Diversity in the Workplace

Essay by jmruizUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, May 2007

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The effects of cultural diversity on organizational behavior are complex and very powerful. Culture once portrayed ethnic or nationality groups, but in more recent years cultural factors include, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, and disability. There are many challenges that companies and managers are faced with as the workforce becomes more multicultural. A major challenge is communication and the use of language.

Americans are often quick to assume that "everyone thinks like we do" and that people from other places should just naturally acclimate (Morris, 2002). However, this could not be farther than the truth. Miscommunication and language barriers are a major issue in the workplace. Communication whether it is verbal, written or nonverbal can be interpreted and understood incorrectly as a result of an individual's style of communicating. For most employees they are attempting to learn and interpret a second language (most often English).

There are several ways to help overcome the communication and language barriers.

Vocabulary and pronunciation is a key element. Many team members may not be familiar with idioms or slang phrases such as "iron out the kinks," "give it to me straight," or "bear in mind" (Landau, J). These idioms or slang phrases can cause confusion and make it difficult to understand the true meaning of what is being said. That being said, information should be presented in simple language, not complex. In many companies, there is a language of its own, including many acronyms that are used but not understood by everyone. Using these acronyms can often sound like a foreign language of its own. Pronunciation is another area of concern because many languages pronounce their vowels differently. This can change the word and the meaning of what someone is trying to communicate.

Style and interpretation are equally important. Everyone in the group...