Cultural Diversity Management in Tourism

How to manage workforce diversity

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2008

16 Pages, Grade: 1,8



1. Introduction

2. Definition of diversity and culture

3. Dimensions of culture
3.1. Universalism versus sectionalism
3.2. Collectivism versus individualism
3.3. Neutral versus emotional.
3.4. Diffuse versus specific
3.5. Effort versus prestige..
3.6. Sequential versus synchronous
3.7. Self-determined versus outward

4. Challenges and tools for manager
4.1. The dilemmas in cultural diversity management
4.2. Tools for managing workforce diversity

5. Real life example: Carlson Wagonlit Travel

6. The advantages of cultural diversity and diversity management

7. Conclusion

8. References

1. Introduction

As business has become exclusively internationalized and globalized over the past years, the issue of workforce diversity has also gained more popularity. The complex and dynamic business environment requires interaction among people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. Competitive corporations cannot allow themselves losing talented and skillful employees due to discriminatory preferences or practices. The customer base has become more diverse as well and as service industries, tourism and hospitality are exposed even to a greater extent to the challenges of the heterogeneous labor market of the 21st century. In tourism industry the contact with the customers is vital, so corporations need to recruit employees who are able to understand and relate to the customers’ needs. The main purpose of managing diversity in business is to bring out the best of employees, in a non discriminatory, fair and just environment, for the benefit of the individuals as well as the prosperity of the whole company.

The futurist Jamais Cascio gives the main reasons why workforce diversity has become so important. These are the shift from manufacturing to a service economy, the globalization as well as the innovative business strategies and the increasing demand on teamwork. In addition there are the mergers and alliances acting on a high international level and of course the changing labor market conditions.1

2. Definition of Diversity and Culture

In general diversity is defined as “acknowledging, understanding, accepting, valuing, and celebrating differences among people with respect to age, class, ethnicity, gender, physical and mental ability, race, sexual orientation, spiritual practice, and public assistance status”.2 Due to the increased diverse nature of workforce in the contemporary tourism industry, managing heterogeneous employees has become an important competitive tool. Diversity could only be of a benefit to both companies and their employees when managed well. Although there are many management tools in this particular area, there is unfortunately no “cookbook approach”, and managing diversity remains an organizational challenge.

The private German foundation Bertelsmann Stiftung, which sees itself as a driver of social change, has conducted a survey on the topic of workforce diversity. The main objective of the survey is to assess the status of diversity management in German corporations and compare it on an international level to Europe, UK, USA and some other countries. The survey represents a standardized questionnaire in German and English, whose target group are top 600 of German companies and top 600 of international ones. The study was conducted between March and June 2007. The importance of the following diversity criteria to a company is ranked on a scale from 1 (no relevance) to 7 (highest relevance): age, disabilities, gender, culture, religion and sexual orientation. According to the chart in figure 1. Germany is obviously behind UK and USA concerning all criteria, though when it comes to differences in age, physical abilities, religion and sexual orientation the other European countries show less relevance than Germany. However, the most neglected differences among employees are their religion beliefs and the sexual orientation.

Although German corporations are not in the leading positions their progress in the area should still be recognized and hopefully continued.

Figure 1. How important is diversity for corporations3

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

This written paper focuses on the cultural differences among employees in tourism and hospitality, as managing across cultures has become an inseparable and a very important part of this industry. However, the term culture in its complexity could be quite confusing. A dictionary definition of culture incorporates many elements like history, common traits, geographical location, language, religion, race, hunting practices, music, agriculture etc. This makes culture and cultural differences very hard to define. Peter Brooks, an interdisciplinary scholar, tries to embrace the complexity of the term through an interesting analogy. Everyone knows what a tree is - it has some parts one sees immediately, like branches and leaves, and some parts which need a closer and deeper observation - these could be the birds’ nests, the bark with lichen on it and of course the life giving roots under the ground. This example shows that the most important aspects of culture, like the roots of a tree, are hardly recognizable at first.4 Thus, the meaning of culture should not be simplified.

When different cultures collide on the workplace this might have a great impact on the whole well-being of a company. Cultural awareness could therefore be very useful and even profitable for corporations. In a multicultural environment the employees’ cultural backgrounds would affect how they act, communicate, work in teams, determine their approach to time and task completion. The Germans for instance believe that the truth, even if unpleasant, will achieve a success, while English give priority to not “rocking the boat”. To Chinese, there is just no absolute truth.5 When greeting, Japanese only bow to each other, and could find it inappropriate to shake hands like their western colleagues do. Germans highly value time and punctuality, while Spanish often tend to be late. Religion beliefs could also contribute to cultural gaps between employees, e.g. the Muslim who has to pray 5 times a day and keep daily fasting during the month of Ramadan. These and numerous others are examples for cultural differences which people come across in the everyday business life.

