Wahida was complaining that Hernandez did not understand her and Fred’s abrupt comments were upsetting to Ling. Everyone seemed to be pulling in a different direction and Michael had no idea how to bring it all together. Individually, these people were all brilliant, that’s why they were chosen for this project, but together it was just a nightmare. How could Michael make a cohesive team out of this widely diverse group and he wondered, whoever said that ‘diversity was the only way forward for innovation’? They had a lot to answer for!
What Michael needs to do is develop a collectivist culture, where he engages the team to focus on shared objectives and cooperation. Reward systems need to be team based rather than individually based and collective team interests need to take precedence over individual interests. In developing a collectivist culture, workers focus less on internal competition and differences and more on collaboration and cooperation.
The idea is to “benefit from employees’ backgrounds and experiences, while promoting teamwork and a cohesive organization” (McMillan-Capehart). Members of strong collectivist cultures, more easily align to group behaviours, adjusting their own behaviour to match. They are less likely to view their identity on foundations of ethnic or cultural diversity, and are more likely to classify themselves as members of the organisation or group first and foremost.
McMillan-Capehart concludes by explaining how, in engaging people to unite as one team, they focus on what is important, instead of worrying about minor differences (2005). Practically for Michael, this means he can be smarter with tailored socialisation tactics; highlighting positive effects of diversity, while building greater awareness and connectivity to the team. Think of it like finding a common enemy to engage the group to fight together.
An increase in innovation is one of the best outcomes from diverse teams, because opposing views from minorities, stimulate disagreement among workforce members, developing differing points. This results in multiple strategy development for the one problem. (Cox & Blake). In Michaels case, the reverse is happening; the team is failing to agree, failing to consider all available options and loosing cohesiveness. If Michael involved stronger socialisation and induction strategies with the team and worked towards making all members feel special and aligned to the team, its project and goals, he would start to see more cohesion. He needs to develop strong leadership within the team and guide the development of ‘group norms’ by positively reinforcing the needed behaviours and attitudes.
Profound improvements are achievable through development of a workplace collectivist culture and sophisticated diversity management. Organisations need to look carefully at the construction of their project groups, be cognisant of the fact that while diverse groups, have been shown to be more innovative, they require more specialised management and the development of a collectivist culture in order to gel and become a cohesive and viable force.
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