Managing Diversity in a Diverse Workplace

Write a thoughtful, well-considered answer to the question below:

The readings discuss several diversity management paradigms. Looking at your organization and using your own observations and examples, please discuss which paradigm your organization uses to manage diversity. Make some specific suggestions about how to facilitate a paradigm shift in your organization to increase its effectiveness, performance, and well-being.

  • Graves, L. M. (1993). Sources of individual differences in interviewer effectiveness: A model and implications for future research. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 14, 349-370.
  • Thomas, D. A., & Ely, R. (1996). A new paradigm for managing diversity. Harvard Business Review, (September/October), 79-90.*
  • Atwater, Leanne E., Dionne, Shelley D, et. all. (1999). SA Longitudinal Study of the Leadership Development Process: Individual Differences Predicting Leader Effectiveness. Human Resources, 52(12), 1543-1562.
  • On Becoming a Leader: Chapter 4 (pp. 67-94). (Bennis, 2009)
  • How Diversity Shapes Leadership Development – Kyung Yoon
  • Video: How Diversity Shapes Leadership Development – Kyung Yoon

Individual Differences

This lesson focuses on the concept and components of individual differences, including ability, biographical characteristics, and learning effects. In addition, it emphasizes the importance of understanding the role of individual differences and diversity for a manager in organization in relationship to his/her leadership effectiveness.


Ability is an important aspect of individual difference and directly influences an employee’s performance and effectiveness in organizations.

One type is intellectual ability, or the capacity needed to perform mental activities. Intellectual abilities consist of

  • mathematical aptitude;
  • verbal comprehension;
  • perceptual capacity;
  • inductive reasoning;
  • deductive reasoning;
  • spatial visualization; and
  • memory.

Recently, an increasing level of attention has been given to so-called multiple intelligences, including

  • cognitive; 
  • social;
  • emotional; and
  • cultural.

Many of these topics will surface in later lessons of this course

Another category is called physical ability. It includes

  • stamina;
  • dexterity; and
  • strength. 

Intellectual and physical abilities are positively associated with one’s effectiveness and performance in organizations, although the specific abilities required depend on the type of job. For example, pilots need strong spatial-visualization abilities. Managers need to create ability-job fit for employees so that the employees can achieve a higher level of performance, as well as expand their potential.

Biographical characteristics are also an important aspect of individual differences. Relevant variables include

  • age;
  • gender;
  • length of work experience;
  • race/ethnicity;
  • religion;
  • sexual orientation; and
  • gender identity.  

Biographical characteristics can influence one’s work attitudes, performance, and general effectiveness in organizations. Therefore, it is important for leaders to understand these biographical differences, their role, and how they affect employees’ performance, as well as their own leadership development.


Finally, learning is an important dimension of individual differences. Learning refers to any relatively permanent change in behavior that occurs as a result of a life experience. For example, you are taking a course in the OLEAD program, which can change both what you know about leadership and what you will be able to do in the future. 

Theories and perspectives on learning can be used to induce changes in employee attitudes and behavior. For example, reinforcement theory can help achieve such changes. Leadership behavior, such as identifying and rewarding performance-enhancing behavior, can increase the likelihood that such behavior will become habitual among employees, as well as your own development as a leader.

Diversity is a reflection of the totality of individual differences within a collective identity, namely a group, organization, or a higher-level social structure. It has to do with the degree to which a group or organization comprises individuals who differ in age, gender, ethnicity, education, education, skills and knowledge. With globalization and an aging population, diversity is becoming an irreversible phenomenon in the United States and other countries. 

There are two general categories of diversity:

  1. Surface-level diversity: differences in age, ethnicity, gender, and social background.
  2. Deep-level diversity: differences in values and personality.

Deep-level diversity differences are actually more important and require more effort and wisdom for a leader to manage successfully. In their article, Thomas and Ely (1996) point out that it is essential to connect managing diversity with work perspectives. They discuss some of the preconditions for making this approach work, as well as how to be more effective in dealing with diversity in organizations.

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