3. Dimensions of Culture

The different relations between cultures are formed in seven different dimensions according to Fons Trompenaars, which is a worldwide acknowledged authority concerning intercultural management.6

3.1 Universalism versus sectionalism

For example you go by car with a really good friend and he runs into a food passenger with 50 km per hour even though only 30 were allowed. There are no witnesses. Would you keep it secret in court to protect him or not? Both North America and Europe would approach this problem almost exclusively universal and would not protect their friends in court. However Africa, Latin America and Asia would approach the problem sectional.

In universal cultures, rules are more important than relations. The contracts have to be observed strictly and only the people who follow the rules and the contract provide confidence. More over, there is only one truth and reality on which you have agreed. Business is Business. If you have to manage universal cultures:

- Do not consider the non personal flowers of speech “Let's keep at business” as impoliteness!
- Go after consequence and consistent work flows!
- Aspire at fairness by managing all similar cases equally!

In sectional cultures, relations are more important than rules are. Contracts have to be modifiable and only people who accept changes provide confidence. There are different perspectives of reality, concerning this of each partner. Further more, relations have to develop. If you have to manage sectional cultures:

- Do not consider individual flowers of speech “We have to get to know each other” as small talk!
- Create informal networks and create individual comprehension!
- Aspire at fairness, by handling all cases individually!

3.2 Collectivism versus individualism

In collective cultures, the delegates decide after consulting. Ideally, staff members do their work in groups with divided responsibility and staff members spend their holiday in groups or with family.

If you have to manage collective cultures like Egypt, Mexico, India or Japan:

- Praise the whole group and avoid to overpraise individuals!
- Remind your team of superior objectives, which apply to the whole group!

In individual cultures, the representatives decide immediately. Ideally, staff members work on their own and feel individual responsibility. Further more, staff members spend their holidays alone or with their partner. If you have to manage an individual cultures like Israel, Canada or the USA:

- Try to harmonize the individual needs with the must of the organization!
- Implement methods with individual incentives like Pay for Performance, or Management by Objectives!
- Praise particular performance and profit individually!

3.3 Neutral versus emotional

In neutral cultures, people do not want to uncover their thoughts and feelings. Their inner tension can be reflected in their attitudes or their faces. Physical contact, gesticulation or facial expression are often off-limits. If you have to manage neutral cultures like Ethiopia, Japan or Hong Kong:

- The absence of emotions does not mean that your partner is disinterested, but only that he tries to hide his strategy!
- The whole conference refer to the offer, not to you as individual!
- Avoid personal and expressive behavior which is incompatible with high status!

In emotional cultures, people uncover their feelings and thoughts and this creates transparency. A spirited behavior is admired and physical contact as well as facial expressions are the rule. If you have to manage an emotional cultures like Egypt, Spain, France or Russia:

- Enthusiasm, readiness to agree or vehement denegation do not mean that your partner has already taken a decision.
- The whole conference refer to you as individual and not to the topic or the offer. - Avoid factual and cold behavior, which is interpreted as disrespect and social alienation!

3.4 Diffuse versus specific

In America, people or friends avail themselves without asking of allowance to open your fridge, because here, it is a public area. In Germany it is a private area and it would be seen as impolite to use somebody else´s fridge without asking before. In the diffuse cultures, reputation and status of someone is integrated in a large dimension also in other areas of life. Partners take part both in their public and private areas. If you have to manage a diffuse oriented culture:

- Find out about the history, the background and the imagination of future of the diffuse culture!
- Pay attention to some ones title and his age no matter which topic it is about!
- Notice that private affairs have an impact on business affairs!


1 Arul, John: Managing Workface Diversity for Better Corporate Results

2 Green, Kelli A., Lopez, Mayra, Wysocki, Allen, and Kepner, Karl: Diversity in the Workplace: Benefits, Challenges, and the Required Managerial Tools

3 Köppel, Petra: The Businesscase for Cultural Diversity - Creativity, Learning and Market Orientation p.7

4 Brooks, Peter: Cultural Intelligence: A guide how to working with people from other cultures

5 Lewis, Richard D., 1996, 1999: When cultures collide

6 Trompenaars, Fons: Handbuch globales managen pp. 49-198

Excerpt out of 16 pages


Cultural Diversity Management in Tourism
How to manage workforce diversity
University of Applied Sciences Bremen  (Fakultät1 - Wirtschaftswissenschaften)
Human Resources
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
541 KB
Cultural Dimensions, Fons Trompenaar, Universalism, Collectivism
Quote paper
Jasmin Nowak (Author), 2008, Cultural Diversity Management in Tourism, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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