Before exploring the legal aspects related to diversity, we need to develop a consensus of what workplace diversity is and what issues arise due to diversity in an organization. Diversity can be defined as a combination of distinct elements. According to this definition, workplace diversity can be defined as an entity with a variety among people based on gender orientation, culture age, religion origin, employee status, race and physical appearance.
Although these differences among people who make an organization’s workforce are undeniable and have been devalued in the past, the growing awareness of the benefits of diversity and its contribution to organization effectiveness has increasing come under spotlight. In order to increase the pool of a diverse workforce, organizations today have started to value and acknowledge other people, their race, cultures as having as much integrity in the world as their own. It is this recognition that provides the basis of working together and solving problems in a constructive manner (ASME, 2006).
Valuing diversity only finishes half of the job. Managing diversity is equivalently important which means creating an environment in which the differences among people are not pointed out in open but valued allowing each employee to develop to the maximum of his or her potential. Companies have to realize that hiring a diverse workforce is not the solution; they need to provide a supportive environment for all employees, supporting differences and creating an inclusive environment where every one’s diverse backgrounds and diverse perspectives are valued, this in turn aids the organization to get more from its employees.
Having agreed upon the definition and increasing importance of workplace diversity, we will now address certain issues which arise in an organization and further probe into the legal aspects of solving these claims, which arise to differences in the background, culture and working styles of people. One of the major issues which arise due to workplace diversity arises due to bullying and harassment of any kind. While it is everyone’s right to be treated with respect and dignity, harassment of any kind should not be tolerated.
Harassment can be defined as certain demeaning actions or comments which affect the dignity of a person and are considered unacceptable by that person. Such a conduct can be a related to sex, disability, race, religion or any other personal characteristic of a male or a female employee. Bullying on the other hand is an insulting, offensive, humiliating or malicious behavior, through an abuse of power or a misuse of authority and in intended to denigrate, humiliate or injure an employee.
Bulling or harassment can either be directed towards an individual by an individual, perhaps by a manager who misuses his authority, or it can be directed towards an entire group of people. It can be explicit or insidious. In either case it is deemed as unwelcome and unwarranted by the employee. One of the misconceptions which need to be clarified regarding harassment and bullying at workplace is that it is not always face to face to face.
They may also occur via written communications through emails or phone, targeted towards an individual or a certain group and thus also fall under the category of harassment. Diversity issues in a workplace can be on a small scale or may be carried on a wider scale. Whatever the case may be, these issues should be given a serious thought by management as bullying and harassment lead to feelings of humiliation and anxiety on the part of the person against which it has been practiced.