11 Advantages and Disadvantages of Diversity in the Workplace

With discrimination of any kind prohibited in a corporate setting, the workforce of today is more diverse than ever. Employees in an organization now comes with different gender, race, personality, ethnicity, cognitive style, tenure, organizational function, group, age, education, background, and other differences that set people apart.

On top of all these, diversity also involves how people perceive others and themselves, which can affect how they interact with their colleagues and peers. This can either cause a bond to form or introduce a gap.

Because it is important for all employees to be on the same page for an organization to function effectively, the negative aspects of workplace diversity should be avoided or addressed when issues have already asserted themselves. On the one hand, an organization should recognize the multicultural advantage of a diverse workforce, and use it to their advantage. An organization can be successful, even with the variety of difference between its employees, if they are ready and willing to spend resources to manage an increasingly diverse workforce. Yes, investments have to be made if success is to be achieved in such a workplace.

List Advantages of Diversity in the Workplace

1. Increased creativity
Didn’t they say two heads are better than one? In a diverse workplace, this saying becomes two different people are better than one. When people in different cultures, backgrounds and beliefs come together to work for a common goal, increased creativity can be achieved. What is already artistic can become even better. What already works can evolve into something else.

2. Increased adaptability
In order to address problems of workplace diversity, an organization has to develop a variety of solutions, forcing them to adapt to a diverse workforce. It will be a long process, but totally worth it. Moreover, people from diverse backgrounds can provide ideas for adapting to ever-changing customer demands and fluctuating markets.

This also means that an organization has to develop a new process for people with different ideas to collaborate and work together. They must also learn to think cross-culturally and to quickly adapt to new situations.

3. Melting Pot of ideas
No two people think exactly alike, and a company that knows how to exploit varying viewpoints of each individual can create a large pool of ideas and experiences. They can then draw from the pool strategies to effectively deal with business concerns and customer needs.

4. Increased productivity
Globalization and internalization are two of the gifts that workforce diversity brings to the table, which is why foreign executives are very successful in the corporate world in America, while citizens from Europe find their place in high-level jobs. Put them together in one place and what you get is increased productivity.

5. Increased range of services
A diverse collection of people with different experiences, skills, cultural understanding, languages and other differences enables a company to provide customers services on a global basis. A hotel, for example, that employs people of different races will have the confidence to accommodate guests from different races as well. This is because language and cultural gaps are avoided. If management gets an in-depth understanding of the culture of a particular race, they can also provide services that would appeal specifically to them.

List of Disadvantages of Diversity in the Workplace

1. Communication Issues
Effective communication is a driving factor for success. Unfortunately, diversity can be in the way, and can directly impact productivity because of a lack of cohesiveness. This explains why some companies catering to international customers hire multilingual or bilingual customer service reps. It is easier for Spanish-speaking customers, for example, to communicate with someone who understands their culture and knows their native language. So unless effective communication is achieved, workplace diversity can be a problem.

2. Lack of freedom of speech
In a diverse workplace, an employee must be sensitive to others’ race, cultural background, beliefs, etc. So you don’t just crack jokes about the Chinese or Indians, because it won’t be as acceptable as when a stand-up comedian would do it. People can’t freely state their opinions or tell stories whenever they want for fear of being judged as discriminating. So it’s not only effective communication that is a disadvantage in a diverse workplace, but also freedom of speech. Imagine working in an environment where you need to always tread carefully. Not exactly a fun and attractive workplace.

3. Increased cost of training
Apart from the usual training, an organization must invest in seminars, programs and lectures designed to promote diversity in the workplace. If unity is to be achieved, such training is essential as they will teach employees how to accept thoughts, ideas and personalities of others in the workplace. It will also provide information on how to deal with prejudice and conflict in a civilized and professional manner. As it is possible that you are likely to continue hiring employees, you will continue to spend on training.

4. Integration issues
Even in a non-diverse workplace exclusive social groups or cliques naturally happens, more so in a diverse workforce. When such groups form, informal divisions can occur, which will impede social integration. It will also lead to a situation where culturally diverse employees will avoid each other. This can hinder the effective sharing of knowledge, experience, skills, resulting in decreased productivity, team efficacy, and business growth.

5. Increased competition
Competition in the workplace is good as it can drive success and higher productivity. But when employees do not accept other culture, they are likely to compete against each other, rather than become collaborative members of a team. This results in divisions where people prefer to work separately, prolonging the process of task or project completion. This can have a negative impact on business because progress will be slow moving. There is strength in numbers, after all.

6. Breeds disrespect
The same people who don’t accept other cultures are likely to openly show disrespect and indifference. This can lead to unnecessary tension and can inhibit communication in the workplace. The problem with a highly tense or hostile workplace is that everyone is affected, including those that accept and respect diversity in the workplace.