Many I-O psychologists design and/or provide training on a wide variety of topics.
Workplace diversity has become a strategic imperative in many companies across the
country, from production floors to the boardroom. This module covers the multiple types of
diversity that are encountered in todays workplace. The materials include lecture
overheads for a 15-20 minute lecture (include the "Challenges of Diversity"
slides if you have extra time) and an activity that could be conducted in 15 minutes or
could be expanded for additional student involvement and critical thinking.
The material in this lecture is based on the work of Susan Jackson and Associates in
their book Diversity in the Workplace (see References).
International Meeting Activity
This activity is intended to illustrate the assumptions we all make in simple social
interactions. Break up the class into groups of 5-6 and provide each with a set of
instructions. The instructions will differ from group to group and will focus on a set of
cultural norms, specifically greetings, personal space, eye contact, and
Greetings: instruct each group to do one of the following:
Use handshakes as greetings
Use a nod of the head as greetings
Use a loud "LA" as greetings
Personal space: instruct each group to do one of the following:
Maintain at least a 2-foot distance (by backing away if necessary)
Maintain a 6-inch distance between you and others
Eye contact: instruct each group to do one of the following:
Stare at people you talk with
Never make eye contact with people you talk with
Make initial eye contact but look away as discussion begins
Individualism/Collectivism: instruct each group to do one of the
Never leave the other members of their group
Never refer to oneself by name, only by group membership
Never stay with the other members of their group
Talk about oneself to the exclusion of other members of your group
By combining different levels of the four sets of cultural norms (some of which have a
basis in actual cultures, others not), you can create groups different enough from each
other to create some challenges for the groups. Give the groups 1-2 minutes together to
discuss how they want to approach the meeting and then give the entire class their task.
The task that each member of the class must accomplish is introducing themselves to 5
other members of the class (from other groups) and learn one interesting fact about each
After 10 minutes of interaction, bring the class back together and review the
discussion questions provided with the lecture.
If you have more time to devote to the activity, provide the groups with the four sets
of cultural norms (i.e., greetings, personal space, etc.) without the behavioral examples
and have them devise their own culture.
This exercise gives students an illustration of the sorts of problems that someone from
a different culture encounters when they are unaware of or dont understand the
assumptions of a different group.
Workplace Diversity References
Carr-Ruffino, N. (1996). Managing diversity : People skills for a multicultural
workplace. Cincinnati, Ohio: Thomson Executive Press.
Carr-Ruffino, N. (1996). Managing diversity: Skill builder. Cincinnati, Ohio:
Thomson Executive Press.
Jackson, S. E., and Ruderman, M. N. (Eds.) (1995). Diversity in work teams: Research
paradigms for a changing workplace. Washington, DC: American Psychological
Jackson, S. E., (Ed.) (1992). Diversity in the workplace: Human Resource initiatives.
New York: The Guilford Press.
Suggested Films and Videotapes
Discovering Psychology: Sex and Gender (Annenberg/CPB Project)
This video covers how our gender affects how we will be treated and explores the
different biological, psychological, and social environments of males and females.
Eye of the Storm/A Class Divided (ABC)
To introduce in-group and out-group effects, this video covers the classic
demonstration of an Iowa schoolteacher who formed groups based on eye color. Through
differential treatment, she creates in-groups and out-groups, to which the students
respond as one might expect. Animosity between groups, feelings of victimization, and a
vivid lesson about prejudice resulted.
Resolving Conflicts (CRM/McGraw-Hill)
Studies typical responses to interpersonal conflict and strategies for reducing
conflict. The film presents three everyday examples of conflict and five alternative
strategies for dealing with them.