Working with Diverse People
The increased globalization and competition in the international workforce area have made almost industrialized countries be heterogeneous. Technological advances have brought people from around the whole world much closer to one another than previously. As a result, business companies and educational systems seek for effective ways to serve their constituents and attract highly qualified employees. Such a diverse workforce has raised the concern of many scholars. The study of the relationship between diversity and team performance is significant: it has become a challenge for modern organizations to manage such a workforce in an effective way. The global economy requires a high level of interaction among individuals from different backgrounds or similar attitudes toward issues. For this reason, companies need diversity to increase the level of organizational effectiveness, become creative as well as be ready for changes. According to Jackson and Joshi (2004), employers must understand how workforce diversity affects their organizations to manage it effectively. In order to complete this task, agencies often monitor and compare the experience of employees with diverse demographic backgrounds, including males versus females or members of different ethnic communities. The analysis of the study shows that diversity has a direct relation to the quality of team performance as the former affects it either positively or negatively.
The Concept of Diversity
In order to understand the relation between diversity and work performance, one should determine and analyze the meaning of the former one. According to Kearney, Gebert, and Voelpel (2009), diversity can be defined “as the distribution of differences among the members of a team with respect to a common attribute” (p. 583). Pitts (2009) supports this definition and notes that diversity management serves as an element used for human resources management. Programs and processes that promote the functioning of diversity management vary substantially among agencies (Pitts, 2009). They include training plans, friendly policies, educational programs as well as advocacy groups (Pitts, 2009). Joshi and Roh (2009) note that diversity functions as a team-level aspect, which reflects differences among participants of a work group with unique personal attitudes.
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There are two types of diversity, mainly relations-oriented and task-oriented (Joshi & Roh, 2009). The attributes of the former refer to informational and skill-based differences that are apparent among group workers. These elements include educational qualities, tenure as well as function. Joshi and Roh (2009) assume that these constituents form the basis of the cognitive source of a team. They also refer to the elaboration-based processes that presuppose the exchange of data and ideas among group participants, gaining feedback, processing data on a personal level as well as its integration (Joshi & Roh, 2009). Such processes contribute to receiving positive performance consequences from workforce diversity. Boone and Hendriks (2009) support this statement by claiming that this type of diversity is cognitive by its nature and can increase organizational performance due to the asymmetric distribution of data within the members of the team. It also serves as a precondition for efficient decision-making. The second type of diversity includes such elements as gender, age, and cultural background (Joshi & Roh, 2009). These attributes are cognitively accessible, widespread, and permanent as they refer to the social categorization procedures (Joshi & Roh, 2009). However, such processes may have negative performance outcomes because they prove negative attitudes of individuals toward dissimilar ones.
Cognition plays an essential role in managing diversity and making it effective for the organization. According to Kearney et al. (2009), cognition serves as a regulator of the relations between age and education diversity, on the one hand, and assessment of data that corresponds to tasks, collective team identification, and work performance, on the other one. The need for the cognition usually promotes the use of the potential in educational and age diverse groups. Kearney et al. (2009) argue that people differ in their motivation to engage in cognitive actions. It means that their need for cognition is different. Individuals with low “need for cognition are chronic cognitive misers, whereas individuals high in need for cognition are chronic cognizers” (p. 583). The latter ones try to find and carefully process data in numerous areas, while the former ones rely on simple cues and stereotypes in interpreting events (Kearney et al., 2009). As a result, cognition as a constituent part of diversity affects the efficiency of the work performance of an organization.
Diversity and Team Performance
Workforce diversity is a challenging issue faced by American and global organizations in the modern society. Jackson and Joshi (2004) underline the fact that managing a diverse workforce in an effective way is one of the organizational capabilities required for agencies that attempt to obtain sustainable competitive benefits and maintain their legal and economic stability. Pitts (2009) claims that the elaboration of diversity problems helps stabilize the protection of workers at all levels of employment, mainly recruitment and selection. These aspects have a direct relation to the process of enhancing the quality of team performance.
Team performance is known “as the extent to which a team accomplishes its goal or mission” (Joshi & Roh, 2009, p. 601). In their article, Kearney et al. (2009) examine the relation of cognition to the increase in the rate of the effective performance of a team. The authors state that unlike ethnic, gender, and background diversity, age diversity helps identify potentially valuable aspects of such resources as prospects, experience as well as social network connections (Kearney et al., 2009). Such diversity provides the opportunity to establish the transmission of ideas and a combination of resources, which may ultimately increase team performance. In the survey of eighty-three teams from eight agencies, the researchers evaluated the team’s need for cognition (Kearney et al., 2009). The study revealed that diversity was positive only if the team’s need for cognition reached a high rate (Kearney et al., 2009). The evidence also points to the fact that the average need for cognition in teams serves as a determinant of the degree to which they receive benefits from educational and age diversity.
