Defining diversity requires acknowledging the differences between groups of human beings. These differences include such attributes as ethnicity and race, religious and spiritual beliefs, educational and economic backgrounds, physical abilities and disabilities, age, gender, marital status and occupational status. The ways in which diversity can impact work and work relationships can be both positive and negative.
The impact of diversity in the workplace is largely positive, bringing different viewpoints into the organization and broadening the company's perspective. However, it can lead to a lack of a cohesive corporate culture.
Diversity in the workplace can be identified as an employee pool that includes a mix of people from varying groups: different races, genders, ages, social and educational backgrounds, ethnicities, sexual orientation and so on. In other words, it involves hiring and retaining people of many and varied personal characteristics.
By law, employers cannot turn down an applicant based on such human differences as race, age or gender. Therefore, a pool of qualified applicants may encompass a diverse group. And so diversity in a working environment, then, could be seen as evidence of fair hiring practice within a company.
Perhaps the most important impact of diversity in the workplace is perspective. Different groups of people bring different viewpoints to discussions and resolution of issues. This variation of attitudes and ideas can provide valuable input to brainstorming sessions and issues demanding creative solutions.
If the product of the company is creative output, such as in the graphic arts industry, diversity can aid in addressing the needs of a diverse clientele, ensuring that problems are solved faster and more creatively.
Management within the workplace needs to be able to identify management styles and systems that will best utilize the diversity of the employee pool. By educating himself about the various backgrounds of the teams, a manager can harness the positive value of diversity in the workplace. When management directs the team by identifying and including attributes from all the team members, the employees are more likely to feel comfortable with other team members who differ from themselves.
Within the workplace, employees are forced to work with others they may not necessarily socialize with or otherwise come in contact with in their daily life. This can create a positive atmosphere if the corporate culture is one of tolerance and diversity. However, such forced proximity may result in resentment in those who do not wish to practice tolerance.
This concept is best represented when women began entering fields previously dominated by men, such as law enforcement and technology. Perhaps some men who felt they had to change their behavior in the presence of women and grew resentful. The resolution of such matters may be established through law and the passing of time; however, there are still individuals, and groups, who may wish to restrict their contact. Forced diversification can, in such instances, have a negative impact on the workplace.
The positive effects of diversity in the workplace have been well documented. It is a misconception, though, to believe that diversity will always make for a better workplace. Elements of culture, such as language and dress, may clash with established norms within a workplace, giving rise to resentment and mistrust.
A negative byproduct of diversity in the workplace may lie in the incorrect perception of fair hiring practices. If long-time employees believe that their employer is hiring to fulfill a diversity quota, they may feel encumbered with under-qualified employees or that their own status is threatened because they do not fall into what is perceived as a favored group.