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Chapter 2 of Organizational Behavior, the 15th Edition focuses on diversity in organizations. As the American workforce has grown older, increased in women, opened to ethnic and cultural differences, and embraced religious variance, the challenges to managers and members of an organization recognize the differences and incorporate them into more effective relationships for greater productivity and success of the organization. In this chapter we will learn about the types of diversity in today’s workforce and how to prosper with it as an important component of our responsibilities.
The learning objectives of Chapter 2 can be defined in six concepts. First is to describe the major forms or workplace diversity. Second to identify characteristics of people and how they are relevant to OB. Third is to recognize stereotypes and understand how they effect organizational relationships . Fourth is to learn a definition for intellectual ability and to understand its relevance to OB. Fifth is to define and appreciate the differences between intellectual and physical ability as elements of OB concepts. And last, to describe how diversity issues are effectively managed in organizations.
Everybody brings differences to an organization where they work. These differences can create energy and excitement in the workplace, but they can also cause conflict. So it is important that we have an understanding of how diversity works in organizations.
When we look at the workplace we can recognize two levels of diversity. Surface-level diversity represents the characteristics that are easily observed such as race, gender, age etc. Deep-level diversity represents the aspects that are more difficult to see at first glance such as values, personality, and work preferences.
Exhibit 2-1 lists definitions and examples of different types of discrimination (page 77).Under increasing legal scrutiny and social disapproval, most forms have faded. This observation and attention may have resulted in an increase in covert forms such as incivility or exclusion.Some forms are difficult to affect because they are unobservable. Whether intentional or not, serious negative consequences may arise for employers.Diversity is a broad term, and workplace diversity can describe any characteristic that makes one person different from another.
Biographical characteristics represent many of the surface-level aspects of diversity. These are characteristics that are very easy to identify. Biographical characteristics typically include age, gender, and race. They can also include tenure, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Let’s look at the first, AGE.Age is an increasingly relevant characteristic as the workforce is aging. Older workers bring with them a wealth of knowledge and experience, but the perception is that productivity often declines with age. Whether this is true or not, it is a perception people act upon and will affect the workplace. And recent legislative actions have basically done away with mandatory retirement at any age.
The second of the biological characteristics is sex. In studying gender in the workplace, it has been found that there are very few differences between men and women that impact job performance. However, women, especially those with pre-school age children, do prefer flexible work schedules and will seek an employer who offers options in their schedules.
Race and Ethnicity offers little explanation for differentials in workplace outcomes. It has been shown, however, that people in the workplace do identify more with people like themselves so in some cases there may be opportunities given to people based on the fact that they are like their supervisor. In general, research has found no significant differences in race or ethnic backgrounds related to absence rates, applied social skills or accident rates.
A person with a disability is one who has a physical or mental impairment that limits one or more major life activities. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 requires employers to make “reasonable accommodation” for disabilities. Because of its vagueness, this provision is problematic for employers. The result is the existence of string biases against those with disabilities, particularly mental.
Tenure refers to the length of time people have been on the job and is tied to seniority. Often, tenure is seen as a positive as it signifies that people are happy with their employment because they have remained in their job for a long period of time. Therefore, employees with long tenure tend to be more productive, call in sick less frequently, and don’t leave the organization as readily.
Religion may also impact work outcomes due to religious restrictions, such as dress and grooming. Schedules may also conflict with the way work is typically done, such as a Muslim worker adhering to the prayer schedule outlined in Islam.
Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity are not protected by federal law and as a result they are handled differently by most employers. Often, these characteristics are dealt with just as if they were protected characteristics in order to discourage discriminatory behavior, whether it is covered by the law or not.
