Minorities in the Majority: Implications for Managing Cultural Diversity

Article excerpt

Government and business officials continue to express concerns about dealing with cultural diversity in the workplace. Copeland (1988) observed that the United States is no longer viewed as a "melting pot" as it was during the European immigration, when people were eager to become homogenized. Now, these newer immigrants maintain some to many of their cultural values in the workplace. Recent reports such as Workforce 2000 Report (1987 & 1989) by the Hudson Institute and Civil Service 2000 (1988) by Johnston indicate that employers are worried about their ability to motivate diverse groups of employees, their ability to effectively communicate with employees for whom English is a second language, and the impact of differences in values and cultural norms on employee performance and work satisfaction and commitment.

There is no easy resolution of these concerns, especially for public sector managers. Dynamic changes in work force characteristics over the next decade lead to projections that women and members of minority groups (especially Hispanics) will be the major source of new entrants into the workforce. The public sector will become even more heterogeneous in its make-up than it is now (Wooldridge & Wester, 1991; Sisneros, 1991; Esposito, 1991; Goddard, 1989; Workforce 2000, 1989 & 1987; Johnston, 1988). Whether one views the current and forthcoming workplace diversity positively or negatively, diversity is a fact of life. The contemporary public manager must understand the cultures and values of the people who work for her/him if s/he is to be successful and productive (Fine, Johnson, & Ryan, 1990; Deforest, 1987).

While we now recognize that the current and future performance of public agencies rests on the ability of public managers to mobilize and direct the talents of a multicultural workforce, we are just beginning to develop information and strategies on how to accomplish this complex task. In addition to the many prescriptive articles now in print, what is needed is more information on how employees with unique cultural backgrounds may differ from traditional Anglo-Saxon workforce members in their approach to work and their relationships at the workplace. Then, public managers and personnelists need guidance on how these differences might be approached so as to build a work community and improve performance at both the individual and group levels. Studies, such as those conducted by Fine, et al. (1990), that explore how group membership affects perceptions in public agencies provide the type of specific information on which public managers and personnelists can act.

Despite the recent article by Fine et al. (1990), information is most sparse about the attitudes and perceptions of Hispanic public employees. Among Hispanics, Mexican-Americans are the single largest group. Mexican-Americans are the second largest ethnic minority group in the United States today. However, they have been ignored for the most part as research subjects, probably because they have not been a sizeable percentage of the American public sector workforce until recently (Exter, 1985). This study attempts to address this paucity of information by examining the work attitudes of Mexican-American public employees about job satisfaction. Work satisfaction acts as an indirect measure of job performance (Vroom, 1964) and can help us identify various work elements that are subject to managerial control which may be modified to increase employee performance in ethnically integrated work settings.

Job Satisfaction and Mexican-Americans

For many scholars who examine ethnic and racial differences at work, job satisfaction is conceived of as a product of social, psychological, and cultural factors that affect the attitudes and beliefs of workers. These attitudes and beliefs predispose the member of a particular group to respond differently to experiences in organizations than other group members. These differences among various subgroups of employees may persist even after long periods of common socialization of the workers at the worksite. …

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