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Managing diversity and equality

Businesses today operate in a global environment and this has resulted in new challenges for managers in the form of dealing with an increasingly diverse workforce. One of the key issues facing managers is balancing the rights of employees coming from different religious background. Discriminating acts on account of employee religious beliefs and practices can have far reaching consequences on organizational performance and culture. There were more than 2000 complaints registered by Muslim-Americans in the past five years on account of hostile religious comments and discriminatory acts within the organizations (Mathis & Jackson, 2008).

Such instances create hostile work environment and can lead to negative feelings among employees resulting in a significant drop in performance and productivity. Recent employee surveys and reports from employees across various locations of Gerrard & Rush Plc have revealed some disparaging comments and dissatisfaction within employees owing to such discriminatory offence. The company works as a global enterprise employing individuals from diverse religious backgrounds that contributes to its successful presence in different locations across the globe.

The session here provides a comprehensive review of equality issues facing the employees at workplace with the purpose of creating awareness on religious diversity that exists within the organization. Religion and

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belief at workplace Religion involves individual belief in the supreme, worship of the supreme God, and refers to a group or community of people holding similar beliefs, values, customs and practices (Payne, 2010). “Belief is a personal conviction or understanding about something” that may relate to religion or spirituality (NHS, 2005).

The way individuals want to express their religion and beliefs is a very personal matter and people are free to pursue their beliefs as long as they do not harm or hurt anybody. The shift of businesses towards a global perspective has added a new dimension of challenge and conflict in the organization emerging from an increasingly diverse workforce. Employees originating from different cultural and religious backgrounds can have problems in practising their religious beliefs or customs leading to conflicts in individual perceptions and attitudes or organizational practices.

Discrimination on account of religion and individual belief is not new in the present work environment. “If everyone in an organization held the same beliefs and engaged in the same practices, an institutional establishment of a specific religious or spiritual system of beliefs and practices would not be as morally or practically troubling as it is under the condition of diversity” (Hickman, 2009). Religious diversity within workplace is a reality in the age of global market environment and multinational corporations.

It has been observed that managers within organizations treat some employees favourably while practising discrimination on grounds of religion and customs of the employees. Impact of religious practices and beliefs at workplace Effectiveness at workplace can be gained through the identification and awareness of various circumstances that have direct implications on the organizational performance and practices. Multinational organizations expose the managers to challenges of dealing with employees originating from different religious cultures and beliefs.

The present business environment is riddled with complexities in the form of an increasing diverse workforce that is evident in the form of differing individual beliefs, traditions, practices, dress and speech (Hickman, 2009). It has often been observed that religious traditions, practices and beliefs influence the attitudes of employees at workplace. Secular workplaces do not exist in reality owing to the individual perceptions and beliefs that shape employee attitudes and behaviour.

This has a strong connection to existing HR policies related to family welfare schemes and absenteeism. Religious sentiments and actions hence are integral part of organizational work culture and it is advisable on the part of organizations to accept and accommodate such beliefs (Hickman, 2009). Some of the deeper concerns related to employee religion and beliefs lie in the organizational policies and individual religious beliefs that forbid them to participate in certain activities or modes of living (Mathis & Jackson, 2008).

This is evident in cases of dress and appearance of individuals. Many organizations impose a strict dress code at workplace and this may conflict with some religious community practices and beliefs. The use of bindis and vermillon by Hindu married women is a customary practice and use of “burquas” by Muslim women is mandatory in public places. Such practices might conflict with organizational code of ethics and appearance policies. Religious expression is yet another point of conflict that can result in challenging employee equality issues (Mathis & Jackson, 2008).

Religious views can obscure the smooth functioning of the organization leading to hostile work environment and hence many organizations restrict the use of religious expressions at workplace to ensure a healthy atmosphere at work. Among other areas of concerns are individual food habits and practice of religious customs at workplace (Mathis & Jackson, 2008). The existing work culture and global pressures demand long hours of work. A major part of the employee’s time is spent at work and this necessitates the need to understand the religious sentiments and expressions associated with different religious backgrounds.

Organizations focusing on promoting spirituality and leadership models that promote a tolerant work culture in context of personal religious beliefs and practices are known to produce positive results in performance (Hickman, 2009). However, religious practices and beliefs should be allowed to interfere in the work processes or restrict organizational performance in any way. Businesses exist as profit making establishments and religion is a personal matter that should be respected by all within the workplace.

“Practical concerns require that, while moral concerns about employees and managers are fundamental, companies need to be profitable in order to exist as workplaces over the long term” (Hickman, 2009). Organizational strategies must focus on creating a harmonious employee relationship that works towards the goals and objectives of the organization. Legal frameworks in context of religion and belief at workplace Legal frameworks identify discrimination as any practices that treat certain sections of the employees or individuals unfavourably because they belong to a different religion.