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Another investigation conducted by Jackson and Joshi (2004) shows that the understanding of the relations between team diversity and its performance may be reached by taking into account the combined influence of demographic or social contexts and unit diversity. The authors assume that there are three elements of the social context which can moderate the effects of demographic diversity on the quality of performance (Jackson & Joshi, 2004). These aspects include the combination of diversity features within a group of employees, the demographic characteristics of its manager as well as the demography of the whole unit. Jackson and Joshi (2004) conducted their investigation in ABC Company. In the organization workforce, 32% were females, 14% accounted for African Americans, and 7% were Hispanic Americans, while the proportion of Asian Americans and other ethnic groups constituted only 5% (Jackson & Joshi, 2004). In the survey of 365 sales teams, Jackson and Joshi (2004) found that the demographic social context substantially moderated the relationship between team diversity and its performance. They also revealed that the influence on work performance of any type of diversity depended on the other ones that were present in the team. Regarding the characteristics of managers, Jackson and Joshi (2004) discovered that the increasing gender diversity within a team referred to a performance decrease only for female leaders. In units with male employers, gender diversity was not linked to team performance (Jackson & Joshi, 2004). The third aspect under investigation showed no significant differences. Overall, the study provides an insight of how demographic diversity affects the performance of a company.
Team variables may also alter the effectiveness of performance. In their article, Boone and Hendriks (2009) present the analysis of how such variables as collaborative conduct, accurate data exchange, and decentralization of the decision-making process moderate the relationship between firm management and diversity. Boone and Hendriks (2009) found that the first two variables are conditions that increase the performance benefits of functional background diversity. However, the potential advantage of such diversity can be considered as effective firm performance only if members operate as a collaborative team, exchange data as well as take part in the process of making decisions (Boone & Hendriks, 2009). The provided evidence makes one assume that there exist both positive and negative effects of diversity on agency performance.
Positive and Negative Influence of Diversity on Work Performance
The positive effects of diversity are likely to appear when tasks are complex and non-routine, while the adverse impact usually decreases over time. According to Jackson and Joshi (2004), diversity is beneficial as it may provide social investment and cognitive resources that increase the performance of the tasks that require problem solving. The concept can contribute to improved performance in a team for several reasons. First, tenure diversity helps ensure that the group of employees understands both the competition and internal environment (Jackson & Joshi, 2004). Second, individuals with diverse attitudes may offer comprehensive solutions to the problem during the process of its solving (Jackson & Joshi, 2004). For example, ethnic and gender diversity can enhance the ability of the team to understand the perspectives of a variety of customers. Third, it may also improve the ability of workers to take into account alternative interpretations and form creative solutions, which combine diverse perspectives (Jackson & Joshi, 2004). Fourth, it may enhance the possibility of foreseeing benefits and costs of the company. Finally, diverse workforce may increase the network of external contacts for a team, which provides the opportunity to access valuable expertise (Jackson & Joshi, 2004). Diversity is likely to show positive results when the organizational culture sees it as an opportunity to reach integration. ABC Company, which Jackson and Joshi (2004) investigate in their study, emphasizes the significance of the continuous improvement of provided services and products. As a result, the organization of a team encourages workers to share their knowledge and ideas concerning problems, which ultimately improves their performance. However, agencies should also take into consideration possible negative consequences of workforce diversity.
Despite the fact that demographically diverse groups may have higher performance potential than homogeneous ones, they often face performance deficits. Jackson and Joshi (2004) claim that “diversity seems to be particularly disruptive for the performance of teams striving to achieve efficiency” (p. 681). It may also undermine a variety of interpersonal processes, which can hinder the performance. Employees from diverse units may be less friendly toward one another and experience more conflict situations (Jackson & Joshi, 2004). It may also enhance the significance of social identities because of demographic features, which can make workers show favoritism toward similar individuals and discriminate those who are different (Jackson & Joshi, 2004). The other aspect to consider is that social categorization may increase the creation of stereotypes that may result in the conduct not showing the resources that persons bring to their team (Jackson & Joshi, 2004). Overall, diversity provides more positive outcomes than the negative ones.
In conclusion, the findings of the study reveal that diversity is directly associated with the quality and effectiveness of team performance. Two types of diversity, mainly relations-oriented or cognitive and task-oriented, refer to obtaining positive and negative outcomes, respectively. Faced with inevitably rising rates of diversity, teams should find possible ways to prevent the occurrence of differences among employees, disruption of communication as well as cooperation, which might influence performance. Overall, diversity is beneficial to companies. However, there are also cases related to a diverse workforce that may pose adverse consequences to an agency or organization.