Gender Matters Blog

30 Nov

Diverse teams perform better, but…

Research has clearly shown that teams comprising members with diverse backgrounds, experiences, skills, gender, etc. perform better than homogenous teams or those with low diversity.  If you doubt this, imagine a team made up of clones of yourself.  How well would that team cope with complex business or personal issues, compared with a more diverse team?

The problem is that in-group bias causes us to naturally prefer to work with and mix with people similar to ourselves.  We are more comfortable with, and relate better to, people of similar background, skills, gender, personality type, etc. and those with whom we share common experiences in our past lives.  For example, we usually relate well to, and will favour, those with whom we have played team sports, or those who have been in class with us at school or university, or those we have worked with in a project team.  In-group bias is hardwired into our unconscious mind, so it is hard to consciously overcome it.

So although we know that working in a diverse team will generally produce better results and a more effective team overall, it will not be as comfortable for us as individuals as working in a more homogenous team with people like ourselves.  And research has shown that many people prefer to be more comfortable and have more fun at work rather than be more efficient, if they have to choose.  So how can organisations overcome the inclination of many of their staff members to choose not to join more diverse teams so they can be more comfortable and enjoy their work more?

Anonymous commented on 26-Dec-2015 03:36 PM
Management can set up diverse project teams and ensure the team has what it needs to be successful. The team should then be well rewarded (promotion of team members) for any successes it achieves. These successful, diverse teams can be highlighted as good examples of what management want to see. This will lead more people to want to join such a team - for the rewards and recognition.
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