Workplace Diversity Can Backfire

Now that you’re all reading my sensationalist headline, check this out: new research indicates that diverse teams are less likely to share information with each other because they’re more focused on finding commonality and not offending anyone, and thus are less likely to reach the best decisions, according to Human Resource Executive Online.

“In diverse groups, the whole point is to benefit from the different types of knowledge and experiences people have,” says Leslie DeChurch, coauthor of the study. “But in diverse teams, there’s actually less sharing of that unique information than in homogenous groups.”

“With diversity training, we focus mostly on how to make a team viable versus how to make it effective,” DeChurch told HRE Online. “But the things we do to try to make a team viable may actually harm its ability to accomplish what it’s been tasked to do. Diversity can only be an asset when unique perspectives are openly shared with the team.”

In short, team members are afraid of stepping on toes and rocking the boat, moreso when the other members of the team are different—either physically or occupationally. William A. Guillory, founder of a diversity and leadership training consultancy, told HRE Online: “The more similar people are, the less suspicious of each other they are.”

So how do we fix this? If dissenting opinions aren’t ever shared, what good are they? DeChurch says that it’s a matter of changing your team’s mindset: “There needs to be a mind-set of ‘…we value all different points of view.'”