Sunday, October 7, 2007

Workplace Diversity - Case Study

Workplace Diversity - Illustration Through Case Study

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Diversity in the workplace is an inevitable result of globalization. In the era of diverse workforce, managers are primarily concerned with obtaining high levels of performance, through creating cultural energy among the employees.

In most types of workplace, we see employees of different age groups, race, beliefs, work attitudes, leadership style, relationship with others and their mind-set towards higher authority. This creates a generational diversity in the workplace, and has affected how current employee views the workplace. The continual change in work force composition is a direct result of this. We can classify the workplace into four generations, namely Silent (veterans, matures); Boomer (baby boomers); Generation X (busters, 13th); and Millennial (nexters, Y, digital, Net), according to social scientists and demographers.

To illustrate, I will utilize my past experience as an admin clerk in the army to bring out the differences between two particular generations, that of “Silent” and “Generation X”, highlighting some of the problems faced and the compromises to be made for the survival in this workplace.

There was a drastic transition period from the basic military training to doing clerical work. Partially, it was due to the working style of my immediate superior, the chief clerk. She had experience in the admin aspects for the past twenty years, and had formed a set of working principles which was to be strictly adhered to, and any suggestions for improvements was rebuked with dismay. All decisions were made by her alone, and the clerks had to carry them out, regardless of personal interest. With her added interest in working extra hours to prove her capabilities to others, she has demanded other clerks to stay back as well. To the clerks, many of us have felt the sense of helplessness, and have desired greatly to leave this place, although we know that is impossible as we are all serving our national service.

This is an ideal example of the “Silent” generation worker, where they appear to others as dependable, equipped with good leadership, wise, and experienced experts on their area of work. However, from the subordinate point of view, they could be overbearing, with lack of flexibility and unwillingness to accept other deviant points of views.

Personally, during that period, I was enthusiastic about the new environment and had new ideas on the existing work practices. I saw several problems in current practices as they were either too tedious or impractical. Since highlighting these problems seemed futile, I took my own initiative to do them in a more efficient manner. However, this was greeted with hostility and in the end; I was punished for doing something which actually help to attain the same results with less work. I was labeled as uncooperative by my superior, and was treated badly as compared to others who were quiet conformists. Negative feedback like these had inhibited any further new ideas, and enforces the notion that conforming is the way to go. This is a close resemblance of the “Generation X” workers, where workers are action oriented, focused, competent in the task at hand, and practical. However, the worker can also be defiant of authority, and hence difficult to manage.

To conclude, the workplace was not conducive in promoting team spirit, and clerks seldom felt the need to go the extra mile for work. To survive, most of us will tend to weigh the costs and benefits and depending on the situation, select the role or identities that we would like to portray to others. In this context, downplaying to satisfy the immediate superior while protecting self interest has become dominant.

Just some food for thought on workplace diversity in different environments and how to survive accordingly.


Dale E.Collins, Workplace Diversity: A Generational View, September/October 2004, Vol 76/No.1 Radiologic Technology.

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