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Challenges with Diversity in the Workplace

If you have read any of FIG's past blogs, watched any of our videos, or just looked through our website - you know there are countless benefits to prioritizing diversity in the workplace. Different perspectives bring innovative ideas to the table, ultimately leading to increased profitability and problem-solving. Companies gain a competitive advantage, reach new markets, and better understand their customers by embracing diversity.

Internally, having a diverse workforce can make people feel included. The result? Higher employee satisfaction, productivity, and lower turnover, to name just a few.

But, as can be expected, when you bring people from different walks of life together, you will have some challenges. So, let’s talk about those challenges and how you can start to overcome them in your workplace.

What is diversity in the workplace?

Before we dive into the challenges of diversity in the workplace, let’s address what diversity is. Diversity means having people from different ethnicities, genders, races, religions, socioeconomic backgrounds, education levels, upbringings, marital statuses, etc. All of this creates a workplace that can approach issues from different angles, tap into new markets, and be more innovative.

However, as we mentioned above, challenges are bound to arise when you have a wide range of different perspectives and cultures. But you can take steps to address these challenges before they occur.

Challenges with diversity in the workplace

Let’s get into some common challenges with diversity in the workplace.

1. Communication

Communication issues are a common challenge in diverse workplaces for various reasons. You have employees who speak different languages, have different communication styles, use different lingo, etc. It is important to address communication issues quickly before they cause problems in your organization.

Let’s say your younger employees prefer to communicate via Google Chat or Microsoft Teams, but your older employees like to talk on the phone or have in-person conversations. A way to overcome this is to train employees on communicating both ways. Use Google Chat or Microsoft Teams if you have a quick question or one that isn’t very important. But if you have a question that requires a longer response or a more pressing issue, hop on a quick call or walk over to their office (where applicable).

Be patient and respectful of differences, especially in language and communication.

2. Misunderstandings

When you have people from different cultural backgrounds, misunderstandings can happen. For example, a thumbs up in the United States is generally considered good. But in Iran, it is the equivalent of giving someone the middle finger.

While it shouldn’t be expected that everyone knows the ins and outs of everyone's culture, creating an environment where everyone feels okay to speak up and educate each other on any misunderstandings is necessary. Holding a workshop on cultural awareness or investing in DEI training are just some of the ways you can achieve this.

3. Slower Decision Making

While diversity does lead to an increase in better decision-making, it can also slow down decision-making. Diversity presents a wide range of perspectives, which can bring up new ideas and concerns.

If a team member brings up a point that challenges the status quo in the meeting, it may take some time to explore and discuss that point. It’s important to take time to explore the concerns and ideas of each team member and remember that fast decisions don’t always equal good decisions.

4. Microaggressions

A microaggression is a subtle, sometimes unintentional comment or gesture that communicates hostile and negative feelings towards a person, usually based on the fact that they don’t look like you.

Examples of microaggressions include pronouncing someone's name wrong just because you think it's too hard to learn to pronounce or asking someone where they are really from.

Microaggressions’ impact is anything but small. It’s time to recognize what they are and the messages they send. Educating yourself on microaggressions and the steps you can take to mitigate your own biases is the first step to eliminating or at least reducing them in the workplace.

5. Accommodations

Diversity with cultural, religious, and spiritual beliefs may cause some tension in the workplace. It’s important to recognize that different people have different needs based on their culture or religion. For example, taking into account cultural or religious holidays when scheduling events and meetings is important to make sure that everyone is able to attend.

6. Bias

Unconscious bias is just that: unconscious. In a diverse workplace, we are bound to run into issues of unconscious bias. One way to address unconscious bias in your organization is to bring in a diversity speaker to talk about the types of unconscious bias and how to mitigate it.

Want to know more about the different types of unconscious bias and how they show up in your workplace? Check out this article.

7. Troubles with implementation

Creating a diverse, inclusive and equitable workplace looks great on paper, but one of the biggest challenges might just be implementing change. While there are countless articles, how-to posts, and guides on how to get started with DEI in your workplace - there really is no one-size-fits-all approach to implementing DEI initiatives.

While enforcing diversity should be a responsibility of management and senior leadership, only 38% of executives report that the CEO is the main supporter of diversity initiatives. If your CEO isn’t on board, how can you expect any real change to be made? Even if the CEO isn’t on board and management is, 41% of managers report being “too busy” to implement diversity initiatives. As a result, diversity, equity and inclusion is being put on the back burner in most companies.

You are bound to deal with many challenges with diversity in the workplace. With a diverse workplace comes change, and many people are adverse to change. Build the business and personal case for diversity, equity and inclusion and start slowly implementing change within your organization. If you don’t know where to start or are having trouble implementing your diversity initiatives - reach out to FIG Strategy and Consulting today.

Who is FIG?

We at FIG believe that DEI is more than just another HR program or company initiative. It is a business strategy. FIG Strategy & Consulting was founded by TaChelle Lawson, who wanted to change how businesses approached diversity, equity and inclusion. Learn more about FIG here.


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