Monday, January 28, 2013

Cultural Diversity and Team Communication


INTRODUCTION
The effects of cultural diversity in the functioning of any commercial organization have been an area which has attracted a lot of interest in the modern day. This has mostly been as a consequence of the increased rates of industrialization and globalization which has led many people to move from their homelands in new areas for economic and work related purposes. According to the Australian Multicultural Foundation (2010, p. 8) it is important for the administration of any commercial organization to come up with effective strategies and mechanisms in the management of diversity at the place of work. Diversity in this case is defined as the sum total of all relevant discrepancies that exists amongst an organization’s work force as well as its customers. The differences in the human resource may be revealed by their differing attitudes, mind sets and principles of life; in particular instances or situations in the organization, such differences may act as impediments to the successful accomplishment of organizational tasks. Stahl et al (2010, p. 1) reveals that a number of investigations and research that have been conducted on work place diversity focus on a number of facets such as diversity in gender, age, cultural back ground, function and ethnicity. Most recently, research has shifted to focus on the interrelationship between cultural diversity and achievements of teams in a commercial organization. It is important for organizational leaders to be able to manage the cultural diversity that characterizes their organizations. According to Stahl et al (2010, p. 10) diversity management is described as the continuous sets of procedures that incorporate an acknowledgement and appreciation of the differences that exist in an organization’s work force and clientele pool and the effects such differences have on all commercial ventures, processes and communication models; this is usually done with the objective of establishing fairness, concord and inclusiveness in the commercial organization so as to ensure the smooth running of the organization and the attainment of set organizational goals.
CULTURAL DIVERSITY
As stated by Silk et al (2000, p. 1) the Australian nation has also been characterized by high levels of cultural diversity due to having greater levels of immigration in comparison to other nations in the west. In such a dynamic global economic structure it has therefore become necessary for many organizational leaders to adapt effective cultural diversity management strategies. The Australian Multicultural Foundation (2010, p. 11) reveals that the issue of diversity management has undergone a number of transformations from what it was in the last three decades of the 20th century; between the 1970s-1990s the first principles of managing differences among the work force in Australia as well as other nations in the west such as the United States of America were endorsed by the establishment of legislations that outlawed unfair treatment of workers based on their sex or race. Laws were also formulated to ensure that the human rights of workers were honored as well as being provided with equal prospects for career growth and safety at the place of work. In order to avoid legal responsibility, many business organizations at this time had no choice but to abide by the set laws; equality and fairness in commercial settings was achieved by set structures of control, coaching of the organization’s human resource and laid down guidelines of legal compliance.
The Australian Multicultural Foundation (2010, p. 11)reveals that since the 1990s to the present day the rates of diversity amongst the work force in many organizations around the globe has escalated to high levels as a result of the increased demand and rivalry between commercial organizations for gifted workers. In addition to this, there are laws in Australia that illegalize discriminating upon workers due to their racial backgrounds, age and sex. Many managers have also realized the need for dealing satisfactorily with the cultural diversity in their organizations, not just for purposes of legal compliance but to also ensure employee motivation and organizational efficacy. The adverse effects of cultural diversity at the place of work are thus lessened and the advantages illuminated for the benefit of the organization.  Rijamampinina and Carmichael (2005, p. 109) asserts that there are different dimensions to the issue of diversity which interrelate and affect each other and are displayed in different contexts in the business organization. While aspects of difference in the work force such as sex, race, age, physical handicap and ethnicity fall under the primary dimension of diversity at the work place, culture is classified under the secondary dimension.  One problem of cultural diversity is its propensity to cause conflict at the work place. According to Jehn et al (1999), apart from being exposed to different cultural orientations, this may also occur as a result of informational diversity; informational diversity is the term used to describe the discrepancies that exist in the knowledge and mind sets possessed by the individual members of any team in the commercial organization. These discrepancies usually occur as a consequence of the team members having attained various different levels of education, know how and proficiency.
