strictly a male’s job. Traditionally many women are pushed away from receiving equal rights as men in the workplace, but are now evolving into the new images of corporate management. There has been a drastic change in the amount of women in the workplace due to the external environment changing the way society lives.
Another example of prejudice is discriminating against another person based on their ethnicity or cultural background. Many organizations are fighting against having levels of privileges and opportunities solely for a single group of people. The development of social-cultural group awareness and support associations from organizations has made available several opportunities for all types of peoples. A great example of an organization striving towards equality is Southwest Airlines personal websites created to promote and support several group of people of different race, sex, religion, and culture. This demonstrates that their corporate image stands behind their mission of providing everyone the same privileges and rights as everyone else.
Having an understanding of organizational behavior and cultural makeup will enable managers to become better leaders. By analyzing the several characteristic each person within the organization holds will allow for managers to know how to confront that person’s needs and work with them to increase job satisfaction and performance.
Lussier, R. N., & Achua, C. F. (2010). Leadership Behavior and Motivation. In R. N. Lussier, & C. F. Achua, Leadership (pp. 70-101). Mason: South-Western Cengage Learning. Nadler, L. (1997, August 13). Leadership and Developing Diversity. Retrieved February 13, 2012, from Big Dog & Little Dog ‘s Performance Juxtaposition: http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/leader/diverse.html