Culture is the natural development we call behavior that changes from individual to individual. In a family or work related situation when a group behaves in a similar fashion we establish a business culture or family culture. Culture evolves based on reaction to experiences and needs.

Diversity refers to differences or variety. When we speak about diversity people usually jump to the conclusion that we mean or refer to cultural diversity.

Cultural Diversity means a range of different societies or peoples with different origins, religions and traditions all living and interacting together.

There are many forms of diversity and there are many forms of culture but each is linked to areas such as race, religion, sexual orientation, upbringing, language, thought and background.

Diversity therefore can refer differences within cultural groups, religious groups, political groups or people with a variety of different human qualities.

The basic dimensions of diversity include differences that basically cannot be changed and impact throughout our lives such as Age, Ethnicity, Gender, Physical ability, Race and Sexual orientation. These are the basic dimensions that are core to our thought processes and shape our views, morals and values.

It is these basic dimensions that determine how we view the world as a whole and are closely related to our culture, our upbringing and/or our conditioning.

Bearing this in mind I then pose the question - What role does culture play In workplace and societal diversity and how should we deal with the impact?

Views: 6188

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Hi Marianne

There are some who will agree with you but many others who will not. The debate is still ongoing related to universal marals and stands on 61% agree there isand 39% disagreeing. Surprisingly the majority of those who agree appear to base their arguements on the 10 commandments. Some of those who disagree do so because they feel that moral codes are relative to particular cultures and religions. Look at the way some societies value human life. Culture, environment, religion, etc ... all effect one's morality and thes differ vastly around the world. Once again I feel it comes back to understanding (empathy) what others believe and living life in accordance to our personal beliefs.   

Good day, after all is said and done about diversity it all boils down to respect.  Respecting others in all their differences (ideas, clothing, looks etc).  This is the fundamental in all working environments.  At our company we strive to ensure that all employees respect one another.  As such we are using a company who makes diversity training fun, informative and meaningful. 

Hi Janine and Clinton
I tend to agree but would still like you to commment on tht role culture plays in relation to diversity.

So many people are of the opinion that diversity has to do with culture only and do not see the bigger picture.

Yes it does come down to diversity which in turn relates to the need for respect and to show respect. However if there are cultural differences, cultural blocks, non acceptance of cultural differences, which in themselves are related to diversity then the two cannot relate and gel.

Where do we go from there????

I would encourage many corporates to include Cultural Diversity into their Induction programmes, the time it takes to cover this beats having to kill fires - it has done a great deal of help for my emlpoyer

Hi Des,  I would contribute that in South Africa, many people think that diversity relates only to race.  When talking about diversity within a workforce, I would suggest that in addition to all of the issues of race, class, religion and so on, one of the key issues for management is the personality and behavioural styles, as well as the communication and learning preferences of the employees they manage. 

Hi Sylvia

You are so correct. Many managers stifle the creativity and innovative ability of subordinates because they will not accept that simple fact.

We need to manage what we have and not constantly strive to change it. It is the managers responsibility to manage what he/she has and at the same time within the style of the subordinate and not his/her personal style. That is how we get results.

Failure therefore to recognise the diversity in thinking resulting from the impact of cultural is short sighted and small minded.    

Hi Des,

This is an interesting topic.  I have worked Saudi Arabia (in an environment with about 20+ different cultures) for the last 2 years. This has given me an awareness of how different cultures interact, and more importantly an insight into my self awareness and how people from other cultures see me, (A typical Northern English woman!).

I would note that people adapt to their environment, thus the environment adapts to the differing cultures of the people that work & live within it. Yes, this can make for sometimes frustrating and sometimes hilariously funny interactions- but somehow we all get along working and socializing together.

I believe we all have our own culture, values, beliefs and morals, which makes us diverse as individuals. The issue is integrating our own diversity with those around us. Respecting their diversity both as a group and as individuals, whilst expecting them to respect our individuality.   

I agree wholeheartedly with Janine. Respect is the key to all interactions with all societies.

I also think that Self awareness and acting on this self reflection plays a major role in how we interact with others. 


Hi Sue

The integration of our own diversity with those around us is of vital importance as is the issue of respecting individuality. This puts another dimension to my original question. 

The problem now is who should adapt to whose culture and under what circumstancs?

How do we respect the individuality of others?

Is this currently happening in South Africa?

Hi Des, now this is an interesting question - and not at all unique to South Africa. 

