The globalization of today’s workplace has placed greater emphasis on accepting diversity than ever before. Organizations big and small are likely to have employees that come from various demographic groups and diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds.
Diversity in the workplace lends itself to extraordinary innovation and rapid change as people from all walks of life bring new ways of doing things to the table. But as invigorating as this can be—and should be—for an organization, diversity and innovation also brings the potential to drive people apart. Differences in culture, values and language, and even the various ways people are trained to accomplish the same task, can bring about conflict among co-workers who would be better served by working as a team.
If you find yourself embroiled in a split with co-workers due to diversity issues, instead of succumbing to “knocking heads,” attempt to be a leader and resist divisive differences. Here are some tips from your friends at Dale Carnegie Training of the Northwest that will help you turn conflicts born of diversity into opportunities:
Avoid rash decisions — When conflict arises take time to absorb everybody’s viewpoint and see the big picture. Try to understand why people are taking a certain stance.
Be a positive presence — Don’t shy away from the conflict. A calm and observant demeanor will often soothe conflicts by letting people know their viewpoint is appreciated and considered.
Ask questions — Respectful, positively worded questions accomplish more in settling conflict than trying to offer your own opinions or suggestions. Listen closely to the respondent’s answers and try to understand their viewpoint.
Eliminate factions — Office politics often turn into a war between “us” and “them.” Diffuse this by having all parties see how fighting among colleagues breaks down the big organizational picture.
Repair relationships — Dismantle the walls of diversity by encouraging inter-departmental teams, broadly attended social events, and even office architecture that appeals to everybody.
Demonstrate your trust — Conflicts are less likely to happen in environments where people trust each other. You can support a climate of trust by demonstrating your willingness to trust other people, even before they have earned it.
In a perfect world, conflict born of diversity would be non-existent. But until we attain that “Nirvana,” use these tips to turn conflict into growth opportunities.
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