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Doing Good with Difference

Students in the management course Doing Good at Work discuss their research on diversity in the workplace.

Edited by Katherine Kohut ’20 and Lauren Mann ’20

There are a number of important socio-political issues that have emerged and become part of the national debate. One of the most concerning is the trend to marginalize and discriminate because of difference: gender, orientation, ethnicity, and so forth.  (Vox, February 28, 2019:  https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/2/28/18241973/workplace-discrimination-cpi-investigation-eeoc)

This is a sad and alarming phenomenon. As such, in the fall 2019 management 310 course, Doing Good at Work, taught by Santo D. Marabella, professor of management, students looked at how we can do good with difference. They explored numerous points of view, organized under three categories related to this phenomenon which are critically important, relevant, and complex. To expand understanding and learn effective strategies that value and celebrate human differences, each student selected one topic, created a research question, reviewed relevant literature, and prepared a paper that responds to the question. Specifically, they looked at the following sub-topics related to the three categories of context (defining difference), elements of difference (gender identity, orientation, ethnicity, religion, race, age, physical abilities), and the difference continuum (tolerate, accept, celebrate). As a way to share learning, here are the students research questions and abstracts.

Elements of Difference

Ethnicity

Maria Moreno ’20

Research Question: How does being a religious minority affect the lives of employees in the workplace ?

My course theme paper, was about how religious differences can be a factor of importance when talking about the workforce, and how this has affected the life of many workers in many different ways. I talked about the different ways a person can be affected, from being fired to be discriminated because of how their religion is seen in their workplace. Talked about what a "harmonic workplace" should be and how the life of the persons could improve if this kind of manners would be put in place within the workforce. 

Nichele Cruz ’20

Research Question: How does an ethnically diverse employee population enhance customer relations in a company or organization?

Ethnicity is one of the many ways that can make a workforce more diverse. Having an ethnically diverse employee population can enhance customer relations in a company by breaking language barriers, reaching more markets, and understanding the needs of the customers at hand. Having employees that are able to speak many languages can enhance customer relations. In addition, having an ethnically diverse population can benefit customer relations and opens new doors for new markets. Lastly, a workforce population with a diverse ethnic background can strengthen customer relations because it helps the organization to better understand the needs of its clients. In conclusion, customer relations may be enhanced by having ethnically diverse employees. 

 

Religion

Jamie Wickett ’20

Research Question: What is the impact on a company’s decision when its owners identify as Christians?

Christian owners inherently make business decisions based on their faith, which has resulted in support by some stakeholders and criticism by others. This analysis examines the outcomes of placing religious perspectives into play in the business arena at a time when religion is no longer the sheer focus of society. To operate their businesses successfully in a way that allows for religious freedom but incorporates a welcoming environment for its employees, customers, and the community it operates in, the owners must retain an open mind, free of biases.

 

Samantha Doyen ’20

Research Question: Is there hypocrisy among politicians who primarily legislate from Christian values?

My course theme paper asks if there is hypocrisy among politicians who primarily legislate with Christian values. I give multiple examples of present day politicians who have claimed to be following Christian values, and I analyze these examples to determine if they really are following those values. I specifically focus on President Donald Trump and Pete Buttigieg because they are the most relevant politicians who claim to follow good, Christian values. If politicians really had integrity in their claims of following Christian values, then the voting system in the USA would be simpler, and voters would feel more comfortable about their candidates.

 

Race

Brianna DePaola ’20

Research Question: What kind of challenges does racial diversity face and bring to the workplace?

My course theme paper talked about the challenges that racial diversity brings to the workplace. I mentioned acceptance/respect, accommodation of belief, ethnic and cultural differences, language, and communication. It's not easy to be any race other than white in the workplace, but diversity brings different opinions, views, and perspectives of the world. To run a successful business, you need to have diversity.

Brianna Wellington ’20

Research Question: In what ways is race exploited in a company’s culture?

My course theme paper explores ways in which race is exploited within company upbringings. It discusses the impact that race has on where a company is located, the structure of companies, and tokenism as it relates to the hiring process. If companies put more action and effort into initiatives for a more racially diverse work environment, then there would be higher rates of productivity and an increase in profits. I learned that racially diversifying the structure of businesses will eliminate the fear within the public that race is an underlying factor in finding a stable job.

Leila Youssef ’20

Research Question: Does race impact promotions and raises among employees of color?

