The dawn of globalization has ushered in an era of interaction between people from a myriad of backgrounds. More, so, the working environment is no longer insular and is characterized by people working and operating in a global framework (Farnsworth et al. 2019). Thus, organizations have started to take a more inclusive and diverse outlook to adapt to the changes in the global business environment. For the most part, equality and diversity in the workplace are becoming pertinent considerations as organizations strive to foster environments that are understanding, accepting and cognizant of the differences among people in terms of race, age, class, ethnicity, disabilities and gender (Farnsworth et al. 2019). In the annals of the literature on the importance of equality and diversity, the themes centre on the importance of diversity to the productivity and efficiency of both employees and organizations. Allen et al. (2017) for example explain that a diverse environment if managed properly directly results in increased organizational performance. This research will contribute to the literature on the central role of equality and diversity in maintaining a healthy and productive employment relationship. The paper argues that equality and diversity foster a healthy and productive employment relationship by improving employer-employee relations, employee-employee relations, productivity, motivation and morale. However, some equality and diversity initiatives may be detrimental to a healthy and productive employment relationship by causing communication issues and cultural misunderstandings.
Better Employer-Employee Relations
Equality and diversity are vital in the employment relationship because they improve how employees and employers relate to one another from a legal standpoint. The International Labour Organization (2020) explains that the relationship between an employee and an employer is made up of reciprocal obligations and rights. In a work environment characterised by equality, the relationship between employees and employers is frame-worked on reciprocal rights and observations. Employers do not look at an employee’s physical descriptions such as race, ethnicity and disability in deciding how to compensate, assign roles and responsibilities and deal with individual employees (Allen et al. 2017). Instead, the capacity and ability of an employer to carry out their roles and responsibilities serve as the basis for merit and consideration. In a way, such a state of affairs fosters a better relationship between employees and employers.
Equality and diversity also improve the relationship between employees and employers from an ethical perspective. According to Elias and Paradies (2021), racism, discrimination and any form of prejudice are considered to be huge ethical issues. Elvira and Town (2011) also argue that racism and discrimination against employees adversely affect their performance in terms of productivity and efficiency. Organizations with inclusive and equal workforces have a zero-tolerance policy towards racism and discrimination (Williams et al. 2021). Such organizations encourage their employees to revel in the differences between their employees as parts of a puzzle that leads to a bigger picture. For instance, Fortune (2020) explains that Cisco is the best place for employees to work mainly because of its efforts to promote equality and diversity. Ultimately, Cisco boasts of one of the best employee-employer relationships in the world thanks to its policy on equality and diversity.
Equality and diversity also improve the employment relationship by fostering management practices aimed at embracing and recognizing the diverse nature of an organization’s workforce. For instance, Cisco is regarded as the best employer by Fortune (2020) partly because of the company’s commitment to building a diverse and equal workforce worldwide. Cisco (2022) ensures to honour and celebrate official and non-official holidays for each of the minority ethnicities in its workforce. For instance, black history month and pride month are celebrated and recognized by Cisco. On such days, Cisco (2022) changes its themes and offers individualised messages to its employees recognizing these months and their significance to minority populations. In a way, this improves the motivation and morale of Cisco’s employees. As Reizer et al. (2019) found, employee motivation is directly associated with better performance, especially in terms of productivity. Therefore, equality and diversity are highly important in the employment relationship due to improved interaction between employees and employers.
Better Employee to Employee Relationships
Equality and diversity improve how employees relate to one another from an ethical perspective which directly improves the employment relationship. In environments where equality and diversity are embedded in an organization’s culture, employees have a framework on which they can interact and pursue individual as well as organizational goals and objectives (Farnsworth et al. 2019). According to Williams et al. (2021), when employees embrace equality and diversity, they are more likely to weed out traits like unconscious biases and work on practices and procedures which help them deal and collaborate better with their co-workers. For instance, at Cisco, there is a code of conduct in place which helps employees from different backgrounds interact with each other without desecrating or infringing on each other’s cultures (Cisco, 2022). In some cases, the existence of unconscious biases and prejudices can be attributed to the behavioural theory of personality whereby individual traits and characteristics are influenced by a person’s environment and surroundings (Mcleod, 2020). In other words, some prejudices are held unconsciously by individuals and they do not realise how harmful they are to their colleagues. Thus, a diverse and equal environment recognizes such a trait and leverages it to ensure that employees embrace equality and inclusion in all their roles and responsibilities.
