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Diversity in the Workplace

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Diversity in the Workplace


Diversity is a term used most often to describe the different types of race, religion, and nationalities but in today's business world, it is used to describe the different individual behaviors of employees. Diversity is about characteristics and demographics that differ from person to person and how they affect human behavior. To understand how diversity affects the work place let us look at four types of diversity--Differences in skill and abilities, Values and attitudes, Occupation differences, and Age.

Differences in skills and abilities

"Aptitudes are potential abilities, whereas abilities are the knowledge and skills that an individual currently possesses." (Schermerhorn 2003) Professionals such as Doctors, Lawyers, and even professional drivers all require a specific level of skill and knowledge to be able to do their jobs. For anyone of these professionals they could not perform their jobs if they had skill but no knowledge or knowledge and no skill. Skills and knowledge are important considerations for a manager when choosing to hire a person. There are many different kinds of tests used to measure mental aptitudes and abilities. Some tests are designed to test specific skills and abilities such as a professional driver would be given a drive test and would be asked to demonstrate their knowledge on how to operate specific equipment on the truck and trailer. Some tests are designed to test general skills and abilities, someone applying for a general secretary job may be ask to take a typing test, 10-key, or demonstrate a general knowledge of computers.

These kinds of tests are useful tools for managers and are necessary to screen potential applicants to be sure that they have the ability and skills that are required for the job.

Value and attitude differences

Just as skills and abilities are varied, values and attitude differences are varied as well, they reflect a person's sense of right and wrong or what "ought" to be. Values influence the way we react to others and how others react to us. For example, you may value the belief that everyone has the right to be treated with respect and paid equally no matter what his or her gender or age. Lets say you go to work for a company that pays men who are older a higher salary than a person who is younger and female, even though they have equal qualifications. You will probably have the attitude that the company is an unfair place to work and will most likely quit.

There is also a generalization of values that is divided into three primary groups according to a study done by Arthur Mitchell at SRI International (SRI International 1990) the study identifies these as traditional, new, and hybrid. Traditional or older workers with traditional values believe in the company over the person, quantity over quality and uniformity over diversity. New or baby boomers value economic results and social responsibility. The Hybrid or mixture of traditional and new is the young entry level workers who are more concerned with making money than they are about their futures the welfare of the society. As more and more baby boomers take over the corporate positions of retired traditionalists we are seeing a shift in the over all North American values from economic to social/personal. The impact of changing values continues to shape the way companies conduct business, treat their employees, and has resulted in the emergence of a new social conscience.


"Another type of diversity is occupation, with this having an impact on individual behavior. For example, an individual in a professional occupation is more likely to make her own decisions and is more likely to reject being managed too strongly. The case of a medical doctor is one example. A medical doctor considers themselves an expert in their area and is likely to consider that nobody else has the same expertise. Based on this, the individual is likely to make her own decisions and to act independently. The same also applies to other professional occupations such as lawyers and scientists. Where as a person just entering the workforce in an entry level position would not be an expert and would require the help and knowledge of the management or leader. The new worker would look to the leader for direction, answers, and guidance until they have



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