Dealing with Diversity in the Workplace

By Teresa Oakley-Smith

Most of South Africa’s employees are likely to work in a diverse workforce with different races, genders, sexual orientations, religions, ages, political beliefs and disabilities. Frequent problems facing South African companies can range from issues related to discrimination, affirmative action and fair pay. Thus, employees will need to learn how to work in an office where their colleagues may be very different from themselves and the key to this is education. When you educate your employees about diversity in the workplace, you equip them with the necessary tools to handle and avoid such negative behaviour not only in the workplace but in life.

These are common cross cultural collisions that that South African employees can encounter in their working lives

Negative attitudes: Prevailing negative attitudes in an office can cause major problems. When staff members stereotype their colleagues or they are prejudiced in their views, it can have a very negative impact on the work environment Managers should endeavour to avoid discriminatory practices when dealing with employees, and should discrimination between co-workers become evident, management should address it immediately.

Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value: Women and men who work for the same company, doing the same job, should receive equal pay as should employees of different races., Where employees share similar education levels and experience, they should receive the same remuneration and benefits to encourage retention and avoid potential problems.

Religious and political beliefs: South African employees come from a diversity of religious backgrounds and where possible employers should accommodate these. Muslim employees should be allowed to attend Mosque on Friday lunch times and where possible prayer rooms with ablution facilities should be provided. While Christian holidays are accommodated in South Africa’s public holidays, employees should provide time off for Hindi employees at Divali and Muslim employees at Eid.

Sexism and sexual harassment: It is unfortunate that sexism and sexual harassment still occur today, as it has no place in the workplace. Men and women should be hired based on their skills and experience alone and all qualified candidates should receive a fair chance.

Affirmative Action: and Employment Equity need to be understood by employees to prevent perceptions of unfair discrimination

In order to formulate a workable solution to these and other diversity problems that come from employing a diverse workforce, you need a proven strategy. Diversi-T is a diversity management expert and training organisation experienced in diversity assessment. Our major areas of focus include culture auditing, diversity management and organisational transformation.

For diversity management and training that will help you to take your organisation to the next level, contact Diversi-T for industry leading solutions to managing diversity in the workplace.