Concepts & Definitions
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To address diversity issues, consider these questions: what policies, practices, and ways of thinking and within our organizational culture have differential impact on different groups? What organizational changes should be made to meet the needs of a diverse workforce as well as to maximize the potential of all workers, so that Berkeley can be well positioned for the demands of the 21st century?
Most people believe in the golden rule: treat others as you want to be treated. The implicit assumption is that how you want to be treated is how others want to be treated. But when you look at this proverb through a diversity perspective, you begin to ask the question: what does respect look like; does it look the same for everyone? Does it mean saying hello in the morning, or leaving someone alone, or making eye contact when you speak?
It depends on the individual. We may share similar values, such as respect or need for recognition, but how we show those values through behavior may be different for different cultures. How do we know what different cultures need? Perhaps instead of using the golden rule, we could use the platinum rule which states: "treat others as they want to be treated." Moving our frame of reference from an ethnocentric view ("our way is the best way") to a culturally relative perspective ("let's take the best of a variety of ways") will help us to manage more effectively in a diverse work environment.
Fair vs. Same Treatment
Many people think that "fairness" means "treating everyone the same." How well does treating everyone the same work for a diverse staff? For example, when employees have limited English language skills or reading proficiency, even though that limit might not affect their ability to do their jobs, transmitting important information through complicated memos might not be an effective way of communicating with them. While distributing such memos to all staff is "treating everyone the same," this approach may not communicate essential information to everyone. A staff member who missed out on essential information might feel that the communication process was "unfair." A process that takes account of the diverse levels of English language and reading proficiency among the staff might include taking extra time to be sure that information in an important memorandum is understood. Such efforts on the part of supervisors and managers should be supported and rewarded as good management practices for working with a diverse staff.
Affirmative Action - Different from Managing Diversity
Managing diversity focuses on maximizing the ability of all employees to contribute to organizational goals. Affirmative action focuses on specific groups because of historical discrimination, such as people of color and women. Affirmative action emphasizes legal necessity and social responsibility; managing diversity emphasizes business necessity. In short, while managing diversity is also concerned with underrepresentation of women and people of color in the workforce, it is much more inclusive and acknowledges that diversity must work for everyone.
Consequences of Ignoring Diversity
Ignoring diversity issues costs time, money, and efficiency. Some of the consequences can include unhealthy tensions between people of differing gender, race, ethnicity, age, abilities, etc.; loss of productivity because of increased conflict; inability to attract and retain talented people of all kinds; complaints and legal actions; and inability to retain women and people of color, resulting in lost investments in recruitment and training.