Diversity and Individual Differences in Small to Medium Sized Businesses Term Paper

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Diversity and Individual Differences in Small to Medium Sized Businesses

The issue of diversity in the United States has been a contentious one since the 17th century, when the first Europeans set foot on the country's shores. An examination of history shows many cases of injustice towards people with a variety of backgrounds, including race, ethnicity, gender and religion. Most recently, the 9/11 disaster resulted in a wide-scale discrimination against Muslims and Arabs. However, the most significant area of such discrimination, historically speaking, occurs in the workplace, and particularly in large corporations (Diverse Strategies, Inc., 2004). On the other hand, legislation and a general understanding that a nation united is stronger than a nation divided have begun to change this trend. While some statisticians are still gloomy regarding the minority ratio in the workplace, others find the future of minority groups alongside their majority counterparts rosy. In terms of the small to medium sized business, this sector of the business world could play a significant part in integrating with the diverse society around them. Indeed, this may be easier for the smaller-scale entrepreneur to do, as there is a perception of closer contact between management itself and the customer being served. Below is a consideration of diversity and its many related issues as it manifests in the world of the small to medium business.

Understanding Diversity: The Small to Medium Business

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While creating diversity and good relations within a large firm is a many-faceted network of tasks, this is not so in the case of the small business. Indeed, it is in fact much simpler to establish a culture of tolerance and diversity in such a business, as there is no large hierarchy of managers and channels through which such changes need to move (Diverse Strategies, Inc. 2004).

Term Paper on Diversity and Individual Differences in Small to Medium Sized Businesses Assignment

Another issue is that the interpersonal relationships within such a firm is closer and more trusting. This includes management and subordinates. Hence, when greater diversity is created, there is a greater sense of trust and communication than would be the case in a larger corporation (Diverse Strategies, Inc., 2004).

Because there is a smaller amount of potential employees for the small to medium firm, the company needs to consider qualification over background, furthermore favoring a move towards diversity. Whereas large corporations may experience a drive towards diversity in more urgent terms, this may cultivate strained relations between the cultures represented in the workplace. In a small firm, however, closer personal connections and communication have a greater probability of dispelling such negative attitudes.

Another important consideration when addressing the issue of diversity, is the customer base within which the company operates. Small businesses are generally expected to be in closer personal touch with their customers than large corporations. Furthermore, small businesses generally operate within the communities from which the members of management originate. Thus mangers themselves are closely in touch with the community dynamic, ethnicity and specific diversity issues. Arguable, these factors make it easier for a small business to incorporate a community-centered diversity within its staff (Lockwood, 2005).

Culture diversity issue is necessarily one of culture as well. As mentioned above, the United States has always been home to a myriad of cultures. Each of these has its own values, principles and work ethic. Once again, when comparing large-scale and smaller-scale operations, it is clear that there are difficulties when considering the culture issue in both cases. Large-scale businesses for example may not be as in touch with the various cultural needs within their operations. Furthermore, these businesses incorporate a larger variety of cultures, as they are not as focused on the ethnography of the community as they are on maintaining an apparently fair balance of culture in their workforce. In small businesses, on the other hand, the number of employees may be too small to incorporate a truly representative sample of specific cultures within their workforce. This may also be problematic, as individuals may be isolated according to their culture in cases such as only one person of a certain culture being employed in the workplace.

In the small to medium business, the advantage is that each representative culture can enjoy particular focus on their needs. If the above-mentioned channels of communication remain sufficiently open, this can be a benefit rather than a potential cost. Indeed, it is more likely for the different cultures in a small business to experience work satisfaction than those employed in large corporations. The danger of large corporations for cultural diversity is that operations tend to become impersonal, and possible benefits from diversity could be lost in the sheer volume of the business and its operations.

Furthermore, it is important that the diversity especially in the small to medium business reflect not only the cultures, but also their concomitant lifestyles, in the society surrounding the business. The community is the market place within which the business operates, and an evident diversity that matches the social diversity in the community will create a favorable marketplace.

Another important issue in diversity is the different values incorporated in a firm with a diversity of cultures. Indeed, some researchers have found that the differing values held by the different cultures in a company may ultimately impact negatively upon a firm's performance, unless managed correctly. Different cultures may have different notions of work ethic or other issues of performance, for example. According to?

research findings on this issue are inconclusive. For the small to medium business, important issues to consider in terms of cultural values include training on diversity issues, attempts to discourage the formation of cultural subgroups, researching the cultural backgrounds of employees and learning their language and cultures of culturally diverse employees.

This is an important issue, as the perception of discrimination has been found, conclusively, to impact negatively upon work performance. It has to be taken into account here that not all perceived discrimination is meant as such. This is where communication and interpersonal trust become important. When discrimination is perceived in a large corporation, the offended party may for example not have as much courage to raise their complaint as they would in a smaller setting, where trust is cultivated. Nevertheless, it is also important to keep in mind that diversity issues should be managed according to the needs of those working in the company. For this, communication strategies are vital. When discrimination is perceived, research shows that there is a higher tendency towards burn-out, a lack of potentially valuable initiative and a lack of employee retention.

In terms of culture, employing a representative diversity of human resources will also be helpful in terms of understanding the customer base. If for example, unintended racism is perceived internally in the company, the timely reversal of such a problem could lead to preventing similar problems with alienating customers. A diverse customer base that is represented by the workforce can then work together in this way to ensure that the business is in tune with the needs and perceptions of both employees and customers at all times.

Individual Differences

In addition to diversity issues, individual differences need to be taken into specific account in the small to medium business. Whereas large corporations generally view their employees in groups of ethnicity and value, with little individual distinction, the small to medium business needs to focus on the individual and his or her work satisfaction as it manifests itself in the workplace.

This integrates with the above-mentioned cultural issues and how this relates to the society within which the business operates.

Race and Religion

It has been mentioned above that the most recent discrimination in the United States resulted from the events on 9/11. This was necessarily reflected in the workplace, where there was a sudden, country-wide mistrust of Muslims and Arabs; particularly at airports. Once again, this is an issue that needs to be managed by means of communication. In small to medium businesses, it is vital, as mentioned above, to keep communication channels open in this regard as well.

Employees need to feel free to discuss any problems of possible discrimination that they experience in terms of race or religion. Furthermore, in terms of religion, there does need to be a certain amount of tolerance in terms of holy days, prayer meetings, and the like. Training in terms of company-wide intercultural understanding is once again required to manage this (HR Magazine, 2005).


Personality and individual differences such as appearance and personal presentation play an important role in hiring practices. Some employers confess that personal likes and dislikes tend to come between best hiring practice and the actual choice of hiring a specific person for a specific job. Rather than focusing on personal bias, it is important to keep in mind other issues, such as cultural representation, ability and qualification. Indeed, it is better for the business to not hire only as a result of personal personality preference, but rather in terms of other, non-emotional choices. In this, it is a good idea to include more than one member of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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