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Diversity: Individual Behavior Impact

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Diversity: Individual Behavior Impact

Individual behavior is the pattern of behavior, thought, and emotion, unique to an individual, and the ways he or she interact to help or hinder the adjustment of a person to other people and situations (The Columbia Encyclopedia, 2001). Within organizations, diversity can positively or negatively impact the behavior of individuals. Organizations are responsible and held accountable for making the overall work environment conducive for all within the diversified setting. Diversity is shaped and informed by a variety of characteristics including age, ethnicity, gender, disability, language, religion beliefs, life stages, education, career responsibilities, sexual orientation, personality traits, and marital status. Workplace diversity is about acknowledging differences and adapting work practices to create an inclusive environment in which one's diverse skills, perspectives, and backgrounds, are valued (Workplace Diversity Strategy, 2003). There are many diversity issues within the workplace however, age, gender, personality traits, and religion highly impacts individual behaviors within an organization.

Age

"The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)", states the unlawfulness of discriminating against a person because of his or her age with respect to any term, condition, or privilege of employment; including, but not limited to, hiring, firing, promotion, layoff, compensation, benefits, job assignments, and training (Age Diversity, 1997). Age diversity at work means employing people of all ages, and not discriminating against someone because of how old he or she is. Age discrimination can take place as a result of the organization or from the different generational differences that make-up the organization.

Generational differences can have many diverse impacts on individual behavior with regard to age differences. These differences can become a big distraction, hurt morale, and teamwork, unless managers learn how to accommodate the uniqueness of each group (Gomolski, 2001). Typically older persons tend to take his or her work related responsibilities very serious unlike their younger counterparts. Older employees take pride in doing a job well whereas younger employees want to just get the job done and move on to the next assignment. Although each person is working toward the same organizational goals, due to the age difference, the approach or techniques used to reach these goals may vary. The key is to get all workers focused on the goal, rather than his or her different approaches to meeting that goal. The goal will prove to be the common ground in an age-diverse workforce (Gomolski, 2001).

Gender

Gender differences are a major factor within organizations. The fact that opportunity and pay are equal is crucial however; it is not accurate to think that men and women are the same. Each gender has different methods and styles of achieving goals within the organization however, due to the many differences between them tend to leave room for conflict. As human beings, women and men share many of the same experiences and expectations, however; as individuals they are each entirely unique (Hahn, Litwin, 1995).

Men see themselves as engaged in a hierarchical social order in which they are either "one up or one down" in relation to others. Their communication styles and reactions to others' communications often stress the need to "preserve independence and avoid failure." Women, on the other hand tend to see the world as a "network of connections", and their communications and interpretations of others' communications seek to preserve intimacy and avoid isolation" (Hahn, Litwin, 1995). Years ago, organizations were known as being "a man's world", or "the good ole' boys club", however; in today's time more women are joining the workforce with the demand of being treated equally. What is called for, and all-too-often lost in the debate is an approach that allows men and women to maximize their respective strengths in the workplace, and to recognize that the true competitive advantage lies in an ability to allow those strengths to coexist in a co-operative, supportive and aware workplace (Annis, 1998).

Personality Traits

Personality is defined as enduring patterns in a person's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors across situations (Williams, 2005). Personality traits are behavioral differences. Appreciating the diverse personalities of the people one interacts with helps one to understand why they act the way he or she does and how to get most out of them. Appreciating personality diversity means respecting the strengths and limitations of each individual, and knowing how to capitalize on each individual's strengths. People with different personalities have different inherent strengths and weaknesses (Williams, 2005). A persons personality habits can exist from how that person was raised or taught as a child as well as from adult experiences on jobs or just with life. Individual behavior within organizations stems from the different personalities of the staff members. These differences have the potential to either cause problems for or efficiently help an organization to obtain goals if he or she is properly trained to co-exist with each other in an organizational setting. Therefore, the best groups are made up of members with diverse personalities who learn to appreciate and put to use each other's strengths. Managers should promote an appreciation for personality diversity. The most effective managers appreciate the diversity of their subordinates' personalities (Williams, 2005).

Religion

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 required employers to reasonably accommodate the religious observances of their employees unless doing so would impost an "undue hardship" upon the employer. The Workforce Religious Freedom Act is a bill that seeks to amend Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to reinstate the protection religious workers require so that they may be faithful to their religion and support their families as well (Workplace Religious Freedom Act, 2005). Companies are facing growing demand to address religion and issues

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