Cultural Differences in Army Officers
Every society is different from the other and arranges itself under some certain value and belief system. This belief system is the basic identity of any society or a group of people and is very central in developing them as human beings. More importantly, it plays a significant role in developing the way these members of a society behave and how they interact with each other. One of these aspects which play a central role in the development of human behavior is Culture.
Culture is the fundamental characteristic that defines the way we behave and the way we interact with each other. The lack of knowledge regarding the other person culture can result in the serious lack of judgment regarding the true meaning of someone’s gesture and this misinterpretation can go a long way in harming any society or a relationship between two people. Therefore the study and knowledge becomes more necessary as the realization of how dominantly culture dictates our behavior becomes apparent.
It is an important tool in making us who we are and thus is an important element of who we are. Culture today is seen as an element that helps us in identifying who we are and therefore is a part of our identity.
Diversity has also been an important tool when it comes to relationships between countries even and today being culturally correct is an important knowledge to possess (Garcha). There is no argument that management and organization is the basic fabric of any institute and can be the reason for the success or the apparent downfall of any society. However, as the world gets more globalized, organization and management are fast becoming the most important component of any project.
Since the very beginning, America has been a cultural diverse land with people from varied backgrounds settling and finding themselves a home in this land. However, as more and more culturally divergent groups make their way to America and part of the American society and its workforce, it becomes important to take into consideration the many issues and communication problems that are and can arise in organizational and management of this culturally different group (Sampo Tukiainen).
Diversity in the American workforce has been considered an important aspect which can even be the cause of increase in business and productivity (David A. Thomas, 1996), and is a direct reflection of the American society in general. It is therefore not at all surprising to note that there has been a change in the demographic of the United States Army, and like other aspects of the society, a more culturally divergent form of the Army is now appearing.
While diversity can tend to be considered anything, from the difference in the gender, to the age and the ethnic and religious background to their sexual preferences that can make an individual different from the majority demographic, this study, however would tend to focus on the cultural aspect of the army and the implications of cultural diversity.
While there exists point-of-views that suggest that the reason diversity has become so common a theme within the army is due to the decline in enrollment by the white male, which formed the majority demographic of the army (Heinecken), it also needs to be acknowledged that diversity has not been managed in the most intelligent manner in the Army. This is much evident by the way the African-Americans or the women enrollment was dealt with in the Army. From a predominantly white male population, the army of today has had to make exceptions for various different groups. These groups have gone on to include the Blacks, Hispanics, Gays and Lesbians, Women and even Muslims. Where historically black’s were introduced into the army as a necessity, with the passage of time the participation of the women and other ethnic groups has been tried to ease into the system through the signing and the passing of various policies and Executive Orders, but the desired effect has yet to take its hold (Moon, 1997).
It is also considered that with the majority of groups being represented within the army, there is little chance of any group standing up to claim that their right are not being fulfilled. While much difference has been made by the Civil Movement to an overall perception and rights of various Cultural Groups, it is the personnel prejudices that have often resulted in conflict within the various factors (Heinecken).
With over 1.5 million personnel associated with the army, it becomes very important to ensure the smooth functioning of this Government Institute (Reye, 2006). Little has been done to educate how to deal with diversity in army to all of the hierarchical levels that exist within the army. In the past, efforts have included the signing of the Army’s Equal Opportunity (EO) and Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Programs; however this underlines the very role of diversity in an organization by confusing it with Equal Opportunity (Reye, 2006). Equal opportunity, as has been defined by Reye is primarily focused on individual, whereas diversity “focuses on the organization and its people, with the assumption that differences can bring value to the organization and may enhance mission accomplishments” (Reye, 2006).
This also means that the leadership needs to equip itself with tools that can help it in understanding how to communicate with the various culture groups so that any gesture from them is not taken as a sign of rudeness of insensitive to the belief of that particular group. This now puts more responsibilities on the leadership of today’s military as compared to that of a Generation ago. This knowledge is also important to know what are the best methods that can be employed to get the results that are expected so that production is not compromised while an understanding is communicated to all different groups.
However, a short course has been introduced by Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI) which focuses on issues like diversity and harassment, besides other specific issues. But since the course is limited to only military leadership it can be expected to bring little change in the overall fabric of the army.
Besides this, a new successful programs have been put into place by the Navy and Air force, which focus specifically on how to handle diversity within their ranks, with communication being one of the focus points that have been highlighted for improvement. Some results have even shown an improvement in the overall organizational climate. Still there is a long way to go before any sincere achievements can be claimed (Reye, 2006).
Within the Army, a Army Workforce Diversity statement has been signed and has resulted in the establishment of Army Diversity Working Group (ADWG), with the core intention of seeing the progress that the Institute of Army overall aims to meet in the upcoming years. Not only this, it also aims to ensure that the African-American community in particular becomes a much important aspect of the army, considering the fact that it is the largest minority group in the U.S.A. And thus needs to have an equivalent form or representation within the Army (Reye, 2006).
However, despite the best efforts in integrating diversity and approaching it from a positive outlook, it will take many years before an environment can be created in which diversity is taken less as a challenge and more as an agent of positive development. The problem further aggravates when one takes into consideration the fact that there is no guideline to approach the issue of Cultural diversity management and organization, It is something that needs to be learnt and dealt with, but still the one can equip themselves with the most basic of tools,. These include the cultural know how of the groups that have a presence in the Army in Particular and in the American Society in general. The most basic approaches that can be taken in this regard then are simply education and training programs. But these programs need to cover a wide spectrum of audiences, instead of targeting a set group.
When we say that an Institute like the Army is the representative of the society, then the way we treat people from various backgrounds is also a reflection of the overall American Society. Thus it becomes increasingly important to formulate policies that would take the various cultural elements and the sensitivity required to deal with them into consideration and generate results that can be seen. It is in this background that this research becomes important to undertake so that an overall understanding of the lacking can be traced and then concrete suggestions can be made to ensure the overall development of the Institute of Military as one which is culturally sensitive and is able to run effectively utilizing the full force that it has.
1. Quester, A.O., & Gilroy, C.L. (2001). America’s Military: A Coat of Many Colors. Alexandria, VA: The CNA Corporation
The article takes a look at the background which has resulted…