Diversity in the Workplace Research Paper

Excerpt from Research Paper :

Improving Diversity


Recognizing diversity is one of the most important factors that managers and businesses have to face today (Wong & Chin, 2016). Diversity is a part of the human experience in the global environment that persists virtually in every setting around the world. Diversity is not just a matter of culture, however; it is also a matter of generation. As more and more generations merge in today’s workplace, understanding the differences that set them apart and the ways in which they can most effectively be managed is crucial to successful leadership. This paper will describe the issues and challenges faced by generation X while managing Generation Y, explain how Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory can be used to improve diversity, and highlight three large U.S. companies at the forefront of effecting change through diversity and inclusion.

Issues and Challenges Faced by Generation X While Managing Generation Y

Generation X has been defined as one of the most misunderstood and ignored generations of the past (Wong & Chin, 2016). They are generally skeptical and tend to look out for themselves. They will leave an organization if they feel it is in their best self-interest to do so, especially if they perceive that the organization is untrustworthy or potentially problematic.

Generation Y on the other hand has grown up “to be self-reliant, self-assured, goal-oriented” (Wong & Chin, 2016, p. 167). They are focused on getting ahead, using technology to achieve their objectives, and are used to having freedom and choice as a result of so much exposure to the Internet of Things. They are digital natives, unlike Generation Y. They also see far more opportunities for themselves than prior generations. Because of their confidence and the many opportunities afforded them, “they are often being misunderstood by the older generation and being labeled as unpatriotic, over-confident and capricious” (Wong & Chin, 2016, p. 167). Generation Y also wants to be heard and they tend to not understood when management does not take their ideas to heart. Generation Y feels educated, experienced and innovative: they understand the rapid pace of transition in today’s digital world and they believe it is necessary for organizations to keep up with the changes. Generation X does not always appreciate the need to keep up with these changes.

So it can be seen how there are many differences between Generation X and Generation Y. These differences can make it difficult for the former to manage effectively the latter. One of the main challenges that Generation X has when managing Generation Y is the problem of acknowledging the new ideas that Generation Y has regarding efficiency and usage of tools and technology in the workplace—but because of a lack of interest or connectivity with these concepts, Generation X can tend to dismiss them out of hand, which discourages Generation Y and leads them to believe that Generation X managers are incompetent and out of touch. This is particularly a challenge because Generation Y has a strong need to feel like they belong—and when a Gen X manager dismisses the idea or recommendation of a Gen Y employee, the Gen Y employee is unlikely to have his or her needs met, which can prevent motivation in the workplace from kicking in and driving performance (Wong & Chin, 2016).

Another challenge Gen X managers face with Gen Y workers is that Gen Y workers want more flexibility in their work schedules. They are used to the flexibility afforded them by using the Internet of Things—and they want that same flexibility when it comes to the workplace. They know that if they can get their work done on time from anywhere in the world, coming in to the office at a set time and leaving at a set time can be an archaic way of doing business. The Internet has made it so that Gen Y workers and anyone who is a digital native can work from long distances, take work with them on the go, and lead a more flexible lifestyle in general.

There is also the issue of how Gen Y wants to develop: they do not want to be boxed into one role but would rather be able to create multiple roles for themselves so that they can enhance their resumes and become more attractive as workers in general. They want opportunities to engage in systematic developmental procedures, as they are used to learning in systematized ways. They would prefer to work in organizations that provide them with these avenues.

Finally, the Gen X managers have to face the issue of how to lead Gen Y workers. They must choose an appropriate leadership style that is conducive to the needs and orientation of Gen Y workers. Autocratic leadership style is unlikely to be effective and Gen X is unlikely to provide a servant leadership style to ensure that Gen Y workers have their needs met in whatever way they require. Therefore, this issue serves a major challenge as well.

