Blog Diversity

Chosen, imposed, or happenstance: diversity at work

Written by Neela B

Ideally an employee is chosen on merit. Hiring on merit is obviously different to hiring because of ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. The former can benefit the business, while the latter can benefit the employee. Diverse work teams are bound to form in more ethnically diverse areas. Imposed diversity is something rather different, however. Some argue that it’s essential, while to others it’s PC in overdrive. The debate goes on.

Diversity in the workplace may benefit the business. But that’s not guaranteed. It does, however, likely benefit the team members: members of ethnic minorities will be employed, when they otherwise might not be. Whom then should be prioritized if we agree that businesses have an ethical responsibility to support communities (not just benefit stake holders): the business or its employees?

Diversity is widely perceived (or presented) as equivalent to diverse/non-linear thinking. Innovative thinking is usually a good thing: creativity is the wellspring of most business.

It’s well known that gender diversity benefits business teams; but is ethnic diversity actually (and inevitably) equivalent to innovative thinking in teams – and thus good for business? Innovative thinking isn’t provably a product of ethnically diverse teams; it’s a product of original minds at work – regardless of gender, age, race, creed or colour.

Effective teams consist of people who can communicate in nuanced and immediate ways. In fact, this communication tends to happen whether the workforce is culturally diverse or not.

When people form a team, the team agenda tends to fuse them into a unit that functions to achieve a shared goal. In civilized teams, behavioural harmony tends to arise naturally. That includes diverse teams, in which team members tend to align around the common goal.

Does this fusion diminish the professional diversity of the team? If it does, is that a bad thing? Or is the increased harmony around a common agenda a desirable outcome?

Answers on a postcard please. . .

About the author

Neela B