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Managing Diversity in Workplace

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Managing Diversity In Workplace Evans Winata

Challenge Statement It all started with an email containing an offensive joke, as shown below.

Morning Puzzle: Do you recognize these acronyms? UFO IBB NAACP Answer: UFO = Ugly ________ Orientals; IBB = Itty Bitty Breasts; NAACP = _______, Apes, Alligators, Coons and Possums Figure 1. Email with an offensive joke

As a result, the email spread like a tidal wave throughout the company and hit the press, causing the media to ask for comments. Employee morale was down. While women and minority employees were emotionally hurt, it also caused fear and worry among white male employees since they might be accused of starting the email and strong action might even be taken against them for simply agreeing with the sentiments. John Henderson, the CEO, then ordered Jeff Rice, Vice President of Corporate Human Resources to deal with the issues, find out what the issues were in 60 days and later determined what to do next. At the same time, John would write an open letter to all employees to assure them that the company would not tolerate such behavior and would have those responsible duly disciplined, while asking them to continue committing to the value of diversity. It took 6 months for Jeff Rice to return with results of his findings, packaged in a 20-­‐page confidential report. 1

Evaluating Johnson’s Actions Instead of taking a strong action, Johnson was slow and weak in their actions. The first thing they did was a simple public relation work, both internally to the employees and externally to the media; and the rest was investigations and researches that would take a lengthy time to yield information and data, without any guarantee of any appropriate action, not to mention solutions within the time frame. It was unclear if Johnson’s IT department succeeded in tracking out who started the joke within the company.

Studying the Findings The percentage of women employees was 15%, African Americans stood at 6% and Asians grew to 10%, making a total of 31% share of minority employees versus 69% white male employees. Looking further into higher positions that most employees would aspire for, women’s share was 2.7%, African Americans and Asians were 2% and 3.5% respectively, which combined only made up a meager 8.2% versus 91.8% white male within influential positions. Therefore, minority employees were at the mercy of white male superordinates. With over 100 years of corporate history, it was only in the past 5 years that Johnson Chemical International started hiring women and minority employees. It was certainly a good move nevertheless to start to acknowledge the importance of diversity in the company, yet with only 2% plant turnover rate, it was obvious that most white male employees had been with the company for over 5 years (before adapting the policy of diversity) and had not fully embraced the concept into their hearts. So, it would be most likely that they had all the negative stereotypes about women and other races. In fact, they were still learning to embrace diversity.

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As the globalization of our world societies expands and grows, the demand for organizations to improve their diversity profile, for reasons of productivity, performance and improved social behavior become increasingly pressing. (International Journal of Diversity in Organisations, Communities and Nations, Volume 4: Diversity, a Matter of Values, An Integrated Approach to Improving Organisational Diversity). So, it was wise that Johnson Chemical International to embrace diversity for the above reasons. Despite their difficulty, it was a good start nevertheless, better than nothing.

Figure 2. Percentage of Employees with Favorable Responses Based on the survey, African Americans and women didn’t feel satisfied working in Johnson Chemical International and they didn’t think that the corporate climate respected employee diversity and didn’t feel like being supported to improve their performance. 3

Based on the results from focus groups, it was clear that: • • Racial slurs and jokes were often heard on the plant floor. African Americans and women were excluded from many social activities and “old boys” network. • • Women were always being tested with offensive sexual jokes or comments. Women felt they were not treated as individuals, being viewed as emotional non-­‐ technical and subordinate, and their ideas were never considered. • • Company benefits do not have programs to help women balance work and family. Rating system was prone to racial bias that would hinder minority employees the chances for promotion. • • • Most employees were ignorant to the diversity among Asians. White men were stereotyped as racist and sexist. There were still social and communication gap between white supervisors and minority subordinates. • The climate within the company had put a time bomb, that another inappropriate joke was already sufficient to trigger the chaos. So, there clearly were some issues in the way Johnson promoted culture of diversity within the company, which caused growing resentment, despite hidden, among the employees. To increase cohesiveness in the workplace, employees must learn how to work well together and become more accepting of others. The problem here was attributed to the lack of knowledge in managing diversity in the workplace. There was a very diverse staff working within the company but some feel as though they didn’t have equal opportunities. Even white men felt excluded from equal employment opportunity policies.

Cost to the Organization There were three arguments for increasing and embracing diversity in the workplace: 1. A more diverse labor force means that organizations need to recruit from all demographic segments of society in order to attract and retain the most qualified candidates;

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2. More diversified societies and a globalized marketplace means a more diverse customer base with diverse preferences and needs be better served by a more diverse workforce which understands those diverse preferences and needs; 3. Diverse groups can outperform homogenous groups on problems-­‐solving and creative tasks because diverse groups can draw on a multitude of backgrounds and cognitive styles based on more effective decision-­‐making. (The International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities & Nations, Volume 7, Number 5, Multiple Identities in Organizations: The Effects of Diversity on Organizational Identity, Ingo Holzinger and Rumina Dhalla) If the diversity problems in Johnson Chemical International were not properly addressed, the company would start losing employees who could provide excellent service and contribution to the organization, which would ultimately lead to higher training costs for new employees and less stable corporate operation.

