Communication With Diversity In The Workplace Management Essay

Increased levels of diversity in the workplace have led to the need for improved levels of communication. “Increasingly, people from diverse cultures interact at work, in social environments, and at school. Yet misunderstandings often result due to differences in impressions and views” (Hynes 2005). This generation’s workforce requires solid forms of both formal and informal communication processes to ensure effective measures of evaluation throughout the workforce. Both of which processes help management gauge the tone and environment, and communicate effectively in changing or enforcing it. This paper will not only discuss the need for and effectiveness of formal and informal communication, but it will also address the value of sending and receiving nonverbal messages. “You can identify our own no bodying behavior only through self-monitoring” (Dreachslin, 2007). Thus, by self-monitoring and studying nonverbal communication we can better understand the messages that we may silently send to others and the non-verbal communication that is received. What is instrumental in avoiding misunderstandings between diverse cultures within the workforce.

Communication with Diversity in Workplace

Management Dealing with Diversity

Today the workplace population is more diverse than it was just a few decades ago. Managers today face a tough challenge when it comes to dealing with diversity. The Department of Defense team is comprised of military, civilians, and contractors. As a leader you can find yourself dealing with a workforce ranging from 18-year-olds to those with 18 or more years of experience. You must be able to communicate with a number of people while ensuring that everyone sees diversity as a corporate asset. With many of the older workers staying longer many employers have to deal with the age diversity. With the age difference between employees many managers find that the way they communicate with each employee is often a difficult task. Not only is the age diversity a challenge but managers also have to deal with cultural diversity. With the ever-growing number of minorities entering the workplace managers often find it difficult to communicate. Not only will managers have to communicate with their employees but you will also have to be able to communicate with other managers of all cultural backgrounds. Managers will also have to deal with the affirmative action in the workplace also. The United States is not alone when it comes to having an affirmative action policy. The country of Brazil recently introduced affirmative action in its civil service and universities. (Muir) Communicating about diversity in the workplace is very import because this is where a wide-cross section of people from society convene and follow the same policies and guidelines. With all of the diversity in the workplace each manager must be able to adapt and change to each situation. Change in leadership styles affects the way a manager communicates with his employees. Leader will use several ways to communicate his message to his employees. Leaders will adjust to each situation and develop the appropriate communication style for that employee. Leader will understand how to deal with emotions at work. The effectively communicate the leader should first think thru what he is about to say. Second, encode the message. Third, let them receive decode the message so that they can translate the message to something they can understand. The leader will have to account for barriers while communicating to his employees. With the growing number of minorities in the workplace one of the more common barriers is language. It would behoove any manager to become familiar the language of his employees. As much as overcoming barriers is important to the communication process, receive feedback is equally as important. Feedback allows the manager to change and alter messages so the intention of the original communicator is understood by the second communicator. Feedback is received verbally as well as nonverbally both are equally important. Leveraging Diversity

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Our work environment today is more diverse than ever. The challenge is to incorporate everyone’s specific talents into a cohesive and optimal workforce. It is essential we recognize people are vital to an organization’s success. Consequently, we need to understand the motivations and interests of this diverse workforce.

Issues concerning the formal and informal communication process

The most effective means of communication is a mixture of formal and informal communication. Informal communication is a quicker feedback system used to gauge opinions from all levels. It is relied upon quite frequently as it is a valuable ongoing occurrence in an organization’s day to day functions. Formal communication processes are more time consuming, costly, and organized. They also retain the quality of accountability. Formal communication is a means of official notification which follows set standards and routines.

As the world seemingly becomes smaller as companies expand globally, the workforce and client base, for that matter, become more and more diverse. Diversity training alone is not enough to support the positive culture organizations are nurturing. Management must communicate company-wide support of diversity efforts through all avenues of communication. Informal communication, however, expresses an entity’s true loyalty. Management must ensure all informal communication in the form of actions and words support the goals of a diverse workforce (Diversity, p1).

