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The Scenario: Managing a Newly Assembled Team of a Lobby-Group

This scenario is a continuation from the last unit where you have been made a leader-manager of a newly assembled team of a lobby-group. You have full authority to run the organisation as you see fit but are accountable to a large group of fee-paying members to whom you present progress on a bi-monthly basis. They have the power to depose you of your position if you do not fulfil their expectations. They expect you to run the organisation effectively and are particularly sensitive to social perceptions from the community. A such the small work team of four (4) that you are leading is culturally diverse and multi-skilled. 

The organisation is due to start its official operation on the 1 October and all staff, including you, will then start working full-time at the new office which is currently being renovated and prepared. The staff was hired by the team-paying members and you were given their contact details and told to manage all operations and the budget from here on. You decide to call and assemble the team for debriefing and instructions on the 11 September at 10AM. The front door is open and you are in your office preparing for the meeting. You can hear your team arriving and engaging in small talk. The team is not aware that you are in the building yet. You hear the following conversation between your team members:

ROBERT: G’day, I am Robert?

PETER: Hello, my name is Peter?

SARA: And I am Sara, nice to meet you both.

PETER: Hi, nice to meet you too. I am really looking forward to working with you on this exciting new project. 

SARA: What are you doing?

PETER: Excuse me?

SARA: Why are you refusing to shake my hand?

PETER: I am so sorry, in my culture, instead of shaking hands with the opposite sex we bow our heads forward slightly and place our hand and arm across the chest. It is a sign of respect and greeting.

SARA: But you shook Robert’s hand, it is obvious that you are discriminating against me because I am a woman, I find that offensive, inappropriate and disrespectful.

PETER: Again, I am sorry. I have no intention of offending you. It is rather the opposite, I am treating you with respect from the perspective of my culture. My religion prohibits me from shaking hands with a woman that I am not related or married to unless she has a glove or cloth to cover her hand. I follow strict Islamic law. My religious belief does not permit me to shake hands or touch members of the opposite sex who are not family.

SARA: So, you will only shake my hands if I put on gloves? That is un-Australian and sexist and it is very demeaning towards women.

PETER: Please understand that it is not sexist, in this practice it's not just men who don't shake women's hands, women also don't shake hands with men. And this cultural practice is not restricted to Islam, for example some followers of the Jewish faith abide by “Negiah”, which forbids all physical contact with the opposite gender as well as some Hindus and Theravada Buddhists.

Cultural Diversity and Workplace Conflict: Understanding the Issues

SARA: I do understand that people have different cultural, linguistic and religious backgrounds and I respect and am in favour of cultural diversity and religious freedom. I have an open and tolerant attitude. I respect your right to follow whatever religious belief you like, but that doesn't mean that you are allowed to discriminate and in particular allowed to discriminate in the workplace. That stance is incompatible with Equality Policy, and Australian law. 

PETER: It is just a form of greeting. Non-verbal gestures and greetings vary across countries, cultures, and religions. It is a bit like some Indians who greet with their two hands placed together, as if praying like a Christian. Some cultures use bowing, kissing, saluting or touching noses but all are gestures used to greet people, both formally and informally. Not so long ago Western Society etiquette used to be that Gentlemen do not shake hands with a Lady. 

SARA: I am aware of the different nuances of social custom and common courtesy. But refusing to shake hands with women contradicts the social norms that are prevalent within Western society of today, not a hundred years ago. This is asking me to accept Dark Age attitudes towards women. In modern times and in this culture, refusal to shake hands is not only a personal insult but a serious workplace lability.

PETER: I know it is a bit different to what you might be used to but you live in a multicultural society and the intention is very friendly all the same.

SARA: How are you going to represent this company, if you frequently offend company stakeholders? How will you interact with women in the workplace, after you offend them? And how will you be able to take directives from a female superior or treat female co-workers fairly and on an equal basis? And what if there is a medical emergency – would you touch a woman then? 

PETER: look, I am a practicing Muslim and I follow the rules of my religion. I don't understand why you would take exception to me greeting you with my hand on my heart. By shaking hands with a woman, I am breaking a moral code.

SARA: Yes, but by refusing to shake hands with a woman you are breaking an ethical code!

