Playing Nice: 4 Ways You Can Rally a Team Around Its Differences

Rally a Team Around Its Differences

The final matchup of the 2014 World Cup has been set! And no doubt coach Joachim Löw of Germany and Alejandro Sabella of Argentina both understand the same thing: that players from various backgrounds and with diverse playing styles make for the strongest possible team. Embracing team diversity can drive success.

Likewise, the best managers take employees from different cultures and generations, with different approaches to work, and make sure they come together cohesively. Here are four ideas for embracing diversity in the workplace so all staff members feel included and respected and so you can use the team’s differences to propel it forward:

1. Educate yourself about different cultures

When you don’t understand the cultural traditions and customs your employees follow, you can inadvertently alienate them. For instance, if you schedule an important meeting or event on a religious holiday, workers who have to miss the gathering might feel disrespected.

As much as possible, get to know your employees and find out about their backgrounds and beliefs. Encourage them to talk about their experiences, too, if they feel comfortable doing so, so that other employees can understand — and celebrate — the diversity in the workplace.

2. Break down barriers with teamwork

It’s simple human nature for workers to fall into cliques with people who seem similar to themselves. Office friendships can be extremely beneficial, but if the same people always work together, creative thinking can be stifled, and the small group can separate from the larger one. Create project teams with diversity in mind so everyone is exposed to fresh ideas and different ways of doing things.

3. Provide training in conflict resolution

When coworkers come from different cultures and viewpoints, they will occasionally clash — it’s a normal byproduct of having diversity in the workplace. Problems arise if disagreements become personal, are allowed to fester or lead to workers taking sides.

To avoid this, teach your employees how to constructively resolve disputes and stress the importance of always remaining respectful. At the first signs of escalation, have them come to you to help sort things out.

4. Walk the walk, and talk the talk

Sometimes supervisors will show favoritism for people with backgrounds similar to their own without even realizing it. Examine your own behaviors and biases, and make sure you’re treating everyone fairly. As a manager, you must make it crystal clear to your employees that diversity in the workplace is crucial, and every member of the team is equally valued. There’s no better way of doing that than by leading by example.

On the soccer field at the World Cup, players from all walks of life will work together in harmony with a shared goal: advancing to the next round. The same goes for the office. When managers seek out diversity in the workplace and promote a spirit of inclusion, everyone wins.

For more on building and motivating a winning team, download a free copy of our newest resource guide, Creating and Managing the Dream Team.

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