Linking Diversity and Group Process

Linking Diversity and Group Process

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One of the most effective ways to manage diverse teams and get the most benefits from diversity is to focus on the link between diversity and group process.



Research by Elizabeth A. Mannix and Margaret A. Neale explores how the social science is mixed on whether diversity positively impacts team performance, and highlights the importance of effective diversity management to reap the benefits of diversity on team performance.

Mannix and Neale found that social diversity (such as race, gender, and age) can have negative impacts on group performance if diversity is not managed well. They find that effectively managing diversity to capitalize on the benefits of diversity and minimize potential conflict requires focusing on the connection between diversity and group process. They note that effectively managing diverse teams requires a clear understanding of the organizational context and the purpose of the team, taking into consideration the type of problem to be solved, the organizational culture, and the relevant goals.

Mannix and Neale suggest that the types of problem-solving tasks ideally suited for diverse teams are those that call on innovation and the exploration of new ideas and opportunities. They also highlight an important secondary benefit of diverse teaming: the experimentation and learning that occurs as team members acquire from one another new skills and methods for approaching problem solving, offering an organization longer term benefits beyond performance on the task at hand.

In terms of organizational context, they found cultures that are more cooperative than individualistic pave the way for more productive team interactions across differences. They note how uniting diverse teams around a meaningful goal can create an atmosphere that encourages people to apply their unique perspectives toward helping the team reach its goal.

Mannix and Neale also highlight the importance of providing a way for team members to express opinions that run contrary to the majority view without feeling pressured to conform. This is important for ensuring teams benefit from the full scope of diverse thinking that can enhance problem solving. They note that focusing on the link between diversity and group process is one of the most effective ways to achieve gains from diversity in teams.

In a study by Thomas Kochan and colleagues examining the impact of diversity on group processes and business performance, they note how the academic literature suggests when diversity is not effectively managed, it can have a negative impact on team processes, such as communications. Similar to other research examining the impact of diversity on team performance, their findings draw attention to the importance of effective diversity management.




Kochan, Thomas, Katerina Bezrukova, Robin Ely, Susan Jackson, Aparna Joshi, Karen Jehn, Jonathan Leonard, David Levine, & David Thomas, The Effects of Diversity on Business Performance: Report of the Diversity Research Network, Human Resource Management, Vol. 42, No. 1, March 2003, pp. 3-21.

Mannix, Elizabeth A., & Margaret A. Neale, What Differences Make a Difference? The Promise and Reality of Diverse Teams in Organizations, Psychological Science in the Public Interest, Vol. 6, No. 2, Oct. 2005, pp. 31-55.