Ethical Issues Managers Face in Creating a Diverse Organization

By: Eduardo R. Zayas-Quiñones

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Some time not long ago we thought of America as a "melting pot" of cultures and ideologies. That view placed under the light of several generations of struggle for equality no longer holds true. Yes, we are here in the same pot but instead of melting, we have chosen to hold on to our roots, our cultures and ideologies. We won't let go of these so, we are just learning to get along together, and instead of a melting pot we resemble sort of like a delicious pot of stew. We may be a potato, a carrot or scallion but we are all bound together by that delicious gravy I call American. Oh yes, it gets pretty hot in this little pot of ours and when it does well, America boils with fury. Every once in a while someone will come along to help us by simply stirring the pot. I have learned of many great leaders throughout our history that had the vision and courage to do that like Dr. Martin Luther King. I have also known many great leaders throughout my life; men and women who came from the darkest, poorest places and through personal choices and sacrifice became a source of light and inspiration to others like me. In time however, the little pot of stew does cool off and to our amazement we find that the gravy is now ... a little thicker.

In an organization as everywhere else in our country these things, which make us unique and diverse, address more than our heterogeneous composition in terms of race, ethnicity and gender but also include sexual orientation, age and physical disability.

If I could sum the ethical challenge a manager faces in today's diverse organization in one statement it would be simply this:

To make the very best possible use of the skills and talents each and every one of his or her employees brings in order to make an excellent level of profit for the company while helping each and every employee achieve their goals for personal, professional and financial growth regardless of their diversity.

In an organization this vision of equality must start at the very top and must mean more than just words written in Human Relations policy documents. As managers, equality and respect for diversity begins within us and is something we must practice every single moment of every single day in our lives. This that we practice comes from our ethical and moral standards.

There is one more requirement we must fulfill if we are going to be truly successful in creating and maintaining a highly productive diverse organization. You see it's not just about the man or the woman you look at every morning in the mirror but how others see us throughout the day. I'm not talking about the nice haircut, the expensive business suit or dress or even the great buzzwords in your vocabulary like "team", "leadership". You may be surprised how insignificant that impression is throughout the day when compared with the way you conduct business, the way you treat others in practice. Just as we are about to learn how to "plan the work and work the plan", you must also learn how to "walk the talk" when it comes to meeting ethical issues in a diverse environment.

Easier done than said - eh? Well, there are excellent tools at your disposal in your organization that can help you accomplish this. Make sure your company has and publishes a code of ethics that includes diversity in the organization - it's just as important as day-to-day business practice. And there is one more excellent tool at your disposal; it's called an appraisal system. This tool will give you an opportunity to communicate with each and every individual in your organization regardless of their diversity exactly what it is you expect from them. Perhaps just as important, on a regular basis you should make the time to speak to your employees, to let them know how you feel about their performance and get this, to listen to what they think of you. This is called feedback and unless you are willing to listen to what your valued diverse employees have to say, you may never be able to reconcile the manager you think you are with the one others perceive you to be.


Robbins, S. (2001). Organizational Behavior. 9th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Krajewski, L. J. & Ritzman, L. P. (2002) Operations Management: Strategy and Analysis, 5th edition [University of Phoenix Print Version]. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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