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Worplace Diversity and Team Dynamics

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Workplace Diversity and Team Dynamics
Mary Martin
University of Phoenix
MGT307-Organizational Behavior and Group Dynamics
Joey Martin, MBA
April 25, 2011

Workplace Diversity and Team Dynamics
Teamwork is the mantra of the business world for the new millennium. Organizations are realizing that collective problem-solving, in a team setting, enhances creative and critical thinking skills, thus elevating productivity. This paper will explore the characteristics of and differences between groups and teams. Additionally, workplace diversity relevance to team dynamics will be explored in an effort to better understand this phenomenon called teamwork.
Groups
Groups consist of two or more individuals who come together to achieve particular objectives. Work groups share information and make decisions that help members perform within each individual's area of responsibility. The group focuses on improving individual results. Work groups do not work together to achieve a communal goal, the result being that no positive synergy exists among members. Each member’s performance is the entirety of his or her contribution (Robbins & Judge, 2009).
Teams
Teams consist of a small grouping of people with complementary skills, working together to achieve a common purpose for which they hold themselves collectively accountable (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2009). Work team goals are focused on the collective performance of the members’, the result of which is mutual and individual accountability. Characteristics of high-performance teams include clear performance objectives, a shared sense of purpose, strong core values, the right mix of skills, creativity, and the ability to measure and obtain performance feedback. Teamwork occurs when members of a team work together so that their skills are used effectively to accomplish common goals. This collective effort to achieve goals has made the concept of teams very attractive to most organizations. The combination of positive synergy and the potential for organizations to generate greater outputs with no increase in input is the driving force behind this new generation of teamwork.
Common characteristics of effective teams fall into four categories: context, composition, work design, and process. Contextually a team must have adequate allocated resources, sound leadership and structure, a climate of trust among members, and systems set up to gauge performance evaluation and rewards. Team composition must consist of members with contrasting skills that possess conscientious and agreeable personalities. Allocating roles within the team must be carefully tended to ensure all necessary roles are filled. In addition, diversity, reasonable-sized teams of 10 or less, member flexibility, and preferences are vital considerations to effective team composition.
Work design characteristics increase a sense of responsibility and ownership of assigned tasks. These characteristics include freedom and autonomy, the opportunity for member skill variety, completion of an entire identified task or product, and the knowledge that working on such a task will influence others. Team processes are necessary to guarantee that outputs are greater than the sum of inputs. This is established by developing creative alternatives to diverse group variables. Processes include member commitment to a common purpose, establishment of specific team goals, team efficacy, a managed level of conflict, and minimization of social loafing (Robbins & Judge, 2009).
Workplace Diversity and Team Dynamics
The definition of workplace diversity is ever evolving. Workplace diversity in the twenty-first century includes a tapestry of race, age, gender, experience, ethnicity, and cultural differences. The dilemma is how to take a group with these variables of diversity and develop a high-functioning team capable of increased productivity. The composition of high-functioning teams should include a fair measure of diversity. A diverse workforce can strengthen corporate culture, enhance corporate reputations, act as a recruitment and retention tool, enhance service levels, reduce turnover, lower absenteeism rates, and improve a company's global management capacity (Bowes, 2007). However, the team must be able to utilize this diversity correctly or run the risk of too much conflict, resulting in a decline in performance. Teams focus on commonly held information therefore, creative potential requires that members look to their differences rather than similarities when problem-solving. If diversity is to be effective, each team member must communicate what he or she individually knows and does not know, ensuring the team will benefit from the various strengths and weaknesses of its members.
Diversity can have positive and negative effects on team performance. Homogeneous teams have the advantage of members who share the similar attributes of age, gender, race, experience, ethnicity, or culture (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2009). These similarities create an atmosphere of social relevance in which members may find it easier to build relationships and interact in the team environment. Whereas these similarities can benefit group dynamics, they may limit the group in terms of ideas, viewpoints, and creativity.
Conversely, heterogeneous teams that consist of members diverse in demography, experiences, lifestyles, and cultures may benefit from the diversity of individual members (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2009). Such diversity offers a wealth of information, talent, and unique perspectives. These factors provide improved team problem-solving and increase creativity thereby boosting performance and productivity of team efforts. While these differences offer many benefits an initial adjustment phase, resulting from interpersonal stresses and conflicts may be necessary. The result of working through this phase will be well worth the effort as greater levels of creativity and production will emerge from a functional heterogeneous team structure.
Conclusion
Groups and teams each serve a unique purpose in the workplace. Groups have a common view and support individual goals. Teams are a group individuals working toward a collective solution while utilizing their individual strengths for the good of the team efforts. Effective teams demonstrate an understanding and use of positive synergy to generate greater outputs. Diversity in teams can enhance this synergy, promoting creativity that drives production levels higher. Effective teams share a general sense of purpose, coupled with specific performance objectives, which make this purpose truly meaningful~Teamwork.

References
Bowes, B.J. (2007). The Business Case for Workplace Diversity. CMA Management. Retrieved from http://www.allbusiness.com/labor-employment/human-resources-personnel-management/10589765-1.html
Robbins, S.P. & Judge T.A. (2009). Organizational Behavior, 13th edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Retrieved from University of Phoenix, MGT307-Organizational Behavior and Group Dynamics Course website.
Schermerhorn, J., Hunt, J., & Osborn, R., (2008). Organizational Behavior (10th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. Retrieved from University of Phoenix, MGT307-Organizational Behavior and Group Dynamics Course website.

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