When Culture And Diversity Clash

When culture and diversity clash, Photo by Headway on Unsplash

Research confirms that increasing the diversity of teams and organizations yields better results. The variety of different  experiences, skills and personalities increases the possibility of uncovering better solutions. The problem is diversity comes at a price. Leading diverse teams is much more difficult than a team of people who have similar, complimentary characteristics. Let me illustrate this with an example from a recent client meeting.

Managing diversity is challenging

My client finds it difficult to work with one of the members of their team. This person appears to be motivated by personal as much as shared team success. They are always promoting their results when others on the team prefer to let the results speak for themselves. Banging your own drum isn’t something people do in this organization. They are used to and expect high performance. There is no need to brag about it.

On the face of it, my client’s team mate doesn’t seem like a very good fit for the team. Their behavior rubs people the wrong way, so perhaps they should find anther team? But what if they are doing excellent work? Is this an example of a brilliant jerk who shouldn’t be tolerated? I suspect, receiving recognition is very important for this person. In fact, they do their best work when they are feeling appreciated and recognized. Isn’t high performance what the team is seeking and is this person’s behavior really harming the team?

Talking is key

On a diverse team, this kind of dilemma is normal. People on the team will have different personalities and behaviors. You should expect there to be natural conflict. The key is to talk about it as a team. When it isn’t, the issue is there and everyone knows about it. If they talk about it, understanding will grow on all sides. The team member will know they need to tone it down a bit and their peers will know they need to recognize this person. Much more than they do for others. This could also be a very positive change for the team and the organization who don’t value providing recognition. Perhaps the whole organization will benefit and perform better if sharing recognition was the norm.

Comments (1)

Valuable insight Andy. I remember working on some amazing and empowered teams years ago at Boeing. We went through “personality profile” training together as teams and discovered things about one another we would have never known otherwise. We learned what we could expect from ourselves and others. We committed to use our differences as one of our strengths. We learned to listen — really listen to the whole team. As a result we helped launch the Space Station, built other amazing products, and we loved working together.

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