Cultural Diversity: Stereotypes and Prejudices

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The relationship between culture and group dynamics is carefully captured by using Hofstede’s (1984) four types of culture namely: power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism and masculinity, as well as, elements that contributes to culture norms, status and politics. Hence, the focus of this essay will be what is cultural diversity, the importance of inclusive organisations and the benefits of doing exactly so. I will furthermore, bring into light and extensively elaborate possible challenges that should be supervised. As well as discussing the strategies that could lead to productivity in the Public sector with the focus of the department of Home Affairs.

Cultural Diversity

Cultural diversity is a group of people that come from different background, different race, sexual orientation, gender or even age. Hopkins (1997:46) motivates that there are four major cultural dimensions namely; power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism/collection and masculinity/femininity. Furthermore, explains the concepts, power distance is to the point to which a society acknowledges inequality in organisational relationships. Uncertainty avoidancAe is the degree in which individuals in a society feel intimidated by unclear or predictable situations. Individualism is the point whereby individuals in a society see themselves as individuals, or part of a large group. Masculinity/femininity is the extent to which a society’s main values highlight confidence and materialism versus concern for people and quality of life. Hence, there are different types of diversity which will be explained in the following paragraph.

Different Kinds of Diversity

Diversity is a wide range of interest, background and experiences. They are based on ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status, exceptionalities, language, religion, sexual orientation and geographical area. Diversity also comes with intercultural communication barriers namely; ethnocentrism, prejudice, stereotype, non-verbal and language, which I will focus on in the following paragraph.

Intercultural Communication Barriers

Ethnicity/Ethnocentrism

Daniels, Hunter, McGhie, Middleton Horn, Van Jaarsvaldt, Van Vuuren ( 20014: 280) states that ethnocentrism is a belief that one’s culture is superior than any other culture. Thus, brings negative energy amongst employees in the workplace because no one wants to feel inferior to anybody especially when positions are involved.

Language

Language is partnered with culture, if one is able to speak a certain language one gains insight of that culture. Language is more than just transferring information to another person Daniels et al., 2014:280). For an example, at Home Affairs when an official is able to communicate with the citizen in their home language it gives the citizen a sense of worth and there is no miscommunication.

Cultural Stereotype

Daniels D., Hunter A., McGhie V., Middleton Horn J., Van Vaarsveldt M., and Van Vuuren T (2014:282) states that cultural stereotype is when one believes something is factual about a certain culture, or/ and judging and individual or a group base on culture. This may lead to conflict in the workplace because what one may believe it is true is in actual fact untruthful. For an example, when a new black employee is appointed it is assumed that they come from Eastern Cape and speak isiXhosa.

Cultural Prejudice

Cultural prejudice is similar to cultural stereotype. Kemp (1947:86) stages that the basis of cultural prejudice is the process of culturized with a certain group and developing a judgement against that culture. On the other hand, Eramus-Kritzinger I., Swart M and Mona V (2009:27) suggest that prejudice is the process of passing judgement before a proper trial. It is exemplified by judging people based on their characteristics, before they actually know them. Prejudice happens every day because there is a daily interaction of different people each day. For an example, when one enters Home Affairs and the only free consultant is a Muslim lady wearing her attire, and the citizen prefers to wait for an hour to be assisted because they have the assumption that Muslims are terrorist.

Non-Verbal

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South Africa having 11 official languages is inevitable that there will be misunderstanding caused by language, culture and religion (Daniel, 2014: 281). This may also lead to miscommunication because of the process of sending and receiving information in a wordless process. For an example, touch, a tourist from America may want to shake hands with the Home Affairs official because to them is appropriate to do so, now the Home Affairs consultant may find it weird and expression that via their facial expression. Which may cause internal noise barrier. Even though diversity comes with intercultural barriers it also comes with its significance.