My course theme paper focuses on how race impacts people in the workforce and how it impacts people with color with regard to promotions. I found that most people of color do get discriminated against and often don't get promotions. Most people do not like to talk about race at work and even find it difficult to express emotions. The Harvard Business Review does say that people of color have a lower rate of getting a promotion at work. I learned that we cannot always get what we want in life, so sometimes we have to speak up for what we believe in.

 

Age

Christine Neu ’20

Research Question: Are elderly who are physically active less likely to become depressed?

My course theme paper was how the effects of physical activity in elders could lessen their chance of becoming depressed or having depressed thoughts. Through my research I found that elders did in fact have fewer depressed feelings when they participated in physical activity. I found that this tends to be the case because as individuals get older, they feel less of a sense of independence and find themselves unable to partake in the activities that they used to. Participating in any kind of physical activity makes them feel a sense of independence, in turn, causing them to feel more confident and less depressed.

Devon Haggerty ’20

Research question: Is there any discrimination between age groups and job hiring?

This type of discrimination, mostly against older adults, is very common. An example of this just happened recently with Google, who was sued over age discrimination. The lead plaintiff won, and it was decided that over 200 job seekers over the age of 40 would receive a settlement of $11 million. I also learned that this does not only happen to older adults. There are many young adults around age 18-24 years old who feel as if they are not being hired due to their age as well. Older or younger, not being able to get a job can have serious implications on mental health and self-esteem. At the same time, when workers don’t feel welcome because of their age, it creates a negative tone in the environment.

Nicholas Mortagua ’20

Research Question: What are the benefits of having older workers in the workplace?

I chose to research the benefits of having older people in the workplace.  Some benefits that older people bring to work include loyalty; they know what they want in life which makes it easier to find a suitable fit for a job; and they have a good work ethic. Through my research, I found that it is indeed beneficial to have older people in the workplace.

 

Physical Abilities

Brianna Torres ’20

Research Question: What is the impact of growing up with a sibling who has a physical or mental disability?

My paper focuses on the profound effect a disabled child has on family life, particularly, the non-disabled sibling, and methods of effective coping strategies. We often hear about children with disabilities who face challenges as they enter adulthood. Less often, we hear about their siblings who experience a unique set of emotions, responsibilities, and opportunities when it comes to their siblings with special needs. To deal with these feelings, many siblings are encouraged to participate in support groups. After attending the groups, many participants feel more equipped to deal with their disabled siblings.

Lauren Mann ’20

Research Question: What types of discrimination, stigmas, stereotypes, and barriers do people with physical disabilities face every day in the workplace?

People with physical disabilities are discriminated against in the workplace every day, both in obvious and not so obvious ways. Unfortunately, there is not a solution to correct this issue; however, I believe this is an issue that should be improved upon. There is evidence that what people with disabilities have had to overcome has helped them be more organized, effective, and efficient workers.

Shayne McNally ’20

Research Question: As far as accommodating employees with physical disabilities, are there enough accommodations and support put in place within each workplace?

Unfortunately, there is not one answer for all. It depends on the company. Every company implements its own adjustments and changes for those who are physically disabled, or they do not act to adjust the workplace for those who may need it. I also discussed how the fear of change may get in the way when it comes to making the appropriate modifications that will make individuals with different physical abilities and disabilities feel more comfortable. The viewpoint of physical abilities within the workplace is an element that will be constantly discussed and presented. For a company to be successful, its employees must feel comfortable and accepted at work. Comfort and acceptance and respect fuel creativity and productivity, which benefit companies overall in the long run.

 

Difference Continuum

Tolerate Difference

Bryn Wiragh ’20

Research Question: How can a company reduce the resistance to differences from the majority of employees?

By increasing diversity and inclusion initiatives in a company, responsibility is on both the employer and the employees to cultivate a culture conducive to inclusion. Tolerance needs to be accomplished to successfully implement diversity and inclusion initiatives through corporate strategy and company policies. Tolerance is essential for diversity and inclusion to be an effective tool for the company to be efficient and profitable.

Katherine Kohut ’20

Research Question: How can an organization transform its culture to not stigmatize employees who have mental illnesses?

In contemporary America, millions of people suffer from mental illnesses, such as anxiety or depression, and do not receive adequate aid from their societies or workplace organizations. The impact of this can overflow into the workplace, resulting in negative engagement, lower job productivity, poor communication, and struggle to complete daily functions. In order to transform the workplace culture to be more tolerant towards those with mental health issues, we must implement protocol that allows individuals to receive ample support, feel safe at work, and decrease the negative connotations/language surrounding mental illnesses. If we can transform the workplace in this way, it will not only assist in lowering absent days, increase workplace productivity, but it will result in a better culture for the organization and those with mental illness.

