Managing cultural diversity in the workplace

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TERESITA TANHUECO-TUMAPON

Part 1
IT is not only Asean that will globalize us and challenge us with cultural diversity. Right within the hallowed halls of our institutions we do experience the diverse orientations of the generations which both mentors and mentored represent along with individual differences. It is best that we become culturally competent to manage diversity in our workplace. Cultural diversity presents opportunities to shift through different points of view and arrive at innovative measures for organizational productivity.

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Cultural orientation of mentors and mentored. In our own schools, several academics would belong to the silent generation (past their 70s) such as adjunct professors of practice in medicine, law and piano or in graduate studies. A dozen or so graduate students could be baby boomers, (in the 60s). Free from child care duties, they are likely their own corporation’s CEO. Others hold on to intellectual pursuits to enrich social relationships with professionals (such as what one of my female students, a housewife, shared with me), or, expecting to bequeath his/her post to an offspring in a few years hence, looks forward to a welcome consultancy— not for the moolah but more for service. Here, too, are a number of generation X (early 50s)steadily holding on to complete their graduate degrees, hoping the added qualification would be a boon for a sought-after promotion besides ensuring better retirement returns. There, too, are the increasing number of millennials or generation Y (in their early 30s) equally passionate in receiving their master or doctoral sheepskin. A number of them teach in the junior and senior high. They have taken advantage of the scholarships from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to improve teacher qualifications. Who knows, as several have remarked, the graduate degree could better qualify them as master teachers and principals. The eager centennials, (early 20s) also known as generation Z, or iGen, likely off the hook from K-12 senior high, realized that with the exponential advances in the digital world, they would do a shortcut to a better life by enjoying the increased Tesda scholarships for highly in-demand programs in vocational digital technology. Nowadays, new digital services create job opportunities fostering new economic activities such as self-employment/entrepreneurship. Expanding options matching their interests and natural skills open up careers for them in multi-media design, web development and design, game programming, computer graphics, or design innovation, networking & security or telecommunications and other creative technologies, or information systems, information technology, computing systems or software engineering, electronics, mobile systems or network & communications engineering. Indeed, they have numerous tracks to choose from to qualify for the new job opportunities in the digital world. They turn to new roads where lie their much desired future.

Diversity and inclusion. How do academic managers inspire mentors and the mentored to embrace diversity? Why do some of those mentored receive biting language from some restless mentors hurrying their deadlines? Is this due to generation gap or to individual breeding? Such feelings find their way to social media, such as “I was merely asking for clarification, and the lecturer hurls insults at me.” This could be a sign that academic managers need to provide the mentored with well-meaning support such as guidance counselors to whom the mentored can bare their feelings in candor. It has been advanced that “diversity also means to create inclusion—creating an atmosphere in which all people feel valued, respected and have the same opportunities as others. Diversity is creating opportunity, value and respect for all, while inclusion is ensuring they actually feel it.”<http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/ leader/diverse.html>.

Elements of diversity. The different generations representing the mentored have their respective cultural as well as individual differences. Each generation is enculturated with its set of morals, beliefs, values and customs. They have, too, capabilities and habits acquired through child-rearing whether by their natural families or in social facilities such as foster homes. These differences “consist of patterns, explicit and implicit, of and for behavior acquired and transmitted by symbols…” A person’s character” is shaped by the “essential core of historically derived and selected ideas and especially their attached values. “Essential because this is the mainspring of one’s action and on the other, “as conditional elements of future action.”<Kroeber & Kluckhohn 1952>. Among such values impacting on both mentors and the mentored are: work perception, power distance and time orientation.

Work perception, power distance and time orientation. Work perception refers to one’s viewpoint about work — whether focused on its process of accomplishing this or on the end results. Unhappily, depending on pressures within an organization, the means may not always justify the end. But power distance may move one to do so. “Power distance refers to the degree to which the society views an unequal distribution of power as acceptable. High power distance cultures are hierarchical cultures where everyone has their place.” Among us Filipinos, early in our childhood, we “learn to recognize who is superior, equal, or inferior” in a group. In low power distance cultures, “all men are created equal” (quoting Abe Lincoln); so it seems with centennials. As to time orientation, this can be “linear and future oriented,” or “circular and past-oriented”. Differences in cultural orientation about endowed status of a person compared to one with less rank, or one’s view on time, whether linear or circular—all these have implications for management. Insights on these we shall share next week.

Email: ttumapon@liceo.edu.ph

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