The idea of diversity has gone a long way in placing people of different genders, cultures, personalities, races, ages, etc., on an equal platform. However, practicing diversity in our personal and professional environments is not an easy task which raises various diversity issues.
In fact, in many work environments, it is a common misconception that diversity means meeting the required employee quotas in the race or gender categories. However, the primary concept of diversity revolves around acceptance and respect. Real diversity is realizing that each individual is unique and appreciating their differences in a safe and positive environment.
Diversity Issues in the Workplace
Diversity is not only restricted to how people perceive others but also involves how they perceive themselves. These various perceptions affect their interactions and are also a fundamental factor in many diversity issues.
Introducing a diverse workforce in a company may seem ideal, but conflict arises when various employees work in proximity. Here are some of the several diversity issues employers face in a company:
- Inefficient Communication
The main reason for communication issues at a workplace is that English may not be the primary language of all employees. Apart from languages, people from different demographics also use various slang in everyday life. For example, younger employees often use terms and slang with which the older generation is not familiar.
The issue with language barriers is that it hinders effective communication among the team members, decreasing productivity as ideas and instructions are not communicated properly. It also results in low employee morale as some employees cannot express their opinions as fluently as native speakers.
One way to overcome language barriers is to set a standard medium of communication at work. The employees should also be encouraged to clear up any doubts if they are not sure of something. Hiring bilingual people is also a great way to avoid miscommunication.
- Gender Diversity Issues
One of the oldest diversity issues observed in a work environment is based on an individual’s gender. Many individuals still face inequality when it comes to work opportunities and pays. Over the decade, it was seen that women’s participation in the workforce dropped drastically from over 80% to less than 50%.
Organizations also face the challenge of accepting more gender-fluid individuals into their workforce. It is still difficult for most people to understand that a man wearing a skirt or a woman with a more ‘manly’ personality can perform just as well as anyone in a traditional gender group.
Workplace discrimination is one of the most common diversity issues experienced in an organization. Discrimination against a certain group or individual can occur due to various reasons, such as their race, sex, country of origin, marital status, disability, etc. An employee or even a new hire may be treated unfairly due to their differences which can impact their potential opportunities in their career.
Discrimination is, however, not only restricted to minority groups. Dominant or majority groups also experience reverse discrimination when they believe someone (protected groups) is given preference based on their background rather than their talent or merit.
Another issue when it comes to implementation is that people are resistant to change. Employees may not readily accept bringing in new coworkers from diverse backgrounds, leading to initial hostility.
- Generation Gaps
Large organizations often contain workers ranging from young adults to senior citizens. Aside from diversity in communication, these groups show diversity in how they work and take up trends. For example, individuals of Gen-X are known to adjust to new technologies more quickly and effectively than Millennials.
Bridging this gap between various generations may cause diversity issues in a team. So, understanding the most effective way to fit in the many age groups to help them flourish becomes crucial.
- Decreased Attachment to the Organization
Although diversity programs in organizations support minority groups, they can have the opposite effect on non-minority groups. When diversity is not managed appropriately, these groups may feel marginalized or even targeted by their organizations.
Although heterogeneity in a group enhances creativity and judgment, a study showed that an increase in diversity decreased the attachment non-minority groups had towards their organization. To avoid this, employers should seek feedback from their employees to understand how they adjust to group diversity.
- Hostility and Harassment
Although it is something that should never be tolerated, workplace harassment does occur in organizations. People make decisions based on their perspective or bias regarding others based on their culture, religion, gender, etc.
Unfortunately, employees also exhibit unconscious biases despite their best intentions which leads to distrust among them. That is why identifying signs of hostility or harassment is extremely important for a healthy work environment.
- An Overload of Opinions
Receiving input from employees from diverse backgrounds and experiences certainly helps an organization identify issues quickly and view a problem from different perspectives. However, several varying opinions make it difficult to reach a concord which hinders the workflow. Establishing a structured staff system goes a long way to help make decisions.
- Holding on to Poor Performers
Diversity in an organization brings about a positive change to the way things operate. However, it becomes counterproductive if companies hold on to poor performance employees just because they are from diverse backgrounds. If the employee is unable to work effectively even with additional training, they should be replaced.
- Non-inclusive Diversity
Perhaps the most condemning diversity issue faced by organizations is diversity without inclusion. Although the two terms have been used synonymously by many people, they are very different terms. While diversity represents the nature of a workforce (what it is made up of), inclusion is more about the sense of belonging an employee feels at work.
Diversity without inclusion does more harm than good as it can make diverse groups view their differences negatively. Organizations can conduct events and programs (to overcome exclusion) where all employees can interact and learn about each other.
- Implementing Diversity
Theoretically, creating a diverse workforce seems incredible. However, when it comes to its implementation, most organizations face many diversity issues. Implementing a diverse workforce is usually the responsibility of managers and executives. However, when these decision-makers do not invest their time to create a healthy and diverse work environment, the employees can hardly be expected to be on board with the idea.
Overcoming Diversity Issues
Diversity issues not only occur in work environments but in everyday life as well. Diversity should be a goal of professional organizations and individuals alike. The first step to achieve this is to demonstrate an interest in diverse groups and being more sensitive to differences.
Sharing their experiences can help people understand the type of lifestyle someone leads and help them become more aware of their differences. However, not everyone is forthcoming about what makes them different. Before making assumptions about someone, people should consider the cultural background that influences an individual’s behavior.
When it comes to workplace diversity, organizations can establish corporate guidelines or conduct various team-building events to curb any discrimination or harassment at work. Diversity can bring about great changes to how people work and grow. Nevertheless, it is not without its fair share of challenges. Although these challenges can be very inconvenient, people can overcome these diversity issues by educating themselves and keeping an open mind.