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Managing Culturally Diverse

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Running head: Managing Cultural Diversity

Managing Culturally Diverse

Work Groups within an Organization

Natasha Avies

Troy State University

Dr. Earl Ingram

November 28, 2004

Abstract

Cultural diversity has become widespread within many organizations today. The work groups in these organizations are increasingly being staffed by culturally diverse employees. The cultural differences exhibited in the groups can enhance or weaken the function of the work group, especially in a predominantly homogenous environment. These multicultural work groups present challenges to the organization and to the managers that must reduce these challenges in order to achieve the desired success of the organization. The biggest obstacle with cultural diversity in the work groups is the managers' lack of knowledge of how to lead a culturally diverse work group or team. This paper will focus on the disadvantages associated with culturally diverse work groups, and how managers can counteract those disadvantages to make culturally diverse work groups more effective within the organization. This paper will discuss the traps managers should avoid when leading a diverse team; how to develop group synergy among group members; and how to use the diverse groups to attain competitive advantages. This paper will also discuss the advantages the organization can attain once the managers have been educated on leading a diverse work group and the possible training programs available.

Managing Culturally Diverse Work Groups within an Organization

Diversity is comprised of many characteristics: internally and externally. Internally, diversity includes characteristics such as age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, and physical ability. External characteristics define our lives and the things we value. They include religion, geographic location, income, personal and recreational habits, education, appearance, and marital status. All of these characteristics work together to define who we are as people, and the affect we have on others. These culturally diverse individuals are the builders of organizations. Inside these organizations, culturally diverse work groups and teams are formed.

According to Bruno (2004), diversity is the approach to business that regards human differences in the workplace as contributing to the success. An organization that creates an inclusive environment that values and respects differences will benefit from diversity. Cultural diversity has become widespread within many organizations today. The work groups in these organizations are increasingly being staffed by culturally diverse employees. This diverse group increases the available pool of resources, networks, perspectives, styles, knowledge, and insights (Ely, Thomas, 2001). People with different norms, values, and beliefs will have different attitudes and work ethics in relation to how well they perform their jobs. When a diverse group of people come together to form a work group within an organization, a common ground will need to be met in order to function productively.

The cultural differences demonstrated by the employees can be directly related to their job performances. Their cultural differences enable them to perceive the same idea in many different ways, and when not handled properly, these differences can lead to miscommunications and low group cohesion and morale. These factors ultimately affect the group's work performance and their contribution to the organization's success. To counteract the distractions related to diversity, managers must work to enhance group performance and member morale, satisfaction, intent to remain, and commitment (Gibson, Donnelly, Ivancevich, Konopaske, 2003). If the managers do not work to enhance group performance and member morale, then it will lead to disadvantages within the work group.

DISADVANTAGES OF CULTURALLY DIVERSE WORK GROUPS

Working successfully with individuals unlike ourselves is difficult and requires change (Bruno, 2004). When change is not successfully managed in culturally diverse work groups, the disadvantages can reduce the productivity of the organization. According to White (1999), diversity in work groups increases ambiguity, complexity, and confusion. As a result, these groups may have difficulty converging meanings, reaching a single agreement, and agreeing on courses of action. The inability to convey meaning and reach agreements reflects the communication within the groups. A work group can not function properly without proper communication. In any type of relationship, especially in a group, communication is the key to understanding and solving problems. According to Weiss (2001), perceptions of time, space, and business practices can disrupt effective communications. Being alert and sensitive to cultural cues and contexts before speaking is the first step in overcoming cultural communication barriers. In some instances, these disadvantages are allowed to overtake the group's performance in the organization. In many organizations, diversity can produce negative dynamics such as ethnocentrism, stereotyping and cultural clashes (White, 1999). Ethnocentrism exists in the organization when one group feels their way of thinking and acting is superior to others. In a predominantly homogenous culture, the minorities may not be valued as they should because they are seen as being inferior to the homogenous culture already established in the organization. People tend to stereotype, when they associate certain behaviors with a particular group. Consequently, the person is not valued for what they can contribute as an individual, but often seen as belonging to certain group and being held accountable for that group's actions. Cultural clashes, like stereotyping, do not let the individual prove him or herself. The disharmony between two cultures, for any reason, prohibits the individuals from each culture to fully function in a culturally diverse work group. Consequently, if leaders ignore or mishandle diversity, it may detract from performance. Another possible disadvantage of culturally diverse work groups is intergroup conflict. Intergroup conflict can be controlled when managers reconcile competing goals, distribute power in a representative manner, affirm the identity of minority group members, and act when resources

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