Understanding each other as individuals is the true key to teamwork and a harmonious workplace
The effective management of diversity has been the focus of a multitude of training and development endeavors in organizations since the 1990's. Backed by the accurate notion that our modern workplaces are composed of a heterogeneous and multi-faceted population and that functioning in a global marketplace necessitates an understanding of and appreciation for varied orientations and points of view, giving attention to diversity issues makes perfect sense. However, all too often diversity awareness training in organizations focuses solely on aspects of gender, race, ethnicity and/or creed.
In an attempt to respond to the prediction of an increasing presence of women and minorities in the workplace of the future many organizations implemented one-shot prepackaged diversity training programs. However, not all of these programs have had the positive and lasting impact hoped for. On the contrary, many have had negative results.
According to writers for the trade journal Organizational Dynamics, typical diversity training efforts at the organizational level often fail due to a “checklist mentality” whereby oversimplified packaged programs which address a single aspect are presented in a short-term modality with no genuine commitment and no consistent application (Quinn & Spreitzer, 1997). In this way, no real change occurs and typical patterns of thought and behavior perpetuate while on paper all the necessary mechanisms for change and development have been implemented. Furthermore, Forbes Magazine reports that so many of the diversity training packages have failed so miserably and actually caused harm and dissatisfaction in the workplace that a new cottage industry has sprung up based on training that undoes the damage in organizations and workgroups caused by other diversity trainers (Lubove, 1997).
What is needed is a comprehensive and on-going program that facilitates an understanding of differences while holding steadfast to the high moral principles of equality and human rights. Programs that focus on diversity at the individual personality level and operate on the foundation that all types represent a necessary and valuable contribution to the organization, which is best manifested when their style is understood and matched to complimentary work groups and roles, is perhaps one way to address the identified shortcomings of existing training.
The issue of diversity in the workplace became part of the social consciousness in the decade of the 90s and continues to have increasing relevancy today. Organizations are now finally beginning to appreciate the strength and promise of diversity. Because individuals’ and organizations’ pursuits will be successful only to the extent that they can successfully interact with those around them, effort must be made to more deeply understand, value and capitalize upon differences in people.
Lubove, S. (1997). Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Forbes Magazine, 12-15-97, pp. 122-123.
Quinn, R.E. & Spreitzer, G. M. (October 1997). The road to empowerment: Seven questions every leader should consider. Organizational Dynamics, 26, pp. 16-29.