Visitors to London are always amazed by the multi-cultural society.  I conscious decision was taken to allow various cultures to exist side by side, so it's possible to see Asian, Middle-eastern, Mediterranean, eastern European and African people - and many more, living side by side, adhering to their own religions, and cultural traditions. 

Compare that description with the approach of France, where they have focused far more on the values of being "French". 

So I would answer your question that I believe that it is possible to live in a multi-cultural society - provided each culture is respected and valued in its own right.  Does this exist in South Africa today?  I'll be interested in members' views.   

Hi Sylvia

I would say that for some - yes it does exist - but for others unfortunately not.

So many of the people I come into contac with appear to have made a decision not to even try. They spend their days complaining about "the others" or "those people" whoever they might be, and make no attempt to see any good in them.

Having lived in the UK I know what you are talking about. The approach over there was live and let live, associate with whomever you wish but stay out of each others faces. If we can just accept that we are all together in this quest for peace and harmony and if politicians would stop pulling out the race card and the imbalances of the past we could strive to go forward together in a multi cultural society that shows respect and love for one another.      

The only way to achieve Diversity is through PROFICIENCY. Proficiency works from the top downwards. Proficiency is a lead by example principle where everybody is equally responsible and committed to the same goal. Proficiency brings about, Unity, Harmony, Togetherness, Opportunities, Standardized philosophy in policies and procedures! Transparent communication, Innovative thinking and common organizational Values, The only way we can create a harmonious work environment is through PROFICIENCY!

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) - article for information purposes 

Cultural diversity 

 “Our rich diversity . . . is our collective strength.” (Johannesburg Declaration, 2002)

Humanity has inhabited every corner of the world, except Antarctica, for centuries. As groups of people worked and lived together, they developed distinctive cultures. Together the cultures of the world create a rich and varied tapestry. The resulting cultural diversity expands choices, nurtures a variety of skills, human values and worldviews and provides wisdom from the past to inform the future. Cultural diversity is a mainspring for sustainable development for individuals, communities and countries. Thus, building an effective global approach to sustainable development and ESD needs to address respecting, protecting and maintaining the cultural diversity of the world now and in the future.

Cultural diversity exerts strong influence on ESD in that:

  • All ESD must be locally relevant and culturally appropriate;

  • Culture influences what this generation chooses to teach the next generation including what knowledge is valued, skills, ethics, languages and worldviews;

  • ESD requires intercultural understanding if people are to live together peacefully, tolerating and accepting differences amongst cultural and ethnic groups.

    Indigenous Knowledge

    ESD aims at promoting teaching which respects indigenous and traditional knowledge and encourages the use of indigenous languages in education. Indigenous worldviews and perspectives on sustainability should be integrated into education programmes at all levels whenever relevant. 

    Local knowledge and languages are repositories of diversity and key resources in understanding the environment and in using it to the best advantage. They foster and promote local cultural specificities, customs and values. The preservation of cultures is linked to economic development. However, tourism and cultural industries can run the risk of commodifying culture for outsiders. Cultures must be respected as the living and dynamic contexts within which human beings find their values and identity.

    ESD and Cultural Diversity at UNESCO

    Within the framework of the DESD and UNESCO’s work on protecting and promoting cultural diversity, the Heritage Education for Sustainable Development project aims at strengthening the linkage between culture and education for sustainable development. The purpose of this project is to prepare inventories of communities’ tangible and intangible heritage. Communities engaged in a dialogue on the significance and role of their heritage for ESD, documenting the insights gained and making some proposals for future action.

    ESD and Indigenous Knowledge at UNESCO

    In 2005, following the request of Mayangna leaders in Central America, UNESCO’s Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (LINKS) programme launched a project to record and safeguard Mayangna knowledge and worldviews. The communities chose to focus the first phase of work on fish and turtles, which are their primary source of protein and a vital part of the Mayangna way of life.

    After extensive community-level consultations, the LINKS Programme launched the Spanish-language edition of the book Conocimientos del Pueblo Mayangna sobre la Convivencia del Hombre y... in 2009. A Mayangna language edition is in preparation.

    The publication captures in meticulous detail the breadth and depth of indigenous knowledge about the aquatic world, weaving together empirical observations on behaviour, habitat, reproduction and migration patterns, with social commentaries on sharing, learning and harvesting, as well as cosmological reflections on human-animal relations and local spirits. It provides a foundation for enhancing biodiversity management by bringing indigenous knowledge on board alongside science.


© 2017   Created by Alan Hammond.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service