SECTIONS

By Maore Ithula

Since the onset of colonisation, and the subsequent Independence from Britain, negative ethnicity in Kenya has been a challenge in all aspects of life. This problem became even more profound at places of work after the ignominious post election violence that followed flawed last General Elections in 2007.

But all is not lost, human resource experts say. They say there are some management approaches that can turn around ethnic diversity at the places of work into opportunities for employers and employees.

Although diversity in Kenya is most expressed through ethnicity, the experts broaden the definition of human variance to include nationality, race, cultural differences, age, social status, levels of education , gender, religion and personal morality.

And when properly harnessed, these differences make a well-rounded workplace.

Mr Robert Mugira, a director at the Institute of Human Resource Management-Kenya says managers should increase their sensitivity on diversity to tame it in the workplace. To achieve this, supervisors should listen and understand worker’s emotions and beliefs.

"Managers must understand different cultures and ask employees from various communities, what their views and beliefs are. Most workers will be willing to share experiences with managers who appreciate this diversity. Other employees might be suspicious and decide not to share anything with their supervisors. However, all of them will spread the word around that the manager is sensitive to ethnicity, boosting his or her reputation, and that of the organisation," says Mugira.

Employees’ diversity

Mr Mugambi Baikwinga a consultant in human resource management in the city argues that employees become happy and excited when managers seek to understand and positively appreciate employees’ diversity.

However, the experts concede that managers, like everyone else, will make-assumptions about other people, breeding biasness.

"Every human being makes assumptions. In Kenya, it reveals itself in stereotypes. Some will dismiss others as soon as the latter’s name is mentioned betraying his/her ethnicity. For this, I caution managers to be wary of increased presence of assumptions at the work place," Mugira warns

Baikwinga advises managers to be ethical whenever they make inaccurate assumptions about workers or situations. In the event that a manager makes this unfortunate blunder, they should assess why they made it, and what can be done to avoid a repeat.

Apologise

"It is wise to apologise to the victim of your insensitivity. Always remember that if you are ethnically unfair to one employee, you are biased towards everybody. Even the meekest of all employees knows when they are being discriminated against. It is impossible to cover up biasness, " he adds.

To beat the monster of ethnicity, the experts advise managers to increase their awareness about their prejudgement about workmates.

"If you think you are not doing things right, ask your colleagues whether you are being prejudiced or not. You might be surprised at their replies," Mugira says.