Dealing with the Issues Johnson Chemical International simply hadn’t done enough to fully embrace diversity. It was obvious the management thought that diversity simply meant recruiting women, Asians and African Americans and promised them that Johnson Chemical International respected differences and equal opportunity would be given regardless of gender and race. It wasn’t that simple. Adult minds had been preloaded with assumptions and stereotypes for others. In Johnson’s case, it was even worse. Most of the employees had been working in a homogenous environment for most of their time, and only in the past 5 years (less than 5% of its corporate history) it started to welcome women and other races. Those employees with different backgrounds would simply happen to be working in the same company instead of being fully integrated into teams. For those who felt unhappy had nowhere to voice their opinions and concerns without the risk of dismissal. The company 5

could hire on-­‐call psychologists for the employees at the company’s expense, so that employees had someone to talk to, other than their managers. Employees with higher ranks, which comprised of over 90% white male, hadn’t fully exercised the concept of equality. So, they were very likely to give lower ratings to subordinates of different races and females. Further training was required for those higher level employees to make diversity work for them. The company could make this training mandatory if supervisors and above were to receive their annual bonuses. Education is the key to helping supervisors understand their part in the organization. With this diversity management class, supervisors will learn how to manage a diverse workforce and use employee’s strength to the advantage of the organization. To even make sure that ratings were carried out in a fair manner, employees would be surveyed through 360 degrees feedforward program if they felt they were rated in accordance to the company’s policies of equal opportunity with respect to diversity. (“What Got You Here Won’t Get You There”, Marshall Goldsmith) It is even more important to follow up intensely on the results of the feedforward to make sure it yields the benefit everyone expects (Forbes blog, Aug 17, 2012, “The 7 Reasons Why 360 Degrees Feedback Program Fails”, http://www.forbes.com/sites/ericjackson/2012/08/17/the-­‐7-­‐reasons-­‐why-­‐ 360-­‐degree-­‐feedback-­‐programs-­‐fail)

The company needed to host more activities unrelated to work that would foster togetherness among the employees, usually known as employee integration activities, such as sports, parties, cultural day or even team-­‐building games where minority employees could demonstrate their capacity. Those are activities during which people will blend together regardless of any differences, although again, only during the activities. When carried out over and over again, people will really blend together even during work. Parties or cultural day or any other activities to put more respect to diversity could be hosted periodically and regularly, where employees brought in their heritage food, shared their traditions, wore their signature outfit or even celebrated events in the manner of

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other traditions. Employees would be required to attend these events if they were to stay long with the company.

The Implication in Indonesia Indonesia is also a diverse society. It is so diverse that it is impossible for any medium-­‐sized companies not to embrace diversity, and therefore, it is imperative for the management to learn to manage the diversity. In the discussion above, we only discussed about gender and race, while in Indonesia, another variable should be added: religious belief and sexual orientation. Religion can be the most sensitive issues above all else. Indonesia has anti-­‐discrimination law although there is no direct implication in the employment world like Equal Employment Opportunity Act (EEO Act) in the United States. Regulations aside, people still put judgment and stereotypes on religions, races and genders, regardless of who are being majority and minority. For some positions, people will choose to employ certain types of people based on gender, race and religion than the other. In US, such a practice will be outlawed for being against the EEO Act. Not only gender and race, even putting barriers for people with certain disability unrelated to the job functions will be a sufficient reason for legal actions. Despite no EEO Act in Indonesia, and the fact that people still have gender, racial and religion preference, serious issues resulted by the act of discrimination is very minimum, due to cohesive social interaction. People understand when decisions are made against them solely on the grounds of gender, racial or religion. As long as companies provide sufficient opportunity for employees to practice their religious beliefs and honor their needs to pray, things will go well. Any exceptions are usually brought up before the employment, and any agreement or disagreement never results in any social consequences. With a constructive political situation that respects people of all genders, races and religions, now it’s all up to the corporate values set by the management.

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Bibliography 1. International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations; Volume 6, Number 6; Diversity Management, Challenges and Opportunities in Multicultural Organizations; Patrick A. Edewor & Yetunde A. Aluko; 2007 2. International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations; Volume 7, Number 5; Multiple Identities in Organizations: The Effects of Diversity on Organizational Identity; Ingo Holzinger and Rumina Dhalla; 2007 3. International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations; Volume 4; Diversity, A Matter of Values: An Integrated Approach to Improving Organizational Diversity; Annaliza Jackson; 2004 4. Goldsmith, Marshall; What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful; Profile Books; 2012 5. Forbes blog, Aug 17, 2012, “The 7 Reasons Why 360 Degrees Feedback Program Fails”, http://www.forbes.com/sites/ericjackson/2012/08/17/the-­‐7-­‐reasons-­‐why-­‐360-­‐degree-­‐ feedback-­‐programs-­‐fail

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