Many of these challenges can be related to communication deficiencies. In other words, when people from different backgrounds are thrown together and asked to complete a specific task, it can be difficult for them to effectively communicate their wants, needs, and desires. In some instances, these communication deficiencies are the result of a language barrier. In others, cultural understandings of the way a task is performed, the time needed to complete a task, and the importance of the task in relation to other tasks, for example, can hinder communication. Cultures also have different models of what they think is polite or appropriate in a certain situation. When people working together are from different cultural backgrounds, different understandings of the appropriateness of behavior in situations can lead to delayed work or frustration among team members. This can also be seen in the employee-consumer or customer relationship. When an employee is of a different cultural background than a customer or client, the client may feel that the employee is being standoffish or rude, when the employee is only acting in conjunction with her cultural background and vice versa. In this era of globalization, communication deficiencies become even more complex when overseas companies are looking to implement a product or service in the United States and vice versa. Sometimes, companies based in one part of the world make wrong choices about how to market their product or service based on the culture of the consumer base. Kim (2005) makes note of this when he discusses advertisement by exhibition. In his discussion, Kim writes that overseas exhibitions often take time to produce affects because of the differences between cultures, among other reasons. Kim suggests training is appropriate for those hosting exhibitions overseas (Kim, 2005, p.1). In the hospitality industry, communication deficiencies can be extraordinarily problematic. In order to run an efficient restaurant, manage a hotel, cater an event, or prepare a school lunch, employees must work together as a team. This is necessary for the organization within the hospitality industry to operate smoothly and efficiently.
Bias, or having presupposed ideas or preference for a certain group, is another challenge presented by diversity in the hospitality industry. Bias can lead to problems with employees and customers. The hospitality management team who shows bias toward a certain group of employees is liable to face legal action, or be judged unjust managers. Bias toward employees can discourage employees to share different perspectives, which will ultimately grow the business. In addition, bias toward employees can result in having employees that are unfit for work in certain jobs, as only the favored group is promoted. In addition to bias toward employees, bias toward clients or customers can be dangerous to the hospitality manager. Hospitality management teams who purposefully or inadvertently express bias toward one group of their clients can make the establishment a harsh environment, encourage clients to give bad references, and incur legal action. Bias is often unrecognized by those who are involved in it, but its existence can be reported through data. One example of bias is the fact that women in economics tend to receive less tenure positions than men (Ginther and Kahn 2004). Similar biases exist throughout the business world and hospitality industry. On the other hand, applying King's diversity-blindness eliminates bias. This creates for a much better work environment for employees, and since environment has been positively associated with organizational commitment, or identifying with the organization's purpose and values (Feinstein and Vondrasek 2002), using diversity-blindness to eradicate bias may increase employee loyalty and decrease turnover.
Naturally flowing from bias, harassment occurs when people use the bias that they have developed to act in an unacceptable manner toward other employees and customers. Harassment can be composed of many behaviors, which is why it is so difficult to define. Harassment can consist of making racial slurs, threatening employees, or even treating certain employees or customers differently than others. The type of harassment with which many are most familiar is sexual harassment. Sexual harassment takes place because of diversity issues involving men and women and different ethnicities. Sexual comments, gestures, and touching are all considered sexual harassment. According to Farrar, Hardigree, and Sammons (2003), diversity in the workplace can help explain why sexual harassment has been so difficult to conquer in the hospitality industry. They state that because women, men, and people of different ethnic groups define sexual harassment differently, it is difficult to pinpoint a definition. This is a major problem, though, as the authors note that the hospitality industry is subjected to more cases of sexual harassment than other industries (pg. 1).
Applying King's Philosophy
The example of diverse definitions of sexual harassment suggests how it can be difficult to apply King's philosophy of diversity-blindness. By requiring diverse peoples to have the same definition of sexual harassment, a genuine violation may be oppressed. On the other hand, King's philosophy may be put into practice here by having a policy of diversity blindness for sexual harassment reports, meaning that employers will consider all reports of sexual harassment equally serious. Steps to define sexual harassment and come up with boundaries as an organization is another way in which King's philosophy could be applied. In addition, an application of his Philosophy to the problem of bias will alleviate these issues, allowing for the equal treatment of all employees and clients.
In addition to harassment and bias, applying King's philosophy of diversity-blindness can be used to solve diversity-spurred challenges in communication deficiencies and biases. When it comes to communication deficiencies, King's theory could be applied to the hospitality industry through a diversity-blind set of bylaws that govern how employees deal with each other and clients. Although this will solve some of the problems, it will certainly not solve them all. Thus, another part of King's philosophy can be applied here, respect. In order to treat all people with respect, people must not all be treated in the same way. Instead, individuals' cultural backgrounds should be respected. Thus, while a general code can be observed, taking note of and respecting a person's cultural background when interacting with him or her is a method of equal treatment, as it is a method of equal treatment of respect. This concept can be further applied to the hospitality industry through sustainable tourism. Unlike other types of tourism that tend to exploit natives and their cultures, sustainable tourism seeks to empower the community, especially through community-based tourism planning (Nilnoppakun 2008). Thus, through both diversity-blindness and respect based on diversity, communication deficiencies can be avoided and cultures can be empowered through the hospitality industry.
Summary & Conclusion
Globalization has made diversity issues more prominent in the hospitality industry. In order to address these issues, the philosophy or prominent Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King can be applied. King's words, though directed to the relationship of blacks and whites, can be applied to all diversity issues. He argued that diversity-blindness should be encouraged in order to provide for the equal treatment, respect, and opportunities for those of different backgrounds. Applied to the beneficial aspects of diversity in the hospitality industry, one can see how King's ideas have made the benefits of diversity possible. In addition to these benefits, however, that include perspectives that can launch businesses and employees that can connect with clients, challenges are posed by diversity in the hospitality industry. Challenges are numerous, but this paper concentrated on communication deficiencies, biases, and sexual harassment. Addressing these issues, King's philosophy of diversity-blindness can be employed, allowing with a subsequent philosophy of respect. By using diversity-blindness and respect, hospitality managers can not only solve challenges posed by diversity, but can also foster the benefits of diversity in the human resources industry.
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