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Equal opportunity in the workplace entails the act of treating employees fairly without prejudice and discrimination. The notion of equal opportunities in the workplace is based on the principle that all employees should be given a level playing field in the workplace irrespective of their gender, race or attribute.
Equal opportunity in the workplace is a myth as many organizations have not fully embraced the concept. The art of managing employees in the organization is mainly about managing their diversity. Each employee is usually different with different ethnic background, gender, age and race.
Whether the employee is disabled or not, he or she has different skills, values, attitudes and expectations and therefore equal opportunity in the workplace is aimed at maximizing the potentials of individuals (McKenzie & Baker, 2006, 14).
Why equal opportunity in the workplace is a myth
The following explains why equal opportunity in the workplace is a myth rather than a reality in many organizations today;
In many organizations, employment equity is lacking i.e. many organizations have not fully embraced the practice of hiring minorities or women. Many organizations worldwide do not hire, promote, support or value female employees equally to men.
Instead, these organizations do not take into account an important resource in a business environment that is competitive. Many companies have chosen to disregard women or the minority and only a few companies have extended their recruitment pool to embrace women in the workplace.
The lack of employment equity among organizations implies that these companies lacks a competitive edge due to the fact that they fail to select the most experienced, talented and creative employees as a result of their gender. Diversity in organizations is associated with a cost reduction, increase in productivity, an increase in the market share and improved management quality.
The few companies that have realized the importance of diversity in the workplace has initiated new equity plans. Employment equity is however least in many developing countries as only a few proportions of women hold managerial positions. In addition, only a few women in these countries have access to learning opportunities to train them for the managerial jobs.
In industrialized nations, women aspiring to hold managerial positions face barriers with regards to full participation such as lack of access to resources particularly to jobs that offer wages and promotional opportunities similar to men. In most instances, women face barriers in participating in management as a result of such factors as race and ethnicity and the employing industry (Kainer, 2006, 25).
Equal opportunity is a myth due to the fact that many organizations across the globe have hired unqualified workers and thus locking out qualified employees. Many organizations have resulted into hiring workers who are not qualified for the sake of reaching some numerical objectives.
Equal opportunity is not all about placing a person in a job due to the association that he or she has but it is all about encouraging recruitment and retention of persons who have qualified. Most organizations have adopted affirmative action programs in an effort to ensure that there is equal opportunity in the workplace. Whereas affirmative action has the effect of ensuring that there is equal representation, it has some limitations such as hiring unqualified individuals.
Organizations thus ends up hiring individuals who are unqualified as a result of the protected class status and this is illegal since qualified people ends up being not considered for the same positions. Therefore, equal opportunity is a myth and not a reality since affirmative action often leads to preferential treatment in employment as it does not consider ability and competence characteristics of a worker.
Although affirmative action increases the number of women in sectors where they are underrepresented, the individuals who are hired under the affirmative action programs are usually perceived by others as less competent (Weston, 2002, 8-10).
Equal opportunities in the workplace are a myth as most organizations are faced with the challenge of accommodating employees with disabilities. Most organizations particularly in low developed countries have not structured their workforces so that it is representative. People with disabilities have not benefited by securing employment opportunities in greater numbers.
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Also, there are inequalities with regards to the incomes earned by people with disability as opposed to the salaries that is earned by their counterparts who are not disabled. In developed nations, diversity has not occurred in the workplace too and people with disability are usually not treated the same with the rest of the employees. The rate of unemployment among the persons with disabilities has remained relatively high over the years. The truth of the matter is that organizations fears that their insurance costs will rise if they hire persons with disabilities.
Other organizations refrains from accepting working with disabled persons as they consider them to be unsafe workers who are accident prone. Other employers consider these persons to be unproductive as they have high rates of absenteeism.Persons with disabilities are usually not given equal employment opportunities in such jobs as medicine, nursing, dentistry and allied health professions, engineering, law, teaching among others. Therefore, the equal opportunity in the workplace is a myth and not a reality as people with disabilities are not accommodated in many organizations across the globe (Anderson, 2010, 5).
Also, the equal opportunity in the workplace is a myth due to the biographic influences, family experiences, personal characteristics and the number of hours worked that causes people to experience an imbalance between home and work life. The biographical influences that affect the work-life balance include gender and family characteristics. Usually, women experiences work-life conflicts than men. The personal characteristics that have an effect on work-life balances include life and job involvement.
The number of hours worked also contributes to the imbalance between home and work life. Imbalance that exists between home and work usually occurs in three main areas i.e. life and job satisfaction, physical and psychological health and desire to leave and organizational commitment. A clear balance between home and work requires to be maintained.
Many organizations lacks a clear cut between home and work and this leads to job dissatisfaction among the employees. This also causes physical and psychological health problems. Many organizations fail to assist their employees to manage the balance between work and home.
