The practice of acknowledging, understanding, accepting, celebrating and valuing differences among people as regards ethnicity, class, age, gender, sexual orientation, physical and mental prowess, race and religion is referred as diversity (Green, López, Wysocki and Kepner, 2013). In the current global scenario with the driving forces of globalization like the advent of technologies, communication, internet, transportation and transnational companies having diminished boundaries, the work place environment has grown extremely diverse with people of various cultures, backgrounds and beliefs fraternizing with each other every day on account of work and business. The demography in USA has gone through a drastic change in the last few decades. Even in the 1950s, more than 60% of the American workforce consisted of white males, but today the same American workforce has become a melting pot of various cultures, religions, ethnicities, genders and age. Currently, the US population is comprised of 78% white Americans, 17% Hispanics, 13.1% Black or African Americans, 5.1% Asian Americans, 1.2% American Indians or Alaska Natives and 2.4% some other race. By 2060, it is expected that the number will change drastically with whites consisting 69%, Hispanics 31%, Black Americans 15%, Asian Americans 8.2%, and other races consisting 6.4% of the total US population (USCB, 2012). With such drastic changes in demography, USA will turn more diverse with its work environment more multi-cultural. Therefore, the strength of diverse workforce should be recognized by all the companies, and they must introduce policies and procedures to take care of the issue more efficiently. This paper would discuss the ethnic minority group of Hispanic Latinos in the US workplace, their experiences, stereotypical notions about them and the solutions.
Common Experiences of Hispanic Latinos in the US Workplace
About 50.5 million Hispanic Latinos living in USA consist 16% of the US population (Cárdenas and Kerby, 2012). They work in unionized service sector industries including government, healthcare, transportation and communication. One of the first experiences Hispanic Latinos face while working with Americans is the American punctuality about time. Americans are very punctual about time, and they put a lot of importance in completing a work within as little time as possible to increase efficiency and productivity. They plan their working hours meticulously, ensuring that they are able to accomplish as much as possible between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm every day (Holladay). However, Hispanics are flexible about time. Punctuality is not something that they give a lot of importance upon. Therefore, a meeting scheduled at 8 O'clock in the morning will not start before 8.30 am or later.
Language is a big problem faced by Hispanic Latinos. Some of the workplaces might make English as the only mandatory language for interaction within the office premises, and therefore, Spanish speaking Hispanic Latinos, who are not fluent in English, constantly find themselves struggling on the communication front (Maldonado, Daniels and Vazquez, 2005).
Hispanic culture is a collective culture wherein a lot of importance is given on group, and in contrast, American culture is based on individualism wherein the importance is given on individual freedom and preferences over the group. Hispanics prefer working in teams rather than individually, but the team concept in the American workplace is characterized by each member dealing with an individual role and responsibility. Since the Hispanics are accustomed to a hierarchical form of management instead of a self-directed team approach, they find it difficult to assimilate into the team concept of Americans (Holladay).
Common Experiences of Americans with Hispanic Latinos in the Workplace
Since Hispanics are accustomed to a top-down hierarchical management structure, they find it hard when an American supervisor tells them to take initiatives or make decisions on certain tasks. Hispanic Latinos feel more comfortable working in an environment where the role of boss is well-defined, and they are given instructions as to what tasks they should do (Holladay). Therefore, when an American supervisor asks them to take charge of a responsibility that may require certain sense of decision-making and judgment, they might not perform well to the supervisor's expectations.
Hispanics attach a lot of importance to respect. Conveying of greetings is a tradition of respect maintained in Hispanic culture. If an American supervisor comes to a Hispanic employee and without greeting him goes down to the business making work-related queries, it is taken in a bad note by the Hispanic employee who might feel offended for the lack of respect (Holladay). Thus, many a time an American colleague or a supervisor goes into the bad book of a Hispanic employee unknowingly.
Americans find Hispanic Latino employees very sensitive. In the US work culture, a harsh reprimand from the boss is taken in a serious note by the employees who look beyond the reprimand to see the bigger picture, but a Hispanic Latino employee reprimanded in a similar way, especially in front other colleagues, might take it personally as an affront to his self-respect (Holladay).
Americans are very upfront and straightforward in the workplace, and Hispanic Latinos are non-confrontational, passive and more accommodating by nature. As a result, an American supervisor finds it difficult to get an honest feedback about a certain thing or an employee from a Hispanic Latino who might euphemize the truth or exaggerate in order to be pleasant or avoid confrontation (Holladay). This attitude could be challenging for the supervisor especially when he needs to dig out information from a Hispanic subordinate about another employee’s work performance to make appraisal report.
