You may have your own methods for understanding and coping with diversity, but your organisation will have methods for dealing with these types of changes as well. Most often you’ll find that organisations deal with workplace diversity by setting policies and procedures that govern the entire workgroup. Here are a few examples.
Organisational practices are methods an organisation takes to monitor and control the way their employees are treated – both by management and by their fellow employees. For example, your employee manual will likely have pages discussing how to handle harassment (specifically sexual harassment) within the workplace. These policies apply to victims, perpetrators, and witnesses. I now see companies issuing separate mission statements outlining exactly how they feel about the way their diverse culture should grow.
Organisational policies are a little different than practices. These policies govern how individual can be treated on a professional level – including the way they are compensated. For example, single parents may find they need specific vacation holiday schedules while a woman who wants to help her ailing grandparents may want to flex her work-week schedule. Some people need less insurance than others and may be compensated accordingly as well.
Diversity training is also becoming more and more popular these days. Diversity training is an organisation’s method for making sure all employees are properly informed when it comes to understanding the differences between their cultures, beliefs, and work ethics. Employees who are educated often find it easier to cope with differing personalities.
Does your organisation have a diversity training program? If not, what methods does your organisation take to control or educate its employees about diversity?
You’ll find that the way you deal with multiculturalism and diversity within your workplace as an individual may be different than your organisation handles it as a whole. You, however, will have the unique opportunity to work directly with each of your employees and your sensitivity to their individual needs is paramount. So what are some of the things you’ll need to do as an individual to show your support?
Start by understanding. It’s important to understand that “equal opportunity” does not mean that every single person is the same, wants to be treated the same, or should be treated the same. They should have the same opportunities, but there are fundamental differences between how people from different cultural groups live their lives and these need to be recognized as well. Think out of the box and be open to new experiences.
Be empathatic towards your new employees. You may feel uncomfortable working with a new person – whether he or she is of the opposite gender or comes from a different ethnic background than you’re used to dealing with. As awkward as you may feel, remember that he or she probably feels exactly the same way. You don’t know how to treat each other, so simply taking the time to help each other work through differences will make a huge difference.
Be as tolerant as possible. You may or may not agree with some of the things your employees do or believe in, but you do not have the right to judge them or hold them back. You don’t have to like their personal beliefs or systems, but you do need to learn how to work with them and not show your distaste. Your personal beliefs should not impact your professional performance.
As always, don’t forget to communicate. The more willing you are to communicate the better. Make sure your employees know they can come to you with their thoughts and concerns and make sure you professional express yours as well. You won’t be able to work with anyone you can’t learn to speak to. If you aren’t able to express that a person’s actions or words are inappropriate they’ll only continue until you begin to resent him or her or, in some cases, a more difficult situation develops.
These are some of the ways you can look at workplace diversity on an individual managerial level. Next time we’ll talk about some of the things organisations can do as a whole to show their support. Until then, have a great weekend!