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The Impact of Diversity Characteristics on Individual Behavior

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The Impact of Diversity Characteristics

On Individual Behavior

Individuals deal with diversity on a daily basis. This diversity can effect how an individual behaves within the workplace organization. Workplace diversity is defined as the presence of individual human characteristics that make people different from one another (Hunt, J.G., Osborn, R.N., & Schermerhorn, J.R., 2005, p. 88). Diversity and demographic characteristics are what make each individual different. Although diversity is not a bad characteristic in an organization, these aspects can affect how employees behave as individuals. This essay will discuss four diversity and demographic characteristics and the impact that they have on individual behavior pertaining to the workplace. “Demographic characteristics are the background characteristics that help shape what a person becomes” (Hunt, J.G., Osborn, R.N., & Schermerhorn, J.R., 2005, p. 89). An individual cannot escape their demographic background. These characteristics must be dealt with in the business setting. The four aspects of diversity and demographic characteristics that will be discussed in this essay are gender, age, religion, and occupation. Each one of these has an impact on an individual’s behavior at any given time while in the organization.


Gender is a demographic characteristic of special interest, which is covered by the laws governing equal employment opportunity. Within an organization, gender can have an effect on how the individual behaves in the workplace. Studies on working women show that job performance and ability are not affected by gender (Hunt, J.G., Osborn, R.N., & Schermerhorn, J.R., 2005, p. 89). Although job performance may not be affected, behavioral differences can be noted among male and female employees within an organization. Women in the workplace are more conforming than men. This behavior results from women being taught since they were a little girl to be quieter and conforming in society. Women have lower expectations of success than men do. Women set lower expectations of success and salary then men in the workplace. This behavioral trait can be attributed to the fact that women keep their expectations low from the beginning in an attempt to not be disappointed (Valterra, M, Salary Expectations for Women in the Workplace, 2007). Valterra also brings out the point that since women do not expect more pay, they do not negotiate in the workplace as men normally do. Women follow the thought process that negotiations may mean they are not conforming to the norms in the organization. This takes us back to the fact that women are more likely to conform to the expected behavior within the organization.

Another issue of gender that can affect behavior by individuals in the workplace is sexual harassment. Women are usually the targets of this type of behavior. There are laws to protect against this occurrence, but unfortunately, the behavior still exists in today’s workplace. Harassing behavior is considered illegal if falls into a number of "protected" categories including behavior with sexual undertones, or "connotations" within four distinct categories: verbal, physical, visual and sexual (Zero Tolerance, 1998). This type of behavior can cause a tremendous amount of stress on the victimized and can cause a lawsuit, which has the possibility of harming the company’s reputation. Although not limited to gender, this type of harassment is most heard about in today’s workplace.


Any given workplace can have a variety of age classifications. With the difference in ages present, individuals will behave differently in the workplace. The workforce is becoming more and more filled with older working adults. “People age 50 and older are expected to increase by nearly 50 percent between 2000 and 2010” (Hunt, J.G., Osborn, R.N., & Schermerhorn, J.R., 2005, p. 90). Older adults in the workplace are associated with lower turn over. They act more maturely and are more reliable. Older workers are also more stable. Older working adults also usually have better work performance. These are all quality behaviors that can help a company who employs older adults.

Another interesting fact about age and the workplace was written about in a USA article titled, “The 'millennials' come of age” (, 2006). Researchers and social scientists are studying the behavior of different generations and their workplace behavior. One interesting generation that is being studies right now is what they are calling “generation next”. Generation Next employees are aged 16-24 and are employed. Their studies have indicated that this generation is not loyal to one job and challenge corporate behavior due to their heightened self-esteem.

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