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.

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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 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 (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 in the army becoming a more diversified institute. The article through facts and figures demonstrates a clear and rationale approach to what were the factors that have resulted in this change taking place. The article takes into consideration the period from 1970 onwards and how the All-Volunteer force (AVF) acting as the inducing force for this change.

AO Quester, the senior Economist for the Center for Naval Analyses, and CL Gilroy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, are both individuals that have worked closely with the military institutes. There other publications include topics on more or less the same line which goes on to show their authority in this subject. These other publications includes titles like “Women and Minorities in America’s Volunteer Military,” besides their individual publications, namely, Gilroy’s “Army Recruiting in a Changing Environment” and Quester’s “You can’t get there from here.” The article supports itself by presenting graphs and tables that present with conclusive evidence the change that has appeared in the demographics in the army from 1970’s onwards.

The article will form an important part of the research that is to be conducted since it provides us with the exact insights that have resulted in the cultural mixing that has taken place in the army. The laws and regulations that were the turning point and resulted in the enrolling of the African-American community becoming an important part of the army, thus opening doors for other minorities and ethnic groups as well needs to be taken in to consideration to understand in detail the implication of various policies to make this change come about.

2. Boas, S., & Eyal, B. (2000). Challenges of military leadership in changing armies. Journal of Political and Military Sociology, 28(1), 43-60. Retrieved September 6th 2011, from Questia Database.

With the change in the demographics in the army, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the leadership of the military to organize the various hierarchical levels within army. In this scenario, the role and the way in which the leadership deal with this changing demographics becomes increasingly important to consider and study to ensure the smooth functioning of the department.

Boas Shamir and Eyal Ben-Ari both are authoritative figures in regards to this topic, plus on the general theme of Organizational Management. Both have held several positions as visiting and permanent facilities and have a long list of publications, which includes titles like” Self, meaning and motivation in organizations” and “Blue Helmets and White Armor: Multi-Nationalism and Multiculturalism among UN Peacekeeping Force” from S. Boas and B. Eyal respectively. Their list of penned articles and scholarly works go on to show their command on this topic and the authenticity of their point-of-view. This article too, having appeared in the a scholarly Journal, focuses on the need of a new model that can help in organizing the internal working of the army in a way that would make it survive in the modern times, instead of crumbling under its own burden and internal conflicts.

This article effectively helps us in understanding the problems that are to be faced in the modern time by the leadership of the army as it continues to get more and more pluralistic in nature. The article examines, from the point-of-view from my research question, the very management issues that are to being asked and therefore forms a very important piece to be researched and applied in this research.

3. Masters, S.G. (2000). Diversity in the Military: How Far Should We Go In Pursuing a Diverse Force? Maxwell Air Force Base, AL: Air Command and Staff College.

Employing various case studies, the article explores diversity and how much of an issue diversity is in today’s world. It focuses on why diversity is an essential but also continues to explore the dimension in which diversity can get to be an issue. The work is a research report submitted as a prerequisite for a Graduation; however, it takes into consideration many scholarly works, thus building a solid foundation for its arguments. Also, the many case studies that have been taken into consideration go on to provide a vivid picture of what the author is trying to argue or emphasize.

The issue of diversity in regards to military and army and the possible solutions that can be applied to get a positive result are also discussed in the paper with great detail, which will be an important aspect to study with regards to the management and steps that can be taken to counter diversity in an effective manner.

4. Mastroianni, G.R. (2005). Occupations, Cultures and Leadership in the Army and Air Force. Parameters, Vol 35, Issue 4, 76.

There is no doubt in the fact that army within itself is a culture, distinct from the civilian lifestyle and the overlapping of the sub-culture which the individual carries with him or her to the army and the army culture tend to in some circumstances.

As a Professor of Psychology in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership in U.S. Air Force Academy and a Lieutenant Colonel in the Medical Service Corps in U.S. Army Reserve, his many research projects point towards his authority on the subject matter of military and development projects. One of the basic interest and theme that is much evident in his work is regarding the military culture in terms of leadership.

The study is important since it provides a window into the collision of two variant cultures and how they are being seen in two different organizations.

5. Lloyd J. Matthews, T.P. (Ed.). (1999). Population Diversity and the U.S. Army.

Taking an account of all the various forms of divergent demographics that have existed and have now successfully integrated into the system, the book is an important source of understanding how the integration was successful for the various groups.

Retired Colonel Lloyd J. Matthews of the U.S. Army who is the editor of the book graduated from the U.S. Military Academy, has penned many books regarding similar topics. Not only this, but he has also worked in an editorial capacity for the Scholarly Journal Parameters, the U.S. Army War College quarterly and has even performed duties as the Associate Dean of the U.S. Military Academy. Some of his published works includes titles such as Assessing the Vietnam War (1987), The Challenge of Military Leadership (1989), Challenging the United States Symmetrically and Asymmetrically (1998), besides being the author of some 100 articles in various publications and journals.

The source thus provides us with the tools of understanding how it can be possible to even counter culture related communication problems and conflicts within the organization of military and how similar tools can be adopted or lessons can be learnt from these examples to generate a new understanding of how to have a successful managerial program.

Works Cited

David A. Thomas, R.J. (1996). Making differences matter: A new Paradigm for Managing Diversity. Harvard Business Review, 1-12.

Garcha, A. Diplomatic Culture or Cultural Diplomacy: The role for culture in International negotiation?

Heinecken, P.L. A diverse Society, A Representative Military? The complexity of Managing Diversity in the South African Armed Forces.

Lloyd J. Matthews, T.P. (Ed.). (1999). Population Diversity and the U.S. Army.

Moon, M.M. (1997). Understanding the Impact of Cultural Diversity on Organizations.

Reye, L.C. (2006). Strategic Options for Managing Diversity in the U.S. Army. Washington D.C.: Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

Sampo Tukiainen, A.A. Effects of Cultural Differences on the Outcomes of Global Projects: Some Methodological Considerations.