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Cultural Diversity & Business Ethics

by Marilyn Lindblad, Demand Media In recent years, many employers have embraced cultural diversity initiatives with an objective of creating create an all-inclusive workplace environment. Most analysts agree that a diverse workforce is a worthy aspiration. However, cultural diversity can give rise to ethical issues that can be challenging for managers and employees to resolve. Sponsored Link Small Business Opportunity Suppliers checked by D&B. Free info by HK Trade Development Council. www.hktdc.com

Religious Differences
A culturally diverse workforce may include individuals with different religious beliefs. There may be times when employees' religious beliefs clash with the organization's diversity policies. For example, a diverse organization welcomes vendors, employees and customers of different sexual orientation. This attitude of inclusion may pose an ethical dilemma for employees who have a religion-based belief that heterosexuality is the only acceptable sexual orientation. Managers should be prepared to address these issues head on and clarify that, whatever an employee's personal beliefs are, the employee must respect others in the workplace.

Gender Issues
An atmosphere of inclusion where women have the same opportunities for promotion as men can generate several ethical challenges. In some countries, women are legally subordinate to men. Male and female workers from these countries may find it difficult to adjust to a diverse, inclusive work environment where men report to women, and women occupy top executive positions. Similarly, some cultures consider it immoral for women and men who are not related to each other to look each other in the eye and interact socially and professionally. Management must address these cultural sensitivities without violating antidiscrimination laws or otherwise reducing the effectiveness of diversity initiatives.

Hiring Decisions
An organization that wishes to have a culturally diverse workforce must hire from a diverse pool of candidates. Managers may generate interest among diverse groups by posting open positions with employee diversity networks or by advertising job openings in nontraditional publications. However, a hiring manager must hire the person most qualified for the position, regardless of race, gender, age or national origin. Hiring decisions made in an environment that values diversity may create tension between an organization's diversity goals and equal employment opportunity guidelines.

Business Practices
A business may experience cultural conflict when it insists that its employees follow ethical business practices. In some cultures, government agents expect businesses to provide incentive payments to expedite approval of requests such as permit and variance applications. However, government officials may view these payments as bribes that are prohibited by federal anticorruption laws. Violating the law can trigger criminal culpability and civil fines. An organization should provide antibribery training for its employees to clarify how to handle

.requests for contributions so that employees of all cultures understand what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior under the law.