THEORIES OF CULTURAL DIVERSITY
According to Stahl et al (2010, p. 2) there are three main ways in which cultural diversity affects workers in teams formed in commercial organizations. The first manner is that stipulated by the similarity-attraction theory; according to this model, workers in an organization have a propensity towards associating with and working together with other workers whom they perceive as possessing mindsets and perspectives to life and work which are alike (Williams and O’Reilly, 1998, p, 77-78). In concord to this assertion, Mazur (2010, p. 7) claims that organizational teams that are identical in terms of cultural backgrounds and orientation have a greater number of interaction instances and tend to correspond with each other more often than with those who are culturally different. Mazur (2010, p. 7) further asserts that in such light, managers in a culturally diverse organization may apply the principles of the social identity model  to ensure that there are higher levels of cooperation and contentment amongst the organization’s work force. According to Williams and O’Reilly (1998, p, 77-79) this is also a very effective method of lessening the rate of occurrence of psychological disagreements in the commercial organization’s workers.
Stahl et al (2010, p. 2) also mentions the social categorization theory. According to Tajfel (1982), ordinarily, increased cultural diversity in work teams tends to report a similar or even greater increase in adverse self- grouping tendencies. This is due to the fact that human beings have a tendency to group themselves into units dependent on the number of similarities that the members of the units share; individuals with who few or no characteristics are shared tend to be categorized into ‘other’ groups. Jehn et al (1999) assert that such groups are usually the source of intense stereotyping and preferential treatment; individuals tend to favor those from their own cultural backgrounds and discriminate against those from other back grounds. In a culturally diverse organization this may be very detrimental to the accomplishment of organizational tasks and attainment of the set goals due to the fact that it breeds discrimination, impartiality, uncooperativeness and conflict (Rijamampinina and Carmichael, 2005). The information- processing model depicts diversity as being more advantageous that detrimental. Stahl et al (2010) asserts that cultural diversity has different implications on a commercial organization. Teams which have few similarities tend to bring into the organization the required multiplicity and variety of knowledge, networks and mindsets. Apart from enhancing the esteemed characteristics of creativity and originality, many a times this diversity is very helpful to the problem-solving activities of the organization
CULTURAL DIVERSITY AND WORK TEAMS
According to Shaw (1995), cultural diversity, as indicated in a number of Australian commercial enterprises, may have advantageous or detrimental effects on work teams formed in commercial organizations.  Stahl et al (2010, p. 2) reveal that different types of differences or diversities in a commercial organization have a propensity to affect the teams of workers in variant ways. Cultural diversity has a propensity to greatly influence the manner in which the workers relate with each other and with their superiors in the commercial organization. Despite the fact that the effects of cultural diversity amongst a commercial organization’s work force is not immediately evident, they tend to be more deep rooted and difficult to solve than those from other elements of difference such as sex and age (Lane et al, 2009). Cultural diversity in any work team may serve to heighten the levels of divergent sets of procedures; this is due to the fact that the team members who are from different cultural orientations bring together their different ideas and values; this increases novelty, inventiveness and problem-solving effectiveness.
On the other hand, if not effectively managed, cultural diversity may affect work teams negatively by causing conflicts and divergences. Despite the efforts by many organizational managers to embrace and effectively manage cultural diversity in the commercial institute, Silk et al (2000, p. 2) reveal that there are a number of challenges that confront such endeavors. The first challenge that must be acknowledged and effectively dealt with by the management is the fact that an organization’s human resource is comprised of individuals with differing approaches and mindsets towards organizational tasks. While some workers in many Australian commercial organizations may be very agreeable and open to changes of perspectives, others are quite opinionated and the management has to intervene to ensure harmony and cooperation in the organization. In addition to this, the management of a culturally diverse organization is also tasked with the responsibility of deciphering both the advantages and disadvantages of a culturally diverse work force; this will enable the administration to tap on the benefits of cultural diversity to the organization and lessen the disadvantageous effects on the same (Shaw, 1995).
