Organizational Behavior -- Managing Diversity American Society Term Paper

Pages: 7 (1898 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Business

Organizational Behavior -- Managing Diversity

American society has changed tremendously for the better since the Civil Rights Era of the 1960s. However, in many ways, the most substantial benefits of that era of U.S. history had only begun to transform the nation into a harmoniously culturally diverse nation prior to the turn of the 21st century. While constitutional law and other formal rules, laws, and regulations have specifically prohibited many overt forms of cultural prejudice for decades, covert biases and unofficial institutional cultures that contradict those social advances still exist covertly within many professional fields and organizations.

Consequently, the operational management of cultural diversity within business organizations is still in its relative infancy as a focus of management training and perspective. As the American community genuinely begins to reflect the principles embodied in all civil rights legislation and public policies more and more, it becomes essential for modern business organizations to manage diversity issues effectively and efficiently. That is especially true within retail sales and service industries where interaction between personnel and clientele is a fundamental part of establishing repeat business and (ideally) brand loyalty as well.

Organizational Behavior and Diversity Management in Modern Business

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Business organizations hoping to cultivate a corporate culture of effective diversity management face significant challenges (George & Jones, 2008). For example, individual employees all bring with them their internal states of mind that reflect the sum total of their personal experiences and the values and attitudes to which they were exposed during their social development. In many cases, their internal states of mind create patterns of social expectations and assumptions that conflict with modern diversity management principles and practices (George & Jones, 2008).

Term Paper on Organizational Behavior -- Managing Diversity American Society Assignment

Understanding the role that unconscious expectation and patterned responses play in dictating interpersonal communications and interactions is one of the most fundamentally important issues in managing organizational change (including diversity issues) within the professional business environment (Armenakis, Field, & Harris, 1999). In the specific case of diversity management, it may be even more important to understand the unconscious and other subtle ways that culturally ignorant expectations and communications can survive relatively intact despite targeted diversity training of employees. That is especially true in the retail sales and service environment by sheer virtue of the frequency of direct interactions between staff and clientele (Robbins & Judge, 2009).

The reason that the realm of unconscious attitudes, expectations, perceptions, and states of mind are so important to diversity management in contemporary business organizations is that they are directly responsible for the majority of customer complaints and dissatisfaction in this area (Russell-Whalling, 2008). In business relationships, as in other areas of American society, overt racism, sexism, ageism, and other aspects of social intolerance that are inconsistent with cultural sensitivity and acceptance of diversity are not tolerated, particularly in the professional business environment. Therefore, the types of intolerance that occur today are fundamentally different from the way that social intolerance was typically expressed only a few decades ago (Kennedy, 2006).

Luckily, one of the outcomes of the Civil Rights Era and subsequent legislation that it made possible is that social tolerance and diversity management are no longer opposed by dominant social values in the workforce or in institutionalized Organizational Behavior that is contrary to the concepts of social and professional equality and opportunity (Kennedy, 2006). Naturally, the fact that overt forms of social intolerance have largely been eliminated from the vocational environment is a beneficial result of increasing social tolerance in society and/or decreasing social and professional acceptance of intolerance. However, fundamental differences in individual experiences and perception are more difficult to address through formal rules or even diversity training, precisely because they are the product of automatic behaviors and unconscious interpretations (Russell-Whalling, 2008).

Whereas in previous generations, social intolerance manifested itself in extremely obvious ways (Kennedy, 2006), diversity-inappropriate conduct in the vocational environment today is much more likely to occur without malice and often even without conscious awareness on the part of the offenders (Russell-Whalling, 2008). That also is especially important in the retail sales and services industries because negative interactions between personnel and clients is extremely costly, and even more so in the current economic recession (Williamson, 2009). Among other changes to modern business in the realm of communications management (Williamson, 2009), employee motivation (Lencioni, 2009), and leadership ((Bennis, 2009), diversity management is even more challenging in the modern business environment because of the myriad ways that subtle issues can dictate success or failure of business organizations.

Challenges and Opportunities of Diversity Management in an Upscale Steakhouse

The retail service environment of an upscale steakhouse presents many challenges in terms of achieving and maintaining operational organizational efficiency and client relationship management. To a large degree, management effectiveness in the area of client relations is the most important aspect of business management in all retail service industries; that is simply a function of the reality that, especially in a highly competitive or "tight" market, customer satisfaction is the most important determinant of business share at the retail level (Russell-Whalling, 2008).

From a personnel management perspective, effective diversity management requires a more hands-on, involved management approach, partly because of the subtleties of the behaviors at issue. Restaurants traditionally rely substantially on temporary and part-time employees; they also experience relatively high turn-over rates. Moreover, many restaurant employees are relatively new to the professional workplace, as it is the first employment for a high proportion of servers in particular.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to motivate the commitment required to change pre-existing mindsets such as in the area of diversity sensitivity strictly through motivation by transactional reward alone. To achieve high levels of employee "buy-in" and the motivation necessary for non-career employees (especially) to make the necessary effort to improve their diversity awareness, managers who become more communicative and who show a genuine interest in the lives of their employees typically experience much greater success at motivating compliance and commitment (Lencioni, 2009). Likewise, charismatic leaders are also more successful at achieving buy-in among their employees than are organizational leaders who manage comparatively impersonally (Bennis, 2009).

In the effective operational management of diversity specifically within the steakhouse, diversity issues can arise in various ways that are too subtle for inexperienced personnel to address without leadership and training in that regard. Ironically, even some actions motivated by the genuine desire to please customers can backfire on inexperienced employees without effective diversity training. Situations have arisen where servers have altered their natural patterns of expressing themselves in the manner that people sometimes do when communicating with individuals from different racial or ethnic backgrounds.

This occurs in many ways but is easily illustrated by the example of the tendency of many people to speak louder to blind people than to sighted people. It may be motivated by the genuine attempt to communicate with and satisfy the customer but invariably ends up alienating them instead because it comes across as patronizing and insulting. That is equally true where servers (or other employees) unconsciously communicate differently with members of other races, cultures, or ethnicity. In other instances, employees have carelessly spoken to elderly patrons without giving sufficient thought to how one communicates respect for different generational sensibilities and expectations.

That example in particular illustrates the subtle distinctions that generate room for error at both ends of the spectrum without appropriate diversity training. Furthermore, certain speech patterns and expressions that are perfectly appropriate (even in retail service client relations) in communications between servers and patrons of the same approximate age can easily come across as disrespectful, impolite, or inappropriately informal in similar exchanges with generations separated by many decades in chronological age. Therefore, just in the realm of direct communications between employees and restaurant patrons, organizational managers must provide effective diversity training to ensure that employees are, at the very least, always consciously aware of their behavior. Similarly, they must train them to recognize the various subtle ways that they can influence relations with customers negatively without meaning to, or even while making a specific attempt to accommodate them.

Likewise inexperienced restaurant hosts can unconsciously make seating decisions for customers based on superficial similarities or differences that can be obvious to customers even if they are genuinely unconscious on the part of the employee. Situations have arisen where hosts have seated patrons in proximity to others of similar racial or ethnic orientation in a manner that was extremely obvious to everyone except for the host, as was later determined in conversation. In that specific instance, a customer had actually made a remark about being "segregated" that was brought to the attention of management immediately.

The upside to effective diversity management within a restaurant is that it can greatly benefit business by increasing customer satisfaction and eliminating an unnecessary and controllable source of dissatisfaction and complaint. In that respect, diversity management is extremely important in comparison to other aspects of operational management. Consider that in many important areas of retail restaurant management, the best possible scenario is simply a "zero-sum" outcome, such as in the area of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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