Workplace Diversity & Cultural Issues

Written by bonnie swain schindly
  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Share
  • Pin
  • Email
Workplace Diversity & Cultural Issues
Men and women communicate differently. (workplace image by Andrey Kiselev from

The workplace continues to be a melting pot where different cultures and backgrounds converge every day. Employers and co-workers are expected to demonstrate sensitivities toward employees who hold different religious backgrounds, ages, genders and cultural heritages. Leaders in workplace diversity awareness say that group members who are most commonly stereotyped are women, non-whites, non-heterosexuals, non-Christians and people who are either younger than 21 years or older than 50 years.


The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that religious discrimination claims typically involve employees' requests for time off for observance of religious holidays, or expression of religious beliefs through hairstyles or clothing. The EEOC experienced a 21 per cent increase in discrimination charges based on religion in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack. Many of the allegations were from Middle Eastern employees who practised Muslim beliefs. Atheists and agnostics have also challenged their employers' policies. Some companies give employees floating holidays to accommodate their personal religious customs.


Today's workforce is comprised of four separate generations, each with distinctive traits that are defined by their era. Mature workers were born before 1946 and are appreciative of authority and job security. Baby boomers were born between 1946 and 1960 and thrive on accomplishment and hard work. Gen-Xers, whose birthdays fall between 1961 and 1979, are more casual in their relationships with their employers. Gen-Yers were born after 1980 and are anchored in current technology and ambition. Managers have the challenge of inspiring all four generations to work together as one unit.


Men and women have radically different communication styles. Men nod their heads when they are in agreement, whereas women bob their heads up and down to indicate they are listening. Under stress, men tend to immerse themselves in their work and become snappish, while women become talkative because they seek reassurance. These gender differences generate misunderstandings in the workplace.


Foreign-born students are earning 24 per cent of the science and engineer bachelor's degrees in this country. Plus, nearly half of the scientists and engineers in the United States who hold doctorate degrees are immigrants. As American-born diversity consultant Michelle Mielly found in her experiences, small differences in styles can lead to big cultural frustrations. For instance, she learnt while growing up in Texas that a person should never interrupt or challenge someone while speaking. However, members of some European cultures consider loud discussions to be signs of friendship. Those differences have an increased impact on employee relations as the workplace becomes more globalised.

Don't Miss

  • All types
  • Articles
  • Slideshows
  • Videos
  • Most relevant
  • Most popular
  • Most recent

No articles available

No slideshows available

No videos available

By using the site, you consent to the use of cookies. For more information, please see our Cookie policy.