The concept of “discrimination” is to note differences between things. A person who believes in differences between pizzas made by one firm and another, and believes the differences are significant is discriminating. Stereotyping is when differences between things are reduced in importance and similarities are over emphasized. For example, considering a young person as an individual with personal likes, dislikes, attitudes and behaviors is discriminating. Considering him or her as a drunken, dope smoking college kid is negative stereotyping. Stereotyping by preexisting beliefs and ideas associated with the physical characteristics leads to unfair discrimination and negative attitudes and feelings among workers. Recognizing people for their abilities rather than assumptions of stereotypes is an important part of OB and its application to the work environment.
Ability is an individual’s capacity to perform job tasks. In discriminating between people, two types of abilities can be assessed. First is Intellectual abilities and second it physical ABILITIES
Intellectual abilities are those needed to perform mental activities. These would include abilities in critical thinking, reasoning and problem solving. In most cultures high value is placed on intelligence and it is easy to see why. These skills provide solutions and actions that are positive in a culture or society’s development.
The seven most frequently cited dimensions making up intellectual abilities are number aptitude, verbal comprehension, perceptual speed, inductive reasoning, deductive reasoning, spatial visualization, and memory. Exhibit 2.2 describes these dimensions.If you score high on verbal comprehension, you’re more likely to also score high on spatial visualization. Evidence strongly supports the idea that the structures and measures of intellectual abilities generalize across cultures.
Physical abilities are needed when performance requires physical activity to complete a task. People must have the capacity to do tasks that demand stamina, dexterity, strength, and similar physical abilities. There are three main categories of physical ability – strength, flexibility and other characteristics.
Strength factors include dynamic strength, trunk strength, static strength, and explosive strength. Flexibility factors include both components of extent flexibility and dynamic flexibility. Other strength factors include body coordination, balance, and stamina.
When an organization discusses abilities, it can cause difficulty when developing policies that recognize diversity in terms of disabilities. While it is important for the organization to strive for diversity in the hiring process, it is important to be careful to avoid discriminatory practices during hiring by making generalizations about people with disabilities.
Knowing that people are different is not enough for organizations to operate effectively with differences. Managers must work to develop strategies to develop ways to utilize differences to achieve work outcomes. Managers start by attracting, selecting, developing, and retaining employees who can operate and excel in a workplace with diverse individuals, viewpoints, and ideas. Gaining a diverse workforce through the selection process and developing that workforce through organizational training and development programs will help to provide for an environment that fosters creativity and effectiveness by tapping into the potential of all employees.
More and more organizations are requiring employees to work in groups. Diversity can aid in group effectiveness and it can diminish it. Organizations must provide the tools to leverage the differences to obtain superior performance.
Effective workforce programs that encourage diversity contain three components. Let’s look more closely at these.
Effective Diversity programs have three components.They teach managers about the legal framework for equal employment opportunity and encourage fair treatment of all people regardless of their demographic characteristics.They teach managers how a diverse workforce will be better able to serve a diverse market of customers and clients.They foster personal development practices that bring out the skills and abilities of all workers, acknowledging how differences in perspective can be a valuable way to improve performance for everyone.
Effective workforce programs that encourage diversity contain three components. First, they teach managers about the laws they need to follow and equal employment opportunity requirements. Second, they help managers and employees to see that a diverse workforce is better able to serve diverse markets. Third, they take into account personal differences and approach the differences as strengths that can be utilized to enhance performance.
This chapter examines the issue of diversity in organizations by focusing on three areas of concern…biographical characteristics, ability and diversity programs themselves. These three areas provide a foundation for building an understanding of the effects that diversity has or organizations and the people that comprise them. By acquiring an understanding of these issues, a manager can be a more effective leader achieving greater outcomes because of the unifying effects of diversity applications.
Diversity programs includes emphasis on the areas of recruitment, selection, and retention of employees. Strong diversity programs will ensure that employees fit the organization and its job requirements to provide a basis for more effective job satisfaction and productivity. But the fit must be determined equally and fairly to ensure the solid relationship among employees. IN order to accomplish this, the diversity management in the organization must by a commitment of all levels of management and across all functions of the organization. Lead by example to get the best from your organizational situation.