At this point you step in and break the conversation. You cancel the induction and ask to speak to Peter and Sara individually and send everyone else home. You do not want to Postpone Conflict Resolution too long and want to address the fundamentals of the conflict immediately, otherwise, the situation could escalate and could affect employee performance. However, you have to make sure that you do not to address the situation too quickly or without careful consideration, as your decision will directly affect the demeanour and performance of your staff. After you have spoken with them individually, you made an Action Plan and then you organised a Resolution Meeting with both of them at 10AM on the 15 September to present them your decision. Neither Sara nor Peter were willing to compromise on their position or to change their stance.

The Challenges of Managing Cultural Diversity in the Workplace

Both of the parties refused to compromise and in the end Peter and Sara could not both be appeased at the same time. One of the parties had to yield, or they both had to compromise a bit but neither of them was prepared to change their opinions and compromise on their original stance. You as the manager had to make an Action Plan to deal with the situation and you had to make a decision which, unfortunately and subsequently, would favour one person over the other. The person who had to yield in accordance with your decision took the matter to the Australian Human Right Commission. The Commission is a statutory body funded by, but operating independently of, the Australian Government. It is responsible for investigating alleged infringements of Australia's anti-discrimination legislation in relation to Commonwealth agencies. The AHRC started the process to decide if your managerial decision caused "discrimination on the grounds of existing legislation. First there was a conciliation meeting organised. 

At the reconciliation meeting the Applicant stated that they would withdraw their complaint if they received a written apology and financial compensation to the value of $25,000. You have decided not to take that offer and to defend your position in court. The matter is being heard in The Federal Court of Australia in Canberra. 

You have received a quote from a legal firm and it will cost you at least $85,000 to have legal representation. As such you have decided to defend your position as a self-defended applicant. You must now carefully prepare for this hearing as a loss would mean that your company would go into financial liquidation and bankruptcy and you and your fellow team members would lose your jobs. You must first write an affidavit, which is going to be the evidence you are going to rely on to win the case. You must also attach your Action Plan as an appendix to the affidavit.

To get a satisfactory grade (S) - your work MUST be a professionally formatted "Affidavit" that could be used in an Australian Court and a professionally formatted PLAN attached as an appendix to the affidavit. Do this assignment individually or MAXIMUM two (2) in a team, and if you work in a team your cover-page must state who the team members are. It MUST also contain ALL of the following Items:

Cover-page! - It must contain: Name and location of College, Student Name, Student Id, Unit Code, Unit Name, Assessment Name, Assessment Submission Date and Name of Trainer.

Affidavit – This will be the evidence that you aim to use at the Court Hearing to prove that you made the right decision. It must state in Legal terms and language what happened; when and where it happened; under what circumstances; what your actions were; what your decision was and why you made that decision; your interpretation of the Sex Discrimination Act and your interpretation of “Religious Freedom” and its relationship with the law. Here you must justify your decision by explaining how you interpreted the law and why you made your decision and the affidavit should contain the evidence to prove that you are not guilty of discrimination in the workplace.

Action Plan - You must develop an action plan to address the difficulties that the team has been experiencing and attach the plan as an appendix to the affidavit. The Action Plan must detail: The purpose of the action plan; Timeline for the action plan; All issues in the scenario; The proposed action/s; Resources required; Deadline dates and the review date of the action plan.

This exercise is about you demonstrating that you are able to; produce a professional document and incorporate appropriate vocabulary and grammatical structure; establish organisational policy regarding diversity and ethical conduct; formulate and implementing plans, processes and strategies that impact the workplace; systematically gather and analyse relevant information to make decisions about organisational strategies; develop an action plan to address identified difficulties and implement strategies to ensure that difficulties in workplace relationships are identified and resolved.

This exercise is also about you demonstrating that you are able to; outline legislation relevant to managing effective workplace relationships; establish an organisational policy regarding diversity and ethical conduct; establish policies to ensure that the organisation’s cultural diversity and ethical values are adhered; identify and resolve conflicts and other difficulties according to organisational policies and procedures and that you are able to plan how to address difficulties.