Equality and diversity are also important to the employment relationship because they improve how employees relate to the experiences of their counterparts. More so, a diverse work environment is characteristically comprised of a myriad of cultures, races and age groups striving to achieve individual and organizational goals and objectives (Farnsworth et al. 2019). In an organization where equality and diversity are embraced, employees are encouraged to embrace the differences in beliefs, values and practices among them instead of looking at them as points of contention. Reynolds (2019) explains that in a diverse environment, employees learn from the experiences of their counterparts allowing them to become better equipped at dealing with people of different personalities. For instance, at Cisco, employee interactions are characterised by an appreciation for differences in culture between the diverse workforce rather than hostility towards these differences (Cisco, 2022). This has allowed Cisco to harness the productivity of employees and improve its overall performance.
Equality and diversity are also important to the employment relationship because it improves employee-to-employee relationships by fostering an understanding of cultural differences. For instance, some cultures are known for extroversion while others are characteristically introverted (Komarraju et al. 2019). In addition, some employees may be individualistic while others may be collective-minded as per Hofstede’s (1984) cultural dimensions. In most cases, individualistic people tend to prioritize personal goals and objectives while collective-minded people look at group goals and objectives. Regardless, a culture of equality and diversity in an organization recognizes that each employee is different from the next in terms of traits, characteristics, tastes and preferences. In an employment relationship, such differences in culture also influence creativity and innovation especially when it comes to the creation of knowledge (Reynolds, 2019). From a knowledge management perspective, employees combining different perspectives and ideologies from their cultures to offer solutions to a problem not only improves the quality and quantity of knowledge but also the understanding and mutual appreciation between individual employees.
Equality and diversity also improve the relationship between employees especially when it comes to solidarity towards civil rights causes. In a diverse work environment comprised of black, white and brown employees, the legacy of vices like slavery and systemic racism is recognized as being detrimental to the human race and needing to be stamped out (Henderson, 2020). As such civil rights and social justice movements have sprouted across the world to address the legacy of racism. Similarly, male domination in all positions of power is recognized as a detriment to equality and diversity by most organizations (Carpenter, 2021). In an organization like Cisco, the condemnation of such vices has inspired better relationships between employees as they form a united and collective voice. In a way, white employees become allies and counterparts to employees of colour in their fight against unequal opportunities and discrimination in social, economic and political setups. Similarly, male counterparts become allies and friends with women in the struggle against unequal pay and male domination in several fields. Resultantly, better relationships between employees are formed thanks to embracing equality and diversity.
Motivation and Morale
Equality and diversity in a work environment improve the employment relationship by boosting the motivation and morale of employees. According to Pieterse et al. (2012), racism and discrimination are detrimental to the mental health of an individual. Williams (2018) also explains that racism is associated with feelings of stress. In most cases, racism proliferates in environments where equality and diversity are not embraced. However, organizations that have embraced equality and diversity are engaged in an incessant battle to stamp out all forms of racism, discrimination and prejudice (Williams et al. 2021). For instance, Cisco has a zero-tolerance towards racism and discrimination and actively encourages its employees to report any incidents of the same (Cisco, 2022). In such an environment, employees feel valued and appreciated which boosts their motivation and morale. Moreover, a study by Reizer et al. (2019) explains that employee motivation is associated with better performance in terms of productivity and efficiency. Therefore, equality and diversity are crucial in maintaining a healthy and productive employment relationship.
Equality and diversity also facilitate a healthy and productive employment relationship because they improve motivation thus reducing employee turnover intention. According to Ngo-Henha (2018), the turnover intention is the measure of the possibility of an employee leaving their position. In most cases, a lack of equality and diversity in an organization does not insulate against incidents of racism and discrimination against some employees. Howlett (2019) found that employees are likely to quit their jobs when faced with racism, discrimination and prejudice. However, in an environment where equality and diversity are embraced, the turnover intention is low among employees (Howlett, 2019). This is because employees are motivated to work for an organization that strives to improve their personal and professional livelihoods in an environment that is diverse, accepting, tolerant and inclusive (Howlett, 2019). For instance, Cisco employees have some of the lowest turnover intentions because of the company’s commitment to equality and diversity which motivates them to commit their immediate and long-term futures to the company (Fortune, 2020). It is, therefore, deducible that equality and diversity are important in the maintenance of a healthy and productive employment relationship.