According to Kultalahitand and Viitala (2015), Gen X managers could overcome these challenges by offering to Gen Y workers more “flexible time structures, systematic and individual development procedures, and a coaching form of leadership” (p. 101). First, the flexible time structure would appeal to the Gen Y worker’s desire to do their work on their time rather than on someone else’s schedule. This would eliminate the need for an archaic, arbitrary 9 to 5 framework and provide Gen Y with the flexibility they desire. Second, the systematic and individual development procedures would enable Gen X managers to give Gen Y workers the avenues to personal and professional development they desire. Third, a coaching form of leadership would enable Gen X to use its autocratic skills in a way that is still oriented towards serving the Gen Y worker, which is what Gen Y desires. Gen Y workers do not want to be dictated to—they want to feel supported and…

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…a theory like critical race theory, which may be applied to interpret the meaning of data collected by Starbucks’ Initiative, as well as all other initiatives launched by major corporations. How communal associations and self-groups are vital for economic and social life especially in areas where the businesses either fail or do not function properly with respect to issues of diversity and inclusivity is something that companies have to consider. Starbucks considered them by taking a clear and decisive step towards acknowledging that not everyone has the same idea or perspective on race as everyone else—and that talking about it can go a long way in bridging those gaps.

When a business authority is missing in action in terms of diversity and inclusivity, local self-groups and other institutions play a major role in maintaining social order and providing social services such as health and education (Logan, 2016). Starbucks’ effort to raise awareness about inclusivity and diversity through its #RaceTogether Initiative helped to highlight some of the challenges that still remain in the larger field. Because not all groups are open to spreading inclusivity and diversity, there are obstacles that companies like Starbucks, Disney and AT&T can still focus on overcoming. AT&T has focused on overcoming them by bridging gaps where they exist. They have focused on the achievement gap, which prevent underprivileged populations from being given a chance to succeed in the real world (Darling-Hammond, 2015).

One of the ways that the then CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz used to promote diversity and get more people engaged on the matter in the workplace was to adopt a new perspective on inclusivity. Critical race theory uses a race-conscious approach to the concept of change; political formation and activity is a necessary component according to this theory. Developing the story of oppression through creative story-telling and artistic endeavor is another component that is highlighted in critical race theory. Intersectional analysis of race, class, gender and ethnicity is also essential to this theory’s application. Companies like Starbucks have used this theory to create an Initiative that challenges the entrenched viewpoints of others in the community and within their own workplace culture to help bring about a more open and diverse workplace. The point of Starbucks’ race initiative was to support employees and encourage them to discuss race issues with customers if customers decided to engage them about it.


In conclusion, the issues faced by Gen X managers in managing Gen Y workers mainly center on the desire of Gen Y workers to be respected as knowledgeable individuals: they want to be coached, not led or dictated to. Gen Y workers also have needs that can be identified using Maslow’s theory of the hierarchy of needs. By identifying the needs of Gen Y, such as their need to belong and feel secure, managers can promote policies in the workplace that allow for a more welcoming and diverse culture. Companies that currently promote diversity and inclusivity in the U.S. are AT&T,…

Sources Used in Document:


Darling-Hammond, L. (2015). Want to close the achievement gap? Close the teaching gap. American Educator, 38(4), 14-18.

Gajjar, T., & Okumus, F. (2018). Diversity management: What are the leading hospitality and tourism companies reporting?. Journal of Hospitality Marketing & Management, 27(8), 905-925.

Katz, J. H., & Miller, F. A. (2018). Diversity and Inclusion in OD. OD Practitioner,  50(4), 16-21.

Kruskal, J. B., Patel, A. K., Levine, D., Canon, C. L., Macura, K. J., Allen, B. J., & Meltzer, C. (2018). Fostering diversity and inclusion: a summary of the 2017 intersociety summer conference. Journal of the American College of Radiology, 15(5), 794-802.

Kultalahti, S., & Viitala, R. (2015). Generation Y–challenging clients for HRM?. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 30(1), 101-114.

Logan, N. (2016). The Starbucks Race Together Initiative: Analyzing a public relations campaign with critical race theory. Public Relations Inquiry, 5(1), 93-113.

Wong, N. & Chin, Y. (2016). Issues and Challenges Faced by Generation X While Managing Generation Y. International Journal of Business and Social Science, 7(2), 167-170.

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