In the ever globalized workplace and business environment, interaction of people from different culture is nothing can be neglected by effective managers. Besides, the increasing participation rate of women in workplace had also contributing to a diverse workforce. All these are drawing managers’ attentions to how to manage multi-cultural workplace. It is now important for effective managers to understand how the diverse and multicultural workforce of different background, sex, age, experiences, beliefs, can be managed effectively to contribute for high performing organizational success.
In this essay, the various factors that will contribute to successful management of multicultural workplace will be discussed. The cultural issues in the business context are not something new. There are many literatures arguing that cultural factors are something must be handled properly by business managers. Fortunately, a review of the many literature available suggests that the many factors leading to successful or effective management of multicultural workplace can be separated into two main categories, firstly the manager/ leadership factors, and secondly the organizational factors. The essay will be arranged according to such view. The first part of the essay will discuss how the managers can lead to the success or failure of the organizational performance; while the second part will deal with the organizational factors leading to the successful management of multicultural workplace.
Before the essay focus on the factors required for successful management of multicultural workplace, those factors leading to failure of management of multicultural workplace will be discussed. According to Copeland, Certain manager attitudes can lead to failure of multicultural workplace, among them include: stereotyping certain group of people, wrong assumptions on others, inability to understand differences between culture, embracing policies encouraging the exclusivity of ‘white-man’ club, as well as practicing double standard in managing a diverse workforce (i.e., certain group of people may be favored, while others may be discriminated). Besides, Mamman (1996) also argued that managerial characteristics such as ethnocentrism as well as prejudice will also lead to failure of multicultural workplace.
As we had discussed above that if the manager or leader in an organization exhibit certain unwanted behaviors or attitudes in managing multicultural workplace, superior organizational success is likely impossible. Thus, in order to successfully manage organizational success, manager must have certain attitudes, beliefs, competencies as well as inter-personal skills. All these are factors that will eventually lead to successful management of multicultural workplace.
According to Copeland (1988), the attitudes of manager are critical in determining if success multicultural workplace can be ensured. He cited that those managers with the following attitudes will be more successful in managing multicultural workplace, which are: ability to challenge and aware on personal assumptions on others, continuously striving to ensure that all employees are invited to the ‘club’, share the unwritten rules, as well as appreciate diversity. To explain, managers that able to understand how his certain assumptions may not be helpful toward managing people from different cultures will be able to correct his tendencies and attitudes. Be not stereotyping or discriminating against from other background, and thus inviting them to truly join the workplace as a united team, success in multicultural workplace can be achieved. Then, an appreciation on the diversity will also ensure that people from different background felt being valued, and thus more willing to integrate into the workplace as a team member.
Apart from that, Chang and Tharenou (2004) argued that managers must possess several traits for successful management of multicultural workplace. Among these include: cultural empathy, ability to learn on the job, communication competence, generic management skills, as well as personal style. Among these traits, Yli-Jokipii (1997) perceived that communication skills are the most important element that will ensure success in multicultural workplace. Nevertheless, it is simply understandable that managers that can understand the differences between culture, able to communicate well to people from different background or different culture, having excellent intrapersonal relationship-based skills, competence in managing workplace, as well as having a cheering, positive, open-minded, respecting and charismatic attitudes will more likely to be an effective managers in a multicultural workplace. In short, the more knowledgeable a manager is, and the more experiences and success cases on how he had managed people from different cultural setting before, it is more likely that he can perform better, and contributing to the effective management of a multicultural workplace.
According to Wong, Wong & Heng (2010), there are evidences of certain leadership style may be beneficial to effective and successful management of multicultural workplace. For example, a degree of people-oriented leadership style will ensure that the feelings or employees, particularly those from the minorities group will be taken care off. Besides, leaders that have the ability to manage change in organizational context will more likely able to manage multicultural workplace, he can more readily lead people to new behaviors that embrace diversity in workplace in the future.
