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Valuing And Managing Diversity Means Listening To All Employees

Author : Susan Klopfer


When he came home from Iraq, Greg J. decided he would go back to school and then go to work in a new profession. But now he wondered if XYZ Company was the best choice. So far, this company was not living up to promises made by Human Resources when he was hired.

When he took the job after graduating from business school a year earlier, Greg believed he was going to work for a progressive company, one that knew how to manage diversity − not a traditional company "stuck back in the 50s."

Greg and fellow students quickly adopted the ideas of R. Roosevelt Thomas, Jr., one of America's leading spokespersons on managing diversity and president of The American Institute for Managing Diversity, which Thomas founded in 1983 at Morehouse College.

Greg liked Thomas's description of an awakening taking place regarding management in this country's marketplace as the population moves to increased diversity. Managing diversity is an idea whose time has come as organizations and businesses are increasingly recognizing that a diverse work force is not more trouble for managers, but represents their greatest potential strength − when properly managed, he learned from Thomas.

"This awakening must have happened while I was over in Iraq," Greg mused one day while going over class notes: "The manager who best understands it takes a diverse work force at all levels of the company, including senior management, best serves the organization," his professor had lectured.

Greg and his classmates learned how the U.S. labor force "now and for the foreseeable future" will be largely composed of women, minorities, and immigrants. This group will constitute about 85 percent of the new entrants in the work force, according to a landmark study by the Hudson Institute.

They read in their professor's course syllabus that "Companies now realize they must attract, retain, and promote this full spectrum of people just to keep the business running. So great is their need that advice on the management of diversity has suddenly become a growth industry," (borrowing a quote from Dr. Thomas's classic book, "Beyond Race and Gender.")

His business school even took heed to Thomas's message, and its students represented a dramatic change, moving from mostly traditional young white males to the mid-sixties woman sitting next to Greg (who appeared even younger than the Laotian man sitting at the front of the classroom and still perfecting his English).

Greg was a returning, disabled veteran, retraining from the field of education. This multicultural classroom with new ideas coming from so many unique perspectives had inspired and challenged the entire group of students, as well as the professor.

But now, back at XYZ, Greg fully realized how this company's attempt to force today's reality into yesterday's management patterns was seriously jeopardizing the viability of the entire enterprise.

Greg tried to beef up the marketing for a new product earlier this morning, sharing some ideas about a problem he observed. "Maybe we should consider finding a new marketing firm, one that understands the Latino culture, since this product is a perfect fit for Hispanic Americans newly immigrated to the United States," he suggested.

Greg knew quite a lot about this market, after graduating from Spanish language classes through the Army while in the Reserves, and studying about cultural diversity, multiculturalism and the growing Latino population in the U.S. Right away, he knew working-class Latinos would love this product.

Before Greg could complete his last sentence, his boss interrupted him, saying he was wasting time trying to solve other people's problems. Greg's boss let him know he was hired to be an accountant, not a marketing expert.

Managing diversity differs from the traditional management perspective. While the traditional focus has been on individual and interpersonal aspects alone, what is new is seeing diversity as an issue for the entire organization, even involving the very way organizations are structured.

The way organizations are managed and the way managers do their jobs is critical to diversity management. It is grounded "in a very special definition of 'managing'; creating an environment that allows the people being managed to reach their full potential. At best, it means getting from employees not only everything you have a right to expect, but everything they have to offer," Thomas writes.

Greg, a white male from the traditional "dominant culture," had much to offer XYZ, coming from his unique knowledge gained from world travel and multicultural studies. But after this final incident, Greg knew he would never fill his true potential by staying with a company that had no time for his ideas.

"Their loss, my gain..." he sighed and began packing his personal belongings.


Author's Resource Box

Youve just read an excerpt from Susan Klopfers new book, Profit From Diversity: Getting Along With Others. Free online workshops (and bonuses) when you visit Susan Klopfers homepage at http://susanklopfer.com -

Article Source:
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Tags:   diversity, cultural diversity, diversity in the workplace, diversity training, muticulturalism, managing diversity, MVD, valuing diversity

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Submitted : 2010-10-01    Word Count : 1    Times Viewed: 230