What role does culture play in workplace or societal diversity?

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This topic contains 1 reply, has 9 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of sylvia hammond sylvia hammond 1 year, 10 months ago.

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  • #7141
    Profile photo of Des Squire
    Des Squire

    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?

  • #7165
    Profile photo of sylvia hammond
    sylvia hammond

    Hi Des, interesting discussion.  I’d like to disagree with what I think you are proposing and I would suggest that what we think, our values, morals and approach to others is not determined by our age, gender, race, and so on.  I can point to many women of my age, gender and race who are diametrically opposed to me in what I believe, how I feel about other people and what I stand for.  I’m inclined to view this as an “excuse”/explanation for people not being brave enough to venture out of their enclaves.  The biggest problem I see is the use of stereotypes to view the world. What do you think?  

  • #7164
    Profile photo of Des Squire
    Des Squire

    Hi Sylvia- My you are quick off the mark but no that was not my objective but your thinking does fall in line with mine.
    We work every day with people from other cultures and backgrounds and in many cases take no time to get to know them as individuals. We do as you say tend to stereotype groups.
    When we try to get to know others, particularly those from other cultures we suddenly find the cultural differences are interesting and enriching. We learn from the experience.
    Occasionally things go wrong for various reasons we cannot understand or had not forseen. This is why I believe it is important to try to understand the differences between cultures and why people behave and act the way they do. This is essential in order to be able to work with people more effectively and at the same time prevent misunderstandings.
    In society as a whole we are very quick to judge others and to compare their actions to how we might have acted in a similar situation. We set our standard baed on our peersonal beliefs and in accordance with our culture. We forget people are entitled to their own beliefs and to behave in accordance with their valus and culture.
    In terms of what you are saying I tend to agree up to a point but bear in mind your culture may have been formed as part of a family culture and may fall outside the culture of a of age, gender and race.
    People from different cultures differ in very specific ways because each culture has its own way of thinking, its own values. it’s own beliefs that are associated with a variety of factors. People don’t have to “venture out of their enclaves” but they must realise there are others outsied the enclave they find themselves in and must learn to respect this fact.

  • #7163
    Profile photo of sylvia hammond
    sylvia hammond

    Hi Des, I agree with you that exploring cultural differences is very interesting.  One of the aspects of exploring cultural differences I have found is understanding the assumptions others have made about you – and then trying to explain who you actually are.  Also encountering extreme hostility and resentment based on who they think you are and managing oneself not to respond aggressively but with understanding – that is a learning experience.  

  • #7162

    Culture is a part of your personality.  Pesonality is made up of values, beliefs, assumptions, interests, experience, habits, etc.  Many of these attributes describe culture. An organization’s culture is influences by the different cultures and personalities that employees bring to work. When we have interviews one of the questions we ask when discussing the outcome is, Will this person fit in to our department’s culture?

  • #7161
    Profile photo of Des Squire
    Des Squire

    Why on earth should a person fall into your culture i.e. the organisation culture?
    Surely your company or business culture must cater for other cultures otherwise diversity will be stifles. Would the company not set itself into a stereotype as mentioned by Sylvia?
    We should, in my opinion rather ask – how can our culture be adapted to cater for the varying cultures we need to recognise and accept. How can we teach our employees to accept and welcome people from a very different culture?
    What can we do about the fact that this person has all of the attributes we desire, all of the competencies but there is a difference in terms of culture. How do we deal with this? Hence my question – What role does culture play in workplace and societal diversity???

  • #7160

    Culture, race, gender, age etc are always hot topics as defining factors of behaviour that define whether or not a person should extend tolerance to another. Often overlooked are matters ethical behavour, an ability to stand by basic human standards of what is what is morally right, an ability to seek what is right. The fact is regardless of culture, upbring, race of any other variance you want to throw out there – there are those that possess the desire to adhere to a moral code within their particular “world” and those that don’t. This is what is defining.

  • #7159

    I am also of the believe when they talked about a department’s culture, it is actually only the personality & believes of the departments leader they are trying to explain. Having said that, while it sounds nice and easy to say all cultures enriched our live, especially if you work in a more in a HR/Training department, it is more challenging appreciating cultural differences in a more line/pressured environment.

    I am also of the opinion that there is a big need for a strong company culture that displays values & believes that fosters the correct behaviour to that business, if this culture can indeed permeate within the company then that communal feeling can be very positive, the challenge for the leader is to make sure that these values is not his own, but a reflection of the needs of the business and then still take ownership to drive and foster this within the business. It is a great feeling that when you have a diverse group but everyone feel bonded by this culture.

  • #7158

    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. 

  • #7157

    I Agree Sylvia “One of the aspects of exploring cultural differences I have found is understanding the assumptions others have made about you – and then trying to explain who you actually are”

  • #7156

    Yes I would agree with you here Wilma, many people do not fit with the “WOW” factor of a company but prefer the rigid and ‘no greeting in the hallway’ approach

  • #7155

    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

  • #7154

    True that! To many their cultural moral code is what their world is about – it makes them touch sides, what keeps them going when times get tough

  • #7153
    Profile photo of Des Squire
    Des Squire

    You are right in terms of what is defining – adhering to a moral code. But it is not always possible to do so if that code is in conflict with cultural beliefs and standards. So where does this leave us????

  • #7152
    Profile photo of Des Squire
    Des Squire

    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????

  • #7151
    Profile photo of sylvia hammond
    sylvia hammond

    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. 

  • #7150

    Moral Code universally is basic to all cultures – not to murder, steal, abuse etc – get the idea. If a person willingly abides by a moral, ethical code imposed on them within the framework of their culture it makes them different to someone who rebels against these basic laws. This is what will define whether of not a person will be subordinate, be willing to learn or even defraud your company, …their attitude not their culture. Has anyone considered what can develop a positive, moral and ethical attitude?

  • #7149
    Profile photo of Des Squire
    Des Squire

    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.   

  • #7148
    Profile photo of Des Squire
    Des Squire

    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.    

  • #7147
    Profile photo of Sue Barnes
    Sue Barnes

    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. 


  • #7146
    Profile photo of Des Squire
    Des Squire

    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?

  • #7145
    Profile photo of sylvia hammond
    sylvia hammond

    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.   

  • #7144
    Profile photo of Des Squire
    Des Squire

    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.      

  • #7143
    Profile photo of Adam Loubser
    Adam Loubser

    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!

  • #7142
    Profile photo of Des Squire
    Des Squire

    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 la Naturaleza: Peces y Tortugas 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.

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One thought on “What role does culture play in workplace or societal diversity?

  • Profile photo of Tonja Wessels
    Tonja Wessels

    Yes, very envious sitting here in Cape Town, but i will definatelly ride on the Gautrain when i visit JNB! We are moving in the right direction and i believe it will contunue to be a popular mode of transport. Please share your pics and experiences with us!

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