Equality and diversity also improve employee motivation because of the facilitation of practices and procedures that meet the basic needs of employees. Such a deduction is based on Maslow’s theory of motivation which explains that motivation is influenced by certain physiological needs (Fallatah and Syed, 2017). From a diversity and equality perspective, the basic needs of an employee are security and safety. For instance, people of colour in a workplace may need security and safety from prejudice, discrimination and other racist tendencies (Howett, 2019). In addition, women in a male-dominated work environment may need security and safety from sexual harassment and assault. Organizations bent on equality and diversity guarantee such security through policy and actions aimed at protecting the rights and property of these individuals. For instance, Cisco’s zero-tolerance policy towards racism and discrimination mandates legal action towards any perpetrators (Cisco, 2022). The victims are also assured of protection in the form of non-reprisal and anonymity in cases of sexual harassment. Such policies guarantee security and safety for the employees thereby meeting their basic needs and improving their motivation and morale.
In some cases, equality and diversity may be detrimental to a healthy and productive employment relationship by resulting in communication issues. For instance, language barriers in cases where an organization construct a diverse workforce with individuals who speak different languages. Buarqoub (2019) explains that language barriers are highly detrimental to communication because individuals cannot understand each other. Communication issues may also stem from differences in individual cultures whereby non-verbal communication cues are perceived differently (Buarqoub, 2019). For instance, a certain hand gesture may be prudent in one culture while it may be deemed offensive and rude in another culture. When communication issues arise in an organization, the performance is affected (Kagwiri, 2018). The insistence of communication issues in an organization looking to construct a diverse workforce may also undermine its equality aspirations since individuals may begin to divide themselves along linguistic lines thereby undermining equality and diversity initiatives. Therefore, equality and diversity may sometimes be detrimental to a healthy and productive employment relationship due to the possibility of communication issues.
Equality and diversity may also hamper a healthy and productive employment relationship by causing cultural misunderstandings. Since the premise of diversity is that employees are recruited from a myriad of backgrounds, it may be difficult for people from different cultural dimensions to blend and effectively work together (Reynolds, 2019). According to Hofstede’s (1984) cultural dimensions, some cultures such as the United States have a low power distance index while others like Japan have a high power distance index. In other words, Japanese people have high respect for authority Americans do not (Hofstede Insights, 2022). If an organization recruits Japanese and American employees to work together, cultural misunderstandings may arise. For example, Americans may often question the rationale behind some of the policies implemented by management while the Japanese may acutely follow instructions without questioning the decisions made by the management team. Such a scenario may cause clashes between American employees and Japanese managers who may perceive American employees as being disrespectful and insubordinate.
In addition, equality and diversity in an organization may result in cultural misunderstandings when it comes to individualistic versus collective tendencies. Hofstede’s (1984) cultural dimensions explain that some cultures such as the United States are individualistic while cultures like Japan are collective-minded. In an organization employing both Japanese and American employees, misunderstandings may arise when it comes to pursuing organizational goals and objectives (Hofstede Insights, 2022). For example, the individualistic Americans may be interested in achieving their goals and objectives first while the Japanese employees may be looking to carry out their roles and responsibilities effectively. An organization may find itself with a diverse workforce comprised of employees whose pursuits are different from those of the organization. In addition, the organization may find it difficult to create a culture rooted in shared roles and responsibilities since some of its employees would be more interested in pursuing individual goals and objectives and advancing their careers as soon as possible. Thus, a healthy and productive employment relationship may be hampered by equality and diversity.
Gone are the days when organizations were insular because globalization has ushered in an era of interaction between people worldwide. Such a turn of events has compelled organizations to enact practices and procedures to adapt to the ever-evolving business environment. Notably, equality and diversity initiatives have been adopted by organizations to accommodate the differences in race, gender, ethnicity and religions among other traits associated with a diverse workforce. The literature on equality and diversity points out the potential of increased performance on an individual and organizational level. This paper argued that equality and diversity foster a healthy and productive employment relationship by improving employer-employee relations, employee-employee relations, productivity, motivation and morale. However, some equality and diversity initiatives may be detrimental to a healthy and productive employment relationship by causing communication issues and cultural misunderstandings.
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