Motivation

People are motivated for their reasons and not yours. What sparks interest and passion in one person doesn’t necessarily ignite the next person. Smart leaders take time to recognize what excites others and how to leverage that talent to the organization. You need to create a work culture that recognizes and appreciates differing perspectives and approaches to solving problems. Consider this…the Department of Defense attracts people from every aspect of society, culture, and social status. When, where, and how you were raised impacts your value system. As a supervisor, none of these variables are under your direct control. Basically, you cannot change the gender, age, or ethnicity of your people. However, one thing you can change is your approach to leading the people on your team. Foremost, we must create a hospitable climate that promotes respect and inclusion. This will reduce dysfunctional tension and increase team productivity. Specifically, how can we achieve this?

Stereotypes

After forming a common ground, people must expel stereotypes. “Younger employees are wet behind the ears, know nothing, have no respect or loyalty, lack experience, therefore have no credibility and can’t be trusted with much responsibility. Older employees are less motivated to work hard, they are nothing but deadwood, resistant to change, can’t learn new methods and technology, they reach a plateau after 40, should be fired after 50, and are ‘fire proof. We must increase awareness and expel stereotypes. Stereotypes ignore differences among the individuals in a group. There is no room in the workplace for stereotypes; you must acknowledge the richness in our diversity.

You must realize People are different, and there is no way to make them fit into a single mold, nor is there any reason to. You don’t live in a world of carbon-copy people. In order to effectively manage a diverse workforce, we must acknowledge differences. People should, however, focus more on the things we have in common.

You should use everyone’s experiences and background as a resource. Diversity of experience and background ensures diverse ways of looking at problems. Managing our workforce diversity can result in higher productivity, improved performance, more creativity, more innovations, and reduced stress. Giving emphasis to diversity without

threatening our unity is the proper way to strengthen the ties that bind the team together. Sensitivity, mutual respect, and common trust coupled with communication are the prime ingredients to integrating people.

Communication Factors

You often hear that the main problem is a failure to communicate or a lack of communication. However, on closer examination, this usually accounts for a very small part of the communication problem. The real crux of the problem is miscommunication, i.e., when communication is misinterpreted, inaccurate, or incomplete. If your people are to perform at their best, they need constructive, accurate information-anything less cause’s frustration. And remember the definition of conflict: frustration of an important concern, whether real or perceived. You can perhaps think of several examples in your own organization where conflict erupted because of poor communication. Think of what happens when the communication process fails. The result is usually disagreement that can lead to conflict.

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Informal communication

You have to, involves all available avenues of communication which are not official channels of the organization. Everything from lunch room discussions and gossip to facial expressions and body language can be considered informal communication. While formal communication is initiated and monitored by the organization’s policies. This can include training, intranet sites, newsletters, and meetings. Formal communication can be relied upon to be open, fair, and ethical with its messages (Eggertson, 2006).

Although informal communication may be quicker and sometimes more “truthful”, formal communication is the most reliable way to insure the messages are sent and received effectively. Formal communication follows a set of standards, and in censoring some of the perceived “truth”, is utilized in an ethical manner fair to all participants. However, even formal communication can be perceived as unfair in a diverse workforce if the communication is in a language not easily understood by members of the workforce. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 specifically states that no one can be excluded from participation based on discrimination of the protected classes (Culturally, 2007). National origin and the language of that origin are protected. Organizations must respect the diversity of its workforce by providing formal communication in a language and format that the workforce members can understand.

Unfortunately, formal communications and informal communications can often follow separate paths. When this happens, a company risks deviating from the organizational culture it tries to harbor. Formal communication must represent the organization’s culture, values, and mission statement. Management must make it a priority to insure informal communication does not contradict formal communication efforts or damage the company’s culture.

Between formal and informal communication, “informal communication is one of the fastest spreading means of communication within an organization” (Jex, 2002). The biggest concerns with informal communication are the ability to verify its validity and the ability to control it. It’s been said, “Nothing travels faster than the speed or rumor” (Kalvar, 2003). No amount of effort on management’s part will be able to stop gossip completely. Informal communication is known by many terms: the grapevine, hearsay, scuttlebutt, gossip, rumor mill, or “a little bird told me.  Rumors develop and grow, because of the lack of official news and can be very damaging to a person or organization” (Frunzi 250). The “rumor mill” has been around as long as man has been communicating, and, although it is often blown out of proportion and distorted as it’s passed along, the message is commonly more accurate and complete than the formal communication offered by management (Kalvar, 2003). To combat this, management must develop more accurate and timely communications with its workforce. 

