How To Make Diversity Work in the Office

It’s an accepted norm in civilized society to treat everyone equally, regardless of sex, color and other considerations. This is especially true in the workplace, particularly with a lot of countries and territories enforcing laws against discrimination. For one, Affirmative Action policies actually promote, encourage, and sometimes even require diversity in the workplace and schools. Sometimes this is enforced, even to the extent that it encourages reverse discrimination, in that those from minority groups are actually given preference, just to satisfy legal requirements.

Making diversity work in the office environment actually requires some effort, both on the part of an employer and the employees. Different types of diversity would often be addressed differently, but the basic requirement is that everyone be treated equally, with dignity and respect.

Difference between sexes. It’s often been a complaint that men have an advantage over women when it comes to advancement in the workplace. This may be due to different causes. For one, women are mostly seen as family-oriented, and may not agree to longer working hours and working days. Women also require longer periods of leave, particularly maternity leaves, which may take upwards of three months in most states. Therefore, it’s easy to choose the more career-oriented men when considering promotions.

Sometimes it’s even as basic as provision of facilities in the office building, such as restrooms for both men and women. Having a day care center situated within an office building can also be helpful to workers who need some place to bring their kids while at work, regardless of whether they are male or female.

Diversity between sexes can also be a matter of sexual preference. Heterosexuality is a cultural norm, and some workplaces still have prejudices against homosexuality. In the aim of breaking down barriers to people who practice alternative lifestyles (including sexual orientation), the workplace should treat everyone equally, including those who have engaged in same-sex marriages and relationships. This does not only include how employees get along with each other, but also in how benefits, like health insurance, are provided.

Racial considerations. Race is another big factor in the workplace. Due to culture differences, it might be easy to discriminate against workers who come from different racial backgrounds. While the color of one’s skin is not really an indication of one’s skills and abilities, some people might still squirm at the idea of working with people who look different. One way to minimize stressful situations such as these is by holding regular company events that include employee families, such as weekend picnics, summer outings, and the like. This will help foster better camaraderie among employees, regardless of background and race.

Culture and religion. Even with racial discrimination being minimized, sometimes it’s a matter of culture or religion. Some religious beliefs might appear strange or silly to those who follow other beliefs. Some examples would be aversion to certain foods, or preference for certain dress styles. Some cultures also follow different work and vacation days. For example, while Christmas is among the most popular religious and secular holidays in the Americas, other holidays like Hanukkah, Eid and Kwanzaa are also observed in most workplaces, in consideration to those who have different beliefs.

It is a fact that people are different, and businesses will be better off if this is accepted, and if the workplace fosters an environment where everyone is treated with respect and dignity, with consideration to each one’s beliefs, background and situation.


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