Managing workplace diversity: performance of minority employees.

AuthorRawat, Preeti S.

Organizations will not reap benefits from diversity management till there is a supportive environment which is inclusive in orientation towards the minority workforce. The present study was carried out in three organizations in India. The independent variable was a supportive work environment. The dependent variable was performance management score of diverse categories of employees. The term minority workforce refers to women employees, employees belonging to religions other than Hinduism and those preferring not to disclose their sexual orientation. A comparison between those having care taking responsibilities at home and those having no such responsibilities back home was undertaken. The results showed that supportive work environment led to high performance scores.


Globalization is fast changing the demographic mix of workforce in organizations across countries. Therefore the concept of diversity and its management become imperative. Diversity management (DM) is planning and implementing organizational systems and practices to manage people so that the potential advantages of diversity are maximized while its potential disadvantages are minimized (Cox, 1993). The term originated in North America in the late 1980's and since then it has seeped into countries across the world (Hays-Thomas, 2004; Kaiser & Prange, 2004; Nyambegera, 2002; Ozbilgin & Tatli, 2008; Palmer, 2003; Pattnaik & Tripathy, 2014) DM started as an initiative to provide equal employment opportunities and today it has translated into an industry wide policy on diversity. It refers to a mixture of people with different group identities within the same social system (Fluery, 1999). Diversity includes factors such as race, gender, age, color, physical disability, and ethnicity (Kundu & Turan, 1999).

Paradigms of Diversity

Organizations look at diversity from different paradigms, which in turn shape their philosophy on diversity. The moral paradigm believes that discrimination is wrong, illegal and immoral (for example discrimination on grounds of race, caste and religion). The social need paradigm believes that our solutions to diversity for a country or region must be different and unique from the rest (for example the needs of 'differently-abled' in an organization or how to bring the economically and educationally backward population into the national main stream). The competitive advantage paradigm believes that there is a competitive rationale behind the belief in diversity and adopting inclusion as a policy (1). For example, Mckinsey (2014) reported that companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians. Companies in the bottom quartile in these dimensions are statistically less likely to achieve above-average returns. Diversity thus is a competitive differentiator. (2)

Types of Organization & Diversity Policies

Cox (1994; 2001) divides organizations in to three types: the monolithic organization, the plural organization, and the multicultural organization and presents a diversity management paradigm for each type. They are as follows:

The monolithic organization is demographically and culturally homogeneous. For example, most Chinese companies are monolithic from a cultural and ethnic perspective. (Powell & Graves, 2003). A monolithic organization in North America or Europe will have a majority of white men and relatively few women and members of ethnic and racial minorities (Cox, 1994; 2001).Similarly in India almost all organizations will have primarily Indians as employees. Such organizations will have a culture that will perpetuate the homogeneity of its workforce through its hiring and promotion practices.

The plural organization: has a heterogeneous workforce, relative to the monolithic organization, and typically makes efforts to conform to laws and public policies that demand and expect workplace equality. It will take active steps to prevent discrimination in the workplace such as audits that assures equality of compensation systems and manager trainings on equal opportunity issues and sexual harassment. Although women and members of minority groups are represented in larger numbers, they make up only a small percent of the management, particularly top management, and are still expected to assimilate into the majority culture. Examples of plural organizations include companies in which members of minority groups constitute a sizable proportion of the workforce but only a small percent of the managerial positions. Most Indian organizations are attempting to become plural through policies of reservation, second careers for women and work life balance.

The multicultural organization is characterized by a culture that fosters and values cultural differences--truly and equally incorporates all members of the organization via pluralism as an acculturation process, rather than as an end resulting in assimilation. It is more an ideal than an actual type because very rarely do companies achieve this level of integration. However, Cox (1994; 2001) indicate that it is important to understand this type and use it to create a vision for effective diversity management.

Diversity in a Globalized Environment

Along with the above classifcations, in a globalizing economy diversity can also be understood as intra national and cross national (Lee, 1997; Park, 2008). Intra national diversity management refers to managing a diverse workforce of citizens or immigrants within a single national organizational context and crossnational diversity management, refers to managing a workforce composed of citizens and immigrants in different countrie. Each of these types of diversity management presents different challenges and dilemmas, and each requires a different set of policies and programs

Homogenous & Heterogenous organizations

Conventional human resource (HR) practices tend to produce and perpetuate homogeneity in the workforce as a result of the A-S-A (attraction-selection-attrition) cycle (Schneider, 1987; Schneider, Smith & Paul, 2001). Typically, individuals are attracted to organizations that appear to have members with values similar to their own. In turn, organizations select new members who are similar to their existing members because their hiring continues to make everyone feel comfortable (Garcia, Posthuma, & Colella, 2008). Recruitment practices often emphasize hiring people from sources that have historically been reliable and selecting candidates whose characteristics are similar to those employees who have been successful in the past. As a result, employees who do not fit in well with the dominant organizational culture eventually leave or are fired; creating a selective attrition process that supports and maintains a workforce that is homogeneous (Schneider, Smith & Paul, 2001). In the long run, this trend is unhealthy for organizations in that it limits their talent pool, their long-term growth and renewal, and their ability to adapt to environmental changes and tap into new markets.

In recent decades, human resource managers have recognized the need to adopt effective diversity management practices in order to overcome barriers for diversity and reap the rewards of a diverse workforce. Kossek and Lobel (1996) summarize the three prevailing HR approaches to diversity management and offer an original approach of their own. The authors later expanded on the model and made the connection between human resource management practices, workforce diversity, and individual...

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