Managing Diversity in the Workplace

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Diversity in the workplace is a subject that has gained increased attention over recent years. After all, the impact of affirmative action and equal employment opportunity programs on the nation's work force is undeniable. Women and minorities were the first to dramatically alter the face of the economic mainstream, while gays, persons with disabilities and senior citizens followed not far behind. The result is a diverse American labor force representing a microcosm of our society - yet one that continues to struggle with its identity. Continuing to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the workforce poses one of the most challenging human resource and organizational issues of our time; however, this paper will show that overcoming this challenge is essential if organizations want to thrive in today’s global marketplace and have positive effects on the bottom line.

The dictionary definition of the term diversity refers to distinct elements or qualities – points of difference. It also means a condition of being different. The Latin root, diversus, suggests that historically this notion had a neutral, or even negative, connotation. Synonyms are different, unlike, opposed, or hostile. (Gundling 2007) As it relates to organizations, diversity can be defined as a collective mixture characterized by differences and similarities that are applied in pursuit of organizational objectives. Diversity management is the process of planning for, organizing, directing, and supporting these collective mixtures in a way that adds a measurable difference to organizational performance. (Hubbard 2004) In the United States, diversity in the cultural sense has been interpreted primarily with reference to racial, ethnic, or gender differenc...

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...ent. Gerber, in its attempt to address diversity, had simply changed the white baby on the label of their baby food jars to a black baby.

In both cases, this lack of diversity awareness and diversity utilization cost the organizations millions of dollars in lost revenue and damage to its brand image, not to mention its major impact on productivity costs.

Making diversity an organizational priority in all areas will result in the organization being able to attract and retain diverse employees as well as customers and will have a positive impact on the bottom line. Simply put, utilizing diversity as a strategic asset keeps an organization's competitive edge sharp for the long haul. It is my hope that more organizations will realize the importance of racially and ethnically diverse workplaces and make diversity a part of the organization’s overall strategy.

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