A Guide To Managing Employees From Diverse Economic Backgrounds

One of the biggest challenges managers face is dealing with employees from different economic backgrounds. What is most important when dealing with these kinds of differences is not to make assumptions. Little innocuous seeming request can create inner stress which then erupts into outer conflict, said Paula Langguth Ryan, Co-founder of Compassionate Mediators.

We talked with Pablo Solomon who helped develop several  programs for colleges, school districts and the U.S. Dept. of Education. Here are a few suggestions from him on how to manage these different kinds of employees.

  • Set clear cut rules for everyone. Period.
  • Demand that all workers produce and do not give any slack to anyone for any reason.
  • If necessary, provide additional training on things as simple as  politeness, dressing for success, how to handle the stresses of work, etc.
  • If you have not done so already, make certain that all of your  employees understand the necessity of being non-biased at work and  interacting in a polite and productive manner.
  • Studies have shown that when minorities are put into the work place and they break the preconceived
    stereotypes that their fellow workers will not only accept them as individuals, but will have a better view of that group in general.  However, when minorities, people with disabilities, etc. behave in a
    negative stereotypical manner that prejudices are reinforced.
  • People from lower socioeconomic backgrounds often have a lot of  baggage that they must overcome–negative attitudes, poor work habits,  home problems, trouble with transportation, etc. However, at work they
    must put all that aside and perform in a positive and productive manner  or be fired—it is that simple.
  • If you put up with poor behavior or poor productivity from any worker  because you “feel sorry for them” or want to try some experiment in  “social justice” are not only hurting them, but will destroy the morale
    of your productive workers.
  • Your employees do not have to like each other out side of the work  place, but at work you have a right to demand that they get along in a  polite and productive manner.
  • The bottom line is that non-bias cuts both ways—no one should experience discrimination nor should they be given a free ride.
  • Also, from Paula Langguth Ryan, don’t make assumptions that people always have money. Asking someone to pick something up on their way to the office that they would need to pay for with the comment “I’ll reimburse you” (assumes they have extra cash available to front for the expense) Have petty cash available and ALWAYS extend the money or call ahead and prepay for whatever is needed with a corporate card. Also, do not assume that people have the ability to use their own credit cards to take care of travel expenses. Anyone needing to do travel should have either a corporate credit card or the company should have a policy that
    pre-pays for all travel through the HR department.
  • Ryan also said cultivating a culture where baby showers, wedding showers, birthday gifts, retirement parties and such are held at the office in a visible way where people are expected to “contribute” instead of the company doing something for the person; the same goes for people in upper levels of management who bring in little Joey’s baseball fundraising effort or little Jane’s girl scout cookie effort. the implied pressure others feel about needing to “keep up” or demonstrate they’re team players with their wallets can actually create amazing stress and strain that shows up in seemingly unrelated ways. Have all “parties” sponsored by the company, like a monthly celebration that celebrates everything that’s happening that month rather than separate parties for everyone. Encourage employees to celebrate off site if they want to do individual events for people. When you’ve got 100 employees and every month 4-5 are having some sort of celebratory event, even at $5 a pop, that’s an extra $20 to $25 that some employees may not have available in their budgets.
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    • Jenny

      “People from lower socioeconomic backgrounds often have a lot of baggage that they must overcome–negative attitudes, poor work habits, home problems, trouble with transportation, etc. However, at work they must put all that aside and perform in a positive and productive manner or be fired—it is that simple. ”

      Uh, what? Other than transportation issues, that is some ridiculous, classist bullshit right there.