In the organizational context, there are many factors that can lead to a successful or effective management of multicultural workplace. This should be not surprising, as how the organizational structure, system policies, practices, culture and climate may affect the employees’ behaviors and attitudes. When people come to work together, the conditions as well as the situation presented to them in the workplace will definitely affect them significantly. Thus, how the organizational settings should be formulated or designed will have huge impacts if a multi-cultural workforce can be united and guided to perform together for achievement of organizational goals. In the successful organization, the weaknesses of a person can be mitigated, while the strengths of the particular person can be used to contribute greatly for organizational performance. Diversity will be great assets to such organization, as people from different background tend to have different ideas, competencies, insights and abilities.
Composition of workplace can affect the success or failure of integrating multicultural workforce. According to Mamman (1996), it is asserted that in a multicultural workplace, the fewer number of diverse workforces, the harder it will be to adjust those majorities for effective management of multicultural workplace. Such a view is also supported by Oerlemans and Peeters (2010). This is not hard to understand, a when a workplace is consisted of the majority, other opinions are easily discarded or ignored. The way of doing things as well as the people behaviors will be adjusted to suit the majority.
Organizational training and development to support multicultural workplace. According to Shames, providing training classes to the workforce is highly important to ensure the different employees from different background able to work together, understand each other, and combine or utilize the diversity advantages to contribute to organizational success and performance. For this, Mamman (1996) had also argued that employees need to be train to work in a multicultural workplace as well as to interact or communicate with the others from different background or cultural settings. For this, many training or development programs can be organized periodically in workplace. Employees are then required to participate and learn the materials seriously. The subjects that should be taught can include the following: inter-personal skills, communication skills, differences between people from different cultural settings, differences between different religions, how belief system affect people thinking style and attitudes, cultural awareness as well as how to deal with conflicts in workplace. Besides, other organizational development (OD) tools can also be employed. For example, team building to further enhance the relationships between the workforce as well as the team work between people from different background can be held. Management can then concentrate on teaching how to utilize the diversity advantage for problem solving purposes. During the celebration of festival of certain group of people in the workplace, company can also organize trip to visit those workers to further enhance the relationship between people from different background.
An organizational climate of mutual respect. According to Egge (1999), an organizational environment that value respects and appreciation of other culture and thinking style is critical to manage people from different socio-cultural setting. When people can respect each other, even if they do not necessary agree on others’ opinions, conflicts can be avoided in organization. Respecting among each others will lead people to work together towards a solution, instead on emphasizing on the differences that exist among the people in a team or workplace. Besides, when the people understand how diversity can contribute to performance and competitive advantages of a firm, they will appreciate the people from different background. That will certainly produce highly conducive environment for the people of diverse background and culture to contribute their specific strengths of competencies towards fulfillment of company’s missions or vision.
Organizational culture. Different types of organizational culture have different impacts and influence towards the issues of managing a multicultural workplace. Certain organizational culture will be more effective to manage a diverse workforce, while others may not (Mamman, 1996). For instance, organizational culture that embraces change, creativity and innovative efforts is more likely to be successful in managing or utilizing the multicultural workplace for competitive advantages. In such culture, the differences of ideas and perceptions will be highly valued, and people tend to be more open-minded. When people are open to other perceptions, able to think differently, see from other’s points of view, the multicultural workplace can be easily managed.
Overall, it is argued in this essay that the many factors affecting the success in multicultural workplace can be categorized into managerial factors as well as the organizational factors. Managerial factors can be referred to the attitudes, knowledge, experiences, and perceptions of the manager or leader in an organization. However, the organizational factors are referred to the organizational structure, system policies, practices, culture and climate. An understanding on how these factors can affect the success or failure of multicultural workplace is critical, as to effectively manage people from a diverse cultural background, all these factors will essentially become the new objectives of the organization. By fulfilling the requirement of all these factors, then only a truly successful multicultural workplace can be created.
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