Matthew Mittl ’20

Research Question: What are companies missing out on when they only follow the requirements of diversity rather than promote them?

Our world is an incredibly diverse place and that’s a good thing that should be celebrated. But what happens when people choose not to embrace diversity? For my topic, I chose to research the positive effects that diversity can have on a workplace and highlight what companies are missing out on when they follow only the basic requirements of diversity defined by the law. One of the benefits of a diverse workplace is more financial success, counter to those companies who lack diversity. Research suggests that diverse companies are often “smarter” compared to companies who do not promote diversity. If people can overcome their feelings of being uncomfortable, it can bring about change, and maybe even lead to less hate and more positive influence on the world.

 

Accept Difference

Dane Ralph ’20

Research Question: When a company celebrates diversity, how are cultural differences handled?

This paper concentrated on what it’s like to work in an organization that values cultural differences and various perspectives. I think it is essential to empower this kind of culture within a workplace, company, business, etc. and execute it successfully. Doing this consistently will help empower recruitment and will quickly raise the public overall view and satisfaction of any company.

Jessica Collazo ’21

Research Question: How can companies go beyond what is legally required to include LatinX employees of difference?

My course theme research paper is about how companies can create a better work culture for LatinX employees. Diversity is not only good for business but a good way to get different perspectives and visions from people from divergent cultural backgrounds. Employees need to feel like they are valued in the company and making them feel more valued will make them more likely to be confident in their work. It will then benefit the company and benefit other employees.

Michelle Ciliberto ’20

Research Question: What is the impact on success in a workplace where employees of difference are accepted?

My course theme paper is about how acceptance and inclusion of people with differences in the workplace can impact the success of that business. I focus on all differences: age, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and disabilities. Almost every person that brings diversity to the workplace benefits the company because they bring differences in opinions, ideas, knowledge, experiences, values, etc. With all this variation, it is easy for a company to thrive because it might be easier for them to find a better way of doing things. When businesses are inclusive it might also be easier for them to find the right person for the job because they are open to more applicants. Having a diverse workforce can also improve their relationship with their customers and bring them a wider range of customers. People with differences have a positive impact on the success of a business, and these people deserve a better chance at getting the jobs that they deserve.  

Victoria Kauffman ’20

Research Question: What would changing our perspective of mental illness and having programs in the workplace that support mental illness do for employees and their organizations?

My course theme paper focuses on accepting differences, and so I talked about the overall perspective of mental illness and how workplaces should have programs that support employees who may be struggling. I found that one of the biggest issues amongst mental illness and the workplace is that many employers find those with mental illness to be "unsuitable" to work. Once we get rid of the stigma revolving around mental illness, it will be easier to implement less stressed working environments, as well as show support through encouragement and possibly even counseling sessions. This will allow individuals to feel more welcomed and included in the workplace.

 

Celebrate Difference

Brendan Kirkpatrick ’20

Research Question: What does it look like to work in a company that celebrates diversity and different points of view in the workplace?

I think it is important to encourage this type of culture and try to implement it into your organization. I focused on strategies that companies could follow in order to adapt to this type of culture. Having a diverse workforce where everyone is free to state their own opinion will help encourage recruitment and raise financial stability.

Brigette Reed ’21

Research Question: How can a company build a culture around their core values?

My course theme paper focuses on the importance of celebrating differences, and it answers the mystery behind how a company can create a culture around its core values that caters to celebrating differences. I used the Build-A-Bear Corporation as a perfect example of this, as one of their values is di-bear-sity. They hire a wide range of employees and constantly encourage them to acknowledge each other's unique traits and help build off of them as a team.

Meagan Ryer ’20

Research Question: How can an organization become a company that celebrates cultural differences?

There is a progression of tolerating, accepting, and celebrating differences among us, respectively. One of the companies that exudes the celebration of diversity is Apple Inc. The actions of Apple show the company supports people of all kinds. For example, this fall, there are new emojis showing interracial couples, a seeing-eye-dog, and characters in wheelchairs with prosthetic limbs. When we decide to be more proactive in celebrating diversity, our co-workers will be more open, creative and feel more welcomed. Coworkers will be more incentivized to “do good.”

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