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Managing Diverse Teams

Most workplaces include diverse staff and teams and with this comes new perspectives and benefits, as well as new challenges. Managers have the potential to create a safe environment in these teams where every member feels respected and valued. 

There are four cornerstones of diversity development: Be knowledgeable—inform yourself and broaden your knowledge about other cultures. Be understanding—when you know why a person acts in a certain way, you can understand them and their perspective better. Be accepting and respect the values and behaviors of other cultures. Watch your behavior—if you have the knowledge, understanding and acceptance you can start to improve your behavior. 

When managing a diverse team, establish an open-door communication policy up-front. It will encourage your employees to engage in discussion and offer suggestions as feedback. For this to be successful, the team must be able to express their concerns with you.  Be proactive in handling diversity issues by creating a team agreement. A team agreement establishes guidelines and conduct for working together toward common goals and productivity. Creating one with your team promotes unity and reduces conflict by getting members to collaborate. 

Managers of multigenerational teams must be able to encourage each age group to work together. Familiarize yourself with generational distinctions—it will help you build a collaborative approach to managing the team. To mitigate generational tension, create opportunities for cross-training within the group and pair team members from different generations together. This can open up a respectful dialogue between members of different generations.

When a team member acts inappropriately, it’s the manager’s responsibility to stop and mitigate the issue. STOP is also a four-prong technique for dealing with diversity issues. State the inappropriate behavior objectively to the offender. Tell them how you feel when they behave this way. Offer alternative options to the offender, and talk to them about what the positive results will be if they change this behavior.

Encourage inclusivity by practicing self-monitoring—pay closer attention to social situations so you can change your behavior to fit the situation. Use cues from others as a guideline for regulating and controlling your communications. Give positive reinforcement and use anecdotes to keep morale up and diffuse negative energy. Modeling good behavior will give the team an example of positive self-monitoring.

Diverse teams are an essential part of organizations. When successfully managed, each team member feels safe, respected and valued, and the team can reach its full potential.  

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the view of the American Chemical Society.

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