Most employers do not recognize the impact of maintaining a balance between work and home life on their employees. In many organizations, work-life policies are not developed evenly. Also; organizations are concerned that the compulsory leaves that are required for everyone will be used for leisure activities.
The equal opportunity in the workplace is therefore a myth as many employers do not maintain a balance between work and home life on their employees particularly the women workers and thus causing job dissatisfaction (Reddy, 2007, 11).
Equal opportunity in the workplace is a myth due to the fact that there is too much bullying and work-related stress among organizations. Many organizations across the globe have reported cases s in stress and depression amongst their workforce. Usually, employees in their mid thirties in high stress jobs are likely to experience anxiety or depression as compared to those who are in low-stress jobs.
Many human resource departments do not put policies aimed at countering the work-related stress. There is lack of consistency as some staff is provided withy better support than others. Employees who are supported usually have a feeing that their issues are addressed by their managers and so, they have lower rates of developing work-related stress.
Most organizations do not take demonstrate a just and fair approach when supporting their workforce and hence equal opportunity in the workplace is just but a myth. With regards to bullying, many people are bullied everyday and this has contributed to stress-related sicknesses amongst the employees in most organizations.
Many employees results to committing suicides as a result of being bullied by others in the workplace. Bullying results to an abuse of position and power and so, it signifies that there is a problem within the organization (Lutgen-Sandvik, & Sypher, 2009, 1-3).
Many human resource managers fail to intervene early and hence a person tenders his or her resignation or he or she goes off sick (Laura & Reese, 2004). Bullying in the workplace occurs in various forms among them blocking developments and job opportunities, being excluded from meetings, malicious actions and rumors, victimizing and undermining employees, setting unrealistic expectations, setting workloads that are unrealistic, setting unachievable timescales among others.
As a result of being bullied, a large number of employees suffer from stress and depression and are thus unable to continue serving in the organization. Their mental and physical health as well as their financial circumstances is also affected and hence the notion that equal opportunity in the workplace is a myth (Leka, Griffiths, & Cox, 2003, 8).
The other aspect that shows that equal opportunity in the workplace is a myth is through discipline and grievance. In many firms, the procedures for handling disciplines and grievances seldom go hand-in-hand. In most cases, the procedures of airing grievances address quite different aspects and thus, the employee’s performance in relation to his or her role is affected.
For instance, an employee’s efficiency may be impaired following a long-standing sickness which is exclusively out of his or her control. In many organizations, the overall objective of discipline and grievance is punitive rather than encouraging appropriate behavioral changes so that the employees can improve in their workplaces. Therefore, disciplinary procedures do not help in promoting fairness regarding the way the employees are treated in the workplace and hence the notion that equal opportunity in the workplace is just but a myth (Lowenstein, 2001, 7).
Also, employees are usually not informed of the complaints against them and so, they are deprived of the opportunity to narrate their cases before certain decisions can be concluded. Most employees are usually dismissed for their first disciplinary offences even if their case does not result to gross misconduct.
They are also not provided with an opportunity of appealing and so; equal opportunity in the workplace is just but a myth. Grievance procedures forms important components of human resource processes as they ensure that the employees are given an opportunity of bringing to notice cases where they feel that they have not been treated in a fair manner. Very often, organizations do not consider the grievances that are raised by the employees.
With regards to grievance procedures, there are various issues that do not amount to equal opportunities in the workplace such as; many employees lack confidence as far as the grievance system is concerned. The employees do not believe that their issues will be taken into consideration once they raise them before the management. Most people lack confidence as they hold the view that they will get punished as a result of raising their issues and hence the notion those equal opportunities in the workplace are a myth.
In many organizations, employees with disabilities do not have an equal access to the grievance procedures as they are not supported. This is so especially where the grievances require being in writing. The situation is even worse as they find it hard to express them in a case where English is not the first language of employees with disability. Therefore, equal opportunity in the workplace is just but a myth (Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, 2008, 6-7).
The other reason as to why equal opportunity in the workplace is a myth is the failure by many organizations to embrace the culture of performance management. Organizations that fail to embrace the culture of performance management in their workplace do not provided their workforce with an opportunity to work at optimum level. Also many organizations do not set objectives at employee’s level and thus the employee is not rewarded as a result of his or her achievements in the organization (Martinez, 2000, 3-5).
However, there are few organizations that have ensured that there is equal opportunity in the workplace is a reality and not a myth. For instance, the past few years has seen female workers entering the labor market in larger proportions. Employees with disabilities have also been accorded a level playing field with those who are not disabled. Despite these, most organizations have not fully embraced the culture of equal opportunity in the workplace and therefore, the concept has remained a myth (Nielsen, 2006, 5).
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