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Managing Diversity in the Workplace: Intent vs. Perception

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    Antoinette Mayer worked for DigiSys, a multimillion dollar technology company where many of the company’s senior managers were retired military officers. Jay Strong, her boss, became very friendly in an awkward way with Mayer one day where his conversation moved from business topics to more personal conversation. As time progressed, he got “warmer” towards Mayer; seemed to encounter her more in the company cafeteria and requested more of her time under the pretense of gathering updates. After many encounters like this, she decided to do something about it so she went to the Human Resources vice president for assistance.

    He told her that he didn’t think she had much of a case. The company was full of military types who had not quite got the hang of working with women in the civilian sector. As a black woman, she had done her share of educating and was probably tired of it, but pursuit of an investigation wasn’t worth her career and she should lighten up a little. According to CMU (2008), more than half of US women executives say they have suffered sexual harassment. Harassment results in stress, absenteeism, productivity declines, turnover, and lawsuits.

    Solutions include raising awareness, providing training, and consistent enforcement of clearly communicated rules and penalties. Murren (2011) states that every place of employment has a different demeanor. Most employees do mesh well together finding their groove over a period of time. There are instances, however, when workplace behavior can get out of hand and be inappropriate, causing a rift between employees. Many companies today hold yearly ethics courses designed to pinpoint an acceptable quality of behavior from their employees and also open up the floor to those who have issues with the company and its policies.

    Sometimes confronting an issue head on in a supportive environment will help find a positive solution to any issues of harassment or workplace abuse. Harassment should not be tolerated and inappropriate workplace behavior is never okay. Putting a stop to obnoxious or unacceptable behavior is the professional thing to do although it may not be popular. Power and Access. Nikki Bliss was a daughter of Pentecostal missionaries and was use to rough treatment and adventure. She wanted to be a trader so she joined Haskell and Higgins, a Wall Street brokerage firm, and worked directly for one of Wall Street legends, Bertram Law.

    He brought more money into the firm than any other partners combined. Even though he had the accolades and prestige of being the “best”, his trading room environment resembled that of a disorganized “fraternity house. ” The language was vulgar and Law often referred to Bliss as “bitch” rather than by her name. At times, he left pornographic material and a sexual aide on her desk for the public to see. He would ask her about her sexual interests; the color of her underwear; and whether she liked groups and etc. several times a day and in front of others.

    She was the only woman trainee on the floor, and after several weeks, she grew tired of the daily onslaught of raunchy jokes and provocative gestures and felt like the atmosphere of the trading room created several barriers to her learning. She began to hesitate asking questions for fear of drawing attention to her or facing ridicule and harassment. She was asked how her training was coming along, but she was not sure how to respond. Would she be considered weak if she complained? Would her comments get back to Law and would that be good or bad? She had thought about transferring, but she really wanted to work on the trading floor.

    Heathfield (2011) writes that sexual harassment occurs when one employee makes continued, unwelcome sexual advances; requests for sexual favors; and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, to another employee, against his or her wishes. It can occur in a variety of situations: unwanted jokes, gestures, offensive words on clothing; Transmitting or posting emails or pictures of a sexual or other harassment-related nature; displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures, or posters. Although it may cost Bliss a transfer or loss of training, Law’s behavior should be reported because it was very inappropriate.

    He has been esteemed as the best in his craft, but his raunchy, unprofessional behavior is unacceptable. Is Equal Fair? Moses Wu wanted to break into the circle of senior managers at ETech. He was an early recruit of ETech’s founding partners and had been at the firm since its establishment. He had the credentials and he knew the technology better than anyone, but he felt like he was hitting the “glass ceiling” and would be destined to quietly grind out new technologies from a lab bench the rest of his life. It had been three months since he had mentioned his desires to his boss but had not heard anything.

    Wu was the only Asian and nearly the only employee not born and raised in the West so he felt “different” in the offices and at the company’s after-hours events. Wu was not an aggressive person, but he was sought for his expertise and it was well received. Wu knew he was respected and vital, but was he too “other” to be let out of the lab? Hester (2007) states that the “glass ceiling” affects minorities when they are trying to reach upper management levels in many companies. In most cases, the limitations are not immediately apparent, but it is there. Wu is a cornerstone in this company and he has brought that to his boss’s attention.

    Since he has not gotten a response from his boss, he should remind him again of his credentials and contributions to the company so he does not continue to be a victim of the “glass ceiling. ”Julie MacKenzie was a marketing hot shot at Jensen and Rigby (a multinational consumer products company). MacKenzie was a member of the “Re-Re” team which was a group of equals who would recommend that a product be “killed” or re-launched. MacKenzie had always thought of herself as “one of the guys. ”

    She announced she was pregnant and one of the guys stated, “Mack, I didn’t even know you were a girl…now you will have a “Mom’s-eye view” of the products. She wondered if the group dynamics would change because she was doing the “feminine thing. ” She began to wonder if being “one of the guys” for so many years had carried unforeseen costs that she was only now beginning to understand. According to Pinto (2011), the strongest and most explicit bias in today’s workplace is against mothers. Generally, maternal wall bias is triggered when motherhood becomes ‘salient’ or obvious to managers and colleagues. This typically occurs when a woman announces that she is pregnant, returns from maternity leave, or adopts a part-time or flexible schedule.

    Maternal bias stems from assumptions that mothers are not as competent as others; are not as committed to their jobs; and belong at home because they can’t be both good mothers and good workers. It will be difficult for MacKenzie when she returns from maternity leave to convince her “guy” network that she is just as competent as a mother because she may not be able to “hang out” with them as she did before, but it is a must. This happens when women allow the lines to be blurred by becoming “one of the guys” so it is good practice to keep those lines as clear as possible.

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    Managing Diversity in the Workplace: Intent vs. Perception. (2019, May 01). Retrieved from

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