Work Better Together Series explores the benefits of team wellbeing in organisations as well as looking into how managers and employees can cultivate a positive work environment. Episode 4 looks at how managers can develop team spirit & wellbeing when you have a diverse workforce.
Story: A Clash Of Cultures
Moira, a Northern European, was a new recruit into a small Maltese organisation. Her previous occupation involved ten years with a large organisation where she did well but left due to being seen as a number. As she came into the new team, she immediately pin pointed several ideas that could help the team save time and work. Only a week after her recruitment, she met her supervisor and told him the idea.
The supervisor was not too keen about Moira's idea and her as a know-it-all. The supervisor, seeing that she did not want to socialise with the others started to think that Moira was not compatible with the team. Moira felt betrayed and misundertood when she only was trying to help the team improve their results.
Lesson: Cultures Understand Things Differently
Both Moira and her supervisor acted from default culture understanding of what it means to be in a team. For Moira, she felt that it was her duty to tell her supervisor how to improve things as that, in her mind was what made great employees. In her eyes her role of an employee is to be proficient and help her team mates get results.
For her Supervisor work is about relationships and taking things easy. For him it was more important having a cup of coffee together than having perfect results. For him Moira's attitude is disrespectful to her team mates as she cannot advised new changes a few days after her recruitment without understanding the people around her.
Implications: Inclusion Is Not Just About Diversity
As with many culture clashes, all sides tend to have a point of truth and a fault. If the point of truth is explored, then it can benefit the team. But when people take sides, people become defensive about their perspective even though they cannot communicate it to others. In this case, this resulted in:
More stress for the team: with a culture that is too nice, problems around taking unpopular decisions arise. People gain the illusion of safety whilst ending up more stressed with not achieving results, resistant to change and lacking in discipline.
Lack of growth: because of this clash, Moira, her supervisor and the team where left worse than they are. Unless inclusion of their points of view is brought about, everyone will feel cheated and betrayed.
Blake & Mouton (1991) argued that some managers favour relationships over results creating a country club culture which creates a nice culture that achieves nothing. Others managers prefer results overs relationships creating a stressful 'Produce or Perish Mentality' culture. However the best teams have managers that are able to integrate results and relationships.
Theory: Inclusion Leads To Wellbeing
In Moira's case, the supervisor has an opportunity to use Moira's work ethich to instill an appreciation for results within the team. On the other hand Moira, can learn the value of relationships and to take life a bit more playfully. This can help create wellbeing as they would be able to achieve results without stress and with a sense of community.
Inclusion does not relate only to differences in culture. Jaiswal & Dyaram (2019) argue that inclusion can improve employee wellbeing by 70%. When managers are able to reconcile the perceived surface diversity and perceived knowledge diversity through inclusion, people feel understood, recognised and accepted. This not only creates win-win scenarios but leaves all side feeling like they are growing.
To achieve this a manger can:
Listen to all sides carefull.
Understand the truth behind what is being said and not get stuck behind words.
Research different cultural/diverse traits people have.
Reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of each team member.
Make a plan on how the strengths can help the team grow.
Facilitate conversations so that people become aware of weaknesses whilst making them feel safe.
Provide team building or development activities to help people gel on a social and on the work environment.
Action: Want Help Foster Inclusion?
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Blake, R., & Mouton, AA, (1991). Leadership Dilemmas - Grid Solutions. Houston: Gulf Publishing Company. Grid International, Inc.
Jaiswal, A., & Dyaram, L. (2019). Perceived diversity and employee well-being: mediating role of inclusion. Personnel Review, 49(5), 1121–1139. doi:10.1108/pr-12-2018-0511