MANAGEMENT OF CULTURAL DIVERSITY
There are many methods and techniques that have been outlined by scholars and experts in the human resource fields of study on how best to deal with the issue of organizational cultural diversity. The management of cultural diversity in the work place is very fundamental in enhancing the organization’s effectiveness due to the fact that it establishes an atmosphere of even-handedness and equality where all members of the organization are exposed to similar prospects and confrontations. According to Gratton and Erikson (2007, p. 107) state that the managers in the organization have to act as role models to their subordinates; if the work force perceives the management to be working harmoniously and collaboratively, there are high chances that the work force will also try to get past the cultural frontiers that divide them and cooperate with each other. In addition to this, the management of a culturally diverse commercial institute needs to organize for seminars and coaching forums for its administrators as well as workers, where necessary, to sensitize them on the importance of establishing collaborative systems and working together to attain the set organizational objectives. Establishing a sense of belonging and community amongst the workers has also been known to lessen the detrimental effects of cultural diversity in commercial organizations. The Australian Multicultural Foundation (2010) claims that the management of the culturally diverse institute should be committed to organizing informal gatherings where the work force are provided with an opportunity to interact, get to know each other and appreciate the differences that may exist between themselves. As stated by Gratton and Erikson (2007) informal methods are one of the most effective techniques in terms of speedily influencing the behavior of employees
Silk et al (2000, p. 2) reveals that one of the most effective methods of dealing effectively with cultural diversity in any commercial organization is making sure that there are effective communication systems in the organization. As illustrated by Maznevski (1994, p. 533) one of the most effective methods through which cultural diversity at the work place can be effectively managed is through the setting up of viable systems of communication in the organization; communication refers to the manner in which meanings are conveyed from one member of a work group to the other. Shaw (1995) asserts that apart from increasing harmony and concord amongst all units of a commercial institute, communication is invaluable in the process of resolving any conflicts that may result from cultural diversity and related divergences. As a result of cultural diversity’s propensity to adversely affect the configured communication channel and systems in an organization, it becomes necessary for an organization’s management to establish a common organizational culture in which all members of the organization have some shared characteristics or features to align to.
Another way through which administrators at a commercial organization can manage cultural diversity is by regulating the size of work teams that are formed in the organization. While many contemporary commercial organizations are in favor of larger teams of approximately 20-100 individuals, according to Gratton and Erikson (2007, p. 105) larger sizes of work teams have a greater propensity for increased cultural diversity and therefore conflict. Large teams are preferred due to their ability to incorporate a greater number of relevant stakeholders as well as enable the performance of a wider range of organizational tasks Nevertheless, as the number of group members increases in work teams, so does the level of cultural diversity; the levels of collaboration and harmony among the group members tend to decrease with an increase in the group size. Finally, as stated by Mazur (2010) the management of a culturally diverse organization should ensure the existence of stringent laws and decrees that dissuade issues such as favoritism, discrimination and prejudice which are commonly found in cultural diverse work teams.
CONCLUSION
Diversity is a feature that characterizes many of the contemporary commercial organizations. Increased globalization and industrialization in the modern days have led to transformations in the market place which are reflected by the increasingly diverse nature of workers in many business institutes (Mazur, 2010). Cultural diversity refers to the work force being comprised of individuals with different cultural backgrounds and orientations. According to the Australian Multicultural Foundation (2010), the management of a culturally diverse organization should be able to appreciate both the benefits and challenges that characterize such a workforce. This is due to the fact that cultural diversity is both a merit and a demerit; the involved management is vested with the responsibility of ensuring that the available tools of management are applied effectively in the management of cultural diversity. Studies conducted on organizational cultural diversity in the future should be inclined towards the disambiguation of the manner in which cultural diversity can be manipulated to enhance performance of work teams.












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