In a multi-cultural workplace with a labor force of minor racial ethnicity, discrimination on the part of the racial majority often takes place due to the ignorance of the differences about the cultural nuances of the minority culture. The discriminatory behavior often stems from the bias notions formed about the racial minority. Some common stereotypical misconceptions formed by the general Americans about Hispanic Latinos are that Hispanic Latinos are undocumented and less educated immigrants living on welfare (Huffinton Post, 2012). Some positive stereotypes include that the Hispanic Latinos are all family-oriented and hard-working. The stereotypes are also reinforced further by the way Hispanics are depicted in the movies and television series as maids, gardeners, criminals and drop-outs (Huffinton Post, 2012). Such stereotypical perceptions often create mental barriers in the minds of the non-Latino Americans towards the Hispanic Latinos, and resultantly discriminatory behavior takes place.
The discrimination faced in the workplace by the Hispanic Latinos make them develop a stereotypical notion about all the non-Latino Americans as racists, and often they find themselves unable to assimilate freely into the majority culture. The mental barriers thus created can lead to unpleasant work environment with both Hispanic Latinos and non-Latino Americans finding themselves at loggerheads. Therefore, it is important to bring harmony in the work environment so that the employees of different ethnicities can co-mingle amicably.
Solutions and Tools
Though diversity is good thing in workplace, if not properly managed, it can trigger worst possible scenarios in a workplace. Therefore, it is recommended for any company with diverse workforce to build a diversity-friendly work environment in which employees, regardless of ethnicity, gender, physical or mental ability and sexual orientation can flourish. Below are discussed the ways in which Hispanic Latinos can be integrated into the American culture and workforce more productively:
As discussed above that Hispanic Latinos are not very punctual, and therefore, often the meeting scheduled at 8:00 am does not start before 8:30 am. To a normal American accustomed to working on time, the lateness of the Hispanic employees might create a matter of conflict, but instead of going into conflict, the matter should be dealt with more patiently. The Hispanic employees should be explained about the importance of deadlines and schedules, and how things not done on time can lead to other constraints (Holladay). Once Hispanic employees realize the bigger picture, they would be able to mend their behaviors quickly.
Since language is a big barrier of a productive communication between Hispanic employees and their supervisors, often supervisors are encouraged to learn as much Spanish as possible. However, besides the language learning, supervisors must understand the verbal and non-verbal gestures and mannerisms of the Hispanic subordinates and their cultural and social idiosyncrasies so that the communication gap can be effaced in real sense of the term (Maldonado, Daniels and Vazquez, 2005).
Furthermore, due to the cultural difference, Hispanic Latinos are not familiar with the American team concept, and the American supervisors acknowledging this fact must give training to the Hispanic subordinates to achieve the desired outcome. Besides, Hispanic Latinos being accustomed to working in a hierarchical management structure might not be able to shoulder responsibilities independently, and therefore, the employers and the management should be careful of promoting Hispanics into a responsible position.
Since Hispanics consider conveying of greetings a sign of respect, it will be wise for the employers and supervisors to maintain the simple gesture of asking about the well-being and health of the family of the Hispanic employees before getting down on business. Additionally, supervisors must be aware of the sensitivity of the Hispanic employees related to public reprimand, and therefore, criticism should be made in a private personal setting in the absence of other employees (Holladay).
Aside from the above measures, employers also should initiate a slew of diversity and inclusion programs to spread awareness among all the employees about the cultural idiosyncrasies, nuances and mannerisms of the ethnic minority and also about importance of comingling so that the stereotypical notions about the Hispanic employees can be erased from the minds of the majority group (Cox, 1991). The all-inclusive measures should be implemented effectively so that both the majority and minority groups can come together to get involved in different aspects of the organizational objectives.
Diversity refers to the practice of understanding, accepting and celebrating differences among people with regard to ethnicity, age, class, gender and sexual orientation. In recent times, the demography in USA has gone through drastic changes with different ethnic minorities forming a significant part of the overall US population. Taking into account that Hispanic Latinos consist 16% of the US population, this paper has discussed the experiences of Hispanics in the US workplace, stereotypes and the solutions. Due to the socio-cultural differences, both Hispanic Latinos and the Americans face certain problems related to punctuality, language barrier, team concept, respect and other issues. In order to address the problems arising out of the cultural differences, it is important that the employers pay heed to the cultural idiosyncrasies, mannerisms and gestures of the Hispanics so that all the problems can be sorted amicably, and both Hispanic as well as non-Hispanic employees can work together in harmony.
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