Both formal and informal communications are essential to effective management. Informal communication is used to maintain a feel for the organization’s cultural pulse. It can be detrimental or supportive of a diverse workforce. Formal communication relays messages with inherent authority and accountability. It is governed by laws and standards of ethical behavior. Formal communication must be supported by management through the words and actions of informal communications. Both forms of communication need to be focused on the company’s organizational goals reflecting its values, supporting diversity, and adding to its rich culture. Warren Buffett, billionaire owner of Berkshire Hathaway Investments, stated the responsibilities of management in saying, “Your attitude on such matters, expressed by behavior as well as words, will be the most important factor in how the culture of your business develops. And culture, more than rule books, determines how an organization behaves” (Eggertson, 2006).

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Issues concerning the sending and receiving of nonverbal messages

Even the simplest communication can at times be complicated by nonverbal factors. Studies show that 50 percent of a message’s impact comes from body movements or nonverbal communication. For example, crossing your arms may indicate defiance. Putting your hand on your chin may show thought (Jean et al). Leaders need to understand the importance of checking nonverbal cues when communicating. There are seven classes, also known as codes, of nonverbal signals. The nonverbal codes include:

kinesics-messages sent by the body, including gestures, facial expression, body movement, posture, gaze, and gait

vocalics (i.e., paralinguistic)-vocal cues other than words, including volume, rate, pitch, pausing, and silence

physical appearance-easily manipulated cues related to the body, including hairstyle, clothing, cosmetics, and fragrance

haptics-contact cues, such as frequency, intensity, and type of touch

proxemics-spatial cues, including interpersonal distance, territoriality, and other spacing relationships

chronemics-the use of time as a message system, including punctuality, amount of time spent with another and waiting time

artifacts-manipulability of objects in the environment that may reflect messages from the designer or user, such as furniture, art, pets, or other possessions

While the above categories provide an outline from which to conceptualize nonverbal communication, it is, in reality, a combination of cues and codes that work together to produce a certain meaning (Cicca et al). As you can see just from these seven classes, your body and body language may be saying a lot, even when you are not. These non-verbals mean different things to different cultures. These differences in meaning assigned to non-verbal communication can lead to problems in a diverse workforce, as the impact of body language is not always the same as the intention.

Conclusion

Effective organizations must utilize the skills and talents of a diverse workforce. Differences in personnel can be beneficial to an organization because different organizational cultures can contribute different assets to the organization as a whole, making the organization stronger. However, to maximize the diverse skills of this type of workforce, these organizational cultures must be able to communicate effectively. “Ineffective communication of key objectives results in confusion, lack of teamwork, and low morale” (Greenberg, 2006). This paper demonstrated the importance of formal and informal communication. Informal communication can benefit the organization through the free and rapid communications process that comes from freely sharing and exchanging ideas. Formal communications can be more carefully constructed to ensure that the intent of the communication is more accurately received by members of the organization. It is however, the combination of formal and informal communication that best serves today’s diverse workforce. This paper also demonstrated the importance of sending and receiving nonverbal messages. Nonverbal messages can mean very different things among different cultures, so a diverse workforce must be careful to understand different meanings assigned to this non-verbal communication to avoid misunderstandings and offenses.

Workplace diversity can benefit an organization by offering a larger variety of solutions to problems, a larger pool of individual talents and experiences, and even providing more services to customers on a global basis (Stroud, 2007). However, “Perceptual, cultural and language barriers need to be overcome for diversity programs to succeed” (Greenberg, 2006). If organizations can learn to understand the communications differences between cultures of their employees in formal and informal communication as well as sending and receiving non-verbal messages they can move past these communications barriers and begin to harness the benefits of diversity in the workplace.

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