Such practices include deciding not to employ someone, dismiss any employee, refuse to train an employee, deny them the opportunity to get promoted, or give them adverse terms and conditions because they do not belong to any specific religion (ACAS, 2003). Discriminatory practices at workplace may also include the imposition of dress code that goes against the religious beliefs of certain religious community or harassment of individuals by making offensive comments in context of the community.

This also involves calling nicknames, teasing or unsettling behaviour. It is important that workplaces adopt a fair approach while dealing with their employees to promote a healthy work culture and stimulate a positive work environment. Managers have to deal with various discriminatory practices within the workplace that can result in conflicts and hostility within the work processes thus restricting performance and productivity.

This can also result in increased dissatisfaction among employees, low motivation levels and reduced employee commitment. Hence it is important that organizations adopt fair practices at work and provide the employees with an equal opportunity to work and develop their skills (ACAS, 2003). In December 2003 the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations was passed and the employee discriminatory practices on account of their religion and beliefs was considered illegal and a punishable offence (ACAS, 2003).

This regulation makes it unlawful to discriminate anyone on account of their religion or belief, or adopt practices that go against the religion and belief of anyone, or humiliating someone on grounds of religious practices or beliefs held by them. Any harassment caused to individuals at workplace in context of their religious practices, customs or traditional beliefs is considered an offence by the statures of law (CIPD, 2009). Conclusion Employees must realize the significance of personal freedom in context of religion and beliefs that act in accordance with accepted norms and culture.

The emphasis of organizations must be on improving employee relationships. A deeper understanding of religion and spirituality matters can help employees and managers appreciate the significance of respecting individual religious expressions and beliefs (NHS, 2005). Responding to employee religious and equality needs at workplace results in an increased motivated workforce owing to its contribution to creating a harmonious relationship between employees and a positive work environment (NHS, 2005). Phase – II Evaluation and Reflection Introduction

The equality awareness session has significantly helped me in gaining a comprehensive overview of organizational practices and influences on individual behaviour and attitudes at workplace. The session presented various facets of employee discrimination and a new insight into shaping human resource policies that account for creating a harmonious environment at workplace. The session was effective in emphasizing that “an increasingly heterogeneous workplace and an organizational culture that values diversity and tolerance combine to improve decision making, boost productivity, and enhance morale” (Condrey & Perry, 2005).

It enabled the participants to gain a broader outlook and a wider perspective on discriminatory practices at workplace, offer innovative solutions that can transform the organizational cultures and redefine employee relationships. The session emphasised that the human resource manager can be instrumental in creating a positive work climate, promote increased awareness of discriminatory practices at workplace, improve understanding of individual beliefs and encourage feelings of mutual respect between employees.

Such understanding and awareness is a vital part in nurturing a deeper understanding of the role of human resource manager in a global business environment. The session was helpful in developing key competencies required to analyse and investigate strategic solutions in a multicultural and diverse workforce. Some of the developmental parameters that I feel have acquired during this session are discussed below for an insight into the benefits of the program.

Decisive thinker The awareness session on employee discriminatory practices have provided the participants with an in-depth knowledge and insight into the relevance of human resource policies and strategies that can help in creating an effective organizational environment. The session on religion and belief appreciation made me realize the values of individual space and freedom to pursue personal beliefs and expressions within the realms of the workplace.

The information gathered during the session was a vital learning point that stressed the outcome of implementing equality programs within the organization and how this can affect employee behavior and attitude towards their work and performance. Skilled influencer The session outcomes provided a new perspective on human resource management but effective implementation of strategies and policies is largely dependent on the leadership and influencing skills of the individual.

I realized my weakness in this area and felt a strong need to develop influencing skills to persuade people to accept changes within the organization. The role model leader gets the job done using appropriate methods to inspire and motivate the team members. The process involves the active involvement of each team member in the operational front. A persuasive style of leadership where the leader gives equal importance to the task at hand and the human relationship approach gives an incentive, a rationale, and motivation to the team to accomplish the work objective.

Collaborative skills Collaboration is the key to communicating messages and driving team work within organizational settings. A good and efficient collaborator is able to present facts in an appealing manner to the others within the team and set the process moving towards the desired goals and outcomes. I found this to be one of my greatest strengths that is complemented by my good listening skills.

I possess good listening skills and this gives the team members a chance to openly discuss their problems with me and they can also give me their suggestions on how, when and where to improve work performance. Listening involves hearing and interpretation of facts presented by the communicator and a poor listener will not be able to understand or interpret messages accurately. This is one of the reasons why some people fail to relate to other people. Individuals possessing good listening skills are good communicators and earn the confidence of other people too.

It has provided the participants with a great opportunity to develop as a professional in many ways and this includes an improved understanding of human behavior, employee management and organizational practices that help in creating a positive work environment. The role of the HR department is to support the organizational functions through appropriate people management strategies that enable the employees to deliver their best and meet the operational requirements. Human resource management has been driven by the dynamic business environment in which it operates.

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