Significance of Cultural Diversity in South Africa

It is important to promote cultural diversity because for an organisation to bloom it needs to interconnect with other organisations or people. Diversity within the organisation brings about new opportunities as well as challenges (Robinson 2018: page). The following are some of the elements that are significant to cultural diversity: Increase exposure to different outlooks and opinions, fosters mutual respect, increase language skills and increases adaptability. For example, when all the elements are aligned employees are; creative in solving issues and address issues, productivity, open minded and everyone feels accommodated. The significance of cultural diversity comes with the advantages and disadvantages in the department of Home Affairs.

Klagge (2013: 2) states that a culturally diverse workforce result to a competitive advantage for any organisation’s operation. This basically means that an organisation is able to progress and citizens feel comfortable because they are being represented. Similarly, being in a working environment where there is a better understanding of other cultures is not only positive but pends out to be better interpersonal communication. One of the primary advantages is that there is a rapid increase in new ideas, how to solve issues in a creative and innovative way, flexibility, within the organisation. For an example, at the Department of Home Affairs if there is a shortage of workers, employees are able to divide the workload amongst themselves because there is a mutual understanding and every employee worker the utmost best to assist the citizens. In contrast having a culturally diverse organisation does not always workout.

Hence, oversimplifying and ethnocentrism can be the main cause of many culturally specific disadvantages. Intensifying intercultural skills and intercultural competency can lower the incidence of oversimplifying and ethnocentrism Alder (2008). Some of the disadvantages are caused by the following; ambiguity, complexity, and incorrect decoding. For an example, at Home Affairs when a new employee comes from out of town or province it is difficult for them to easily gel with other employees right away because of culture shock probably they dealt with issues differently. The disadvantages of cultural diversity is combined with possible challenges that may be faced within the department of Home Affairs.

According to Joplin and Daus (1997;34) there are different types of stages and attributes of organisational diversity integration. The following are some of the challenges listed by them: shifting power dynamics, diversity opinion and lack of empathy. By the listed challenges, managers or supervise can address the issues by pairing individuals on a work task to break down the stereotype. Have compulsory diversity workshops and each employee should contribute. It can be most effective in a less business environment for example, at a resort or park where everyone is comfortable. This obviously needs a manager who is able to connect with his employees. As senior staff or management, the manager must be take into account the diversity workplan as the Home Affairs officials deals with different people each day. (Joline et al., 1997:34) suggest that managers play a big role when it comes to the productivity of an organisation. A manager should carry the following hats with him or her: intolerance, tolerance/ acceptance and appreciation.

Hence, the role of a manager should always be: an active team builder, a monitor, must be able to read hidden disagreements, he must take strong action to implement and evaluate input of diverse group members, clearly communicate about diversity in the workplace and lastly, take strong action to those who are against the organisations vision and mission when it comes to diversity. For an example, when a Home Affairs official does not carry the Batho Pele principles, the citizen has the right to ask for a supervisor or manager to clarify the situation. Managers should also encourage employees to dress in their traditional attire every 27th of September. What would be more interesting is that each employee wears a traditional attire of another culture and say what they have learnt about that culture. A successful integration is not the manager’s responsibility but also of the employees.

Penultimately, employees must play there role to ensure that other employees feel comfortable and are to work together. Smith (2012: no page cited) states that employees should do the following to ensure that they work better with each other: make teamwork a priority, point out issues, do not complain to the manager immediately, celebrate and reward great team work and go to lunch together. When co-workers work together there is less tension, more productivity. Outsiders are able to see that there is a coherent work shipment within the organisation. One of the Batho Pele principles is “value for money, which means citizens wants to see what their tax money is being used in and is the service they get high standard of quality.

Conclusion

Ultimately, cultural diversity is inevitable in South Africa, due to different languages, religion, sexual orientation, gender and race. I have found out that managing, addressing the intercultural barriers and maintain cultural diversity in any workplace leads to a productive and healthy working relationships amongst co-workers. On the other hand, the question still lingers, do employees have to be managed for them to treat each other like human and respect each other’s culture?

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