The Scenario: Managing a Newly Assembled Team of a Lobby-Group







                                                                            AFFIDAVIT IN SUPPORT OF

                                                                       THE MAGERIAL DECISION MADE

AUSTRALIA                               )


I, Tony Dion, the team manager, being duly sworn upon my oath hereby indicate the following statements to be true and accurate:

  1. On 11th September at around 10 am, the team of employees were coming together for a debriefing meeting in my office. Unfortunately, Sara and Peter had a disagreement when the latter would not shake Sara’s hand. This occurrence led to an argument where both parties were trying to prove their position and beliefs to be more valid in the given situation. This is when I decided to intervene to get the conflict under control before it was too late.
  2. After having a personal discussion with both parties, I set a date for a resolution meeting on the 15th of September. Here, I made the following decision and tried to show reasons for it so that both employees would be satisfied. First, I stated that Peter was not being discriminative when he refused to shake Sara’s hand. This is because it was a moral code in his Islamic belief. I mentioned that he still showed respect by slightly bowing his head. I took note that he tried to explain the same to the plaintiff who was still insisting that she was being discriminated against for being a woman (Jones, Cannilla & Slepian, 2015). Second, I considered the Plaintiff’s position and could not find any supportive statistics indicating that hand shake was discriminative. I concluded that what was happening was simply a case of conflict resulting from cultural diversity. Both parties were coming from completely different cultures with varying beliefs. I pleaded with them to try and be accommodating of each other’s cultural and religious backgrounds to avoid any more conflicts in future (‘Translating cultures across borders’, (2015).
  3. The decisions made were based upon my interpretation of the Sex Discrimination Act, as well as the freedom of religion. I related these two aspects to come up with a reasonable solution. According to the Sex Discrimination Act, gender identity discrimination occurs when one is treated less favorably due to gender-related identity or characteristics. In this case, the plaintiff argued that she was being discriminated against for being a woman because Peter would not shake her hand. I interpreted this Act by focusing on the term “less favorably.” It is clear that Peter’s refusal to shake Sara’s hand was not meant to treat her with disrespect. On the contrary, he replaced this action with a slight bow of the head which is also a respectful form of acknowledgement (Earley & Mosakowski, 2004). If Peter had simply refused to acknowledge the plaintiff, then gender discrimination would have taken place. In relation to religious freedoms, it became evident that Australia offers protection for religion in terms of freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief. Therefore, it is evident that no one should be forced to give up their religious beliefs (Klein, 2016). To interpret this, I considered the fact that Peter had no ill intentions against the plaintiff as he was still respectful.
  4. Considering the findings from my interpretation above, it became apparent that the decision would favor Peter. He would be allowed to carry on with his belief, while the plaintiff would have to learn to be accommodating of him, as long as she is not disrespected in any way.




I, the undersigned Notary Public, do hereby attest that the Affiant did appear before me this day of September, 1996, and upon his oath, did affix his signature hereto.

________________________________________                                                                                                                  SEAL                                                                                


My Commission Expires:

The Purpose of this action plan is to highlight the issues which the team of employees has been experiencing. It seeks to offer possible recommendations on how these issues may be resolved to ensure an effective and productive performance of the team members.

Hold a team meeting- 1 day

Identification of issues- 1 week

Obtaining recommendations from team members- 1 week

Summarizing the recommendations and Implementing the Action Plan- 3 days

The main issues which were identified by the team members were all related to cultural differences. They felt like this led to a higher chance of conflict as they were not familiar with the backgrounds of one another. In addition, it made it difficult for them to understand the cultures of others, and know when to take offence.

It is proposed that all team members be educated on the cultural and religious backgrounds of others. It will help them to have a better understanding of the reasons why one would act like they do.

The resources which will be needed include reading materials and even movies on the different cultures present in the group.

This Action Plan will be reviewed 1 month after its implementation.


Earley, P. C., & Mosakowski, E. (2004). Toward culture intelligence: Turning cultural differences into a workplace advantage. Academy Of Management Executive, 18(3), 151-157. doi:10.5465/AME.2004.28561784

Jones, G. E., Cannilla, L., & Slepian, J. L. (2015). Perceptions of Moral Wrongfulness of Unethical Workplace Behaviors: Gender and Cultural Differences. Journal of Competitiveness Studies, 23(4), 36-45.

Klein, H. J. (2016). Commitment in organizational contexts: Introduction to the special issue. Journal of Organizational Behavior. pp. 489-493. doi:10.1002/job.2103.

Translating cultures across borders. (cover story). (2015). Human Capital, 19(6), 14-21.

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