Conflict Resolution for Increasing Diversity

Conflict resolution strategies are helpful when people of different ages and backgrounds work together. Companies are seeing new research that supports efforts to diversify their boards and organizations. From increased profits to encouraging creativity and innovative ideas, the prioritizing of diversity and inclusion are becoming central to effective management. Yet, when people of different ages, education and backgrounds come together on a team or project, there tends to be an increase in conflict. Companies pursuing diversity and inclusion also need to evaluate their conflict resolution strategies.

There is an assumption that greater diversity always results in positive outcomes for companies, but this is turning out to be true only for those companies that prioritize diversity along with prioritizing conflict resolution and other signs of a well-managed team.

In fact, a poorly managed team can yield negative effects when increased diversity is introduced. Teams that intentionally broaden the scope of the ages, genders and backgrounds of their employees without tools ready to handle conflict may experience problems with profits and creativity levels. Issues that naturally arise between people with significant differences should be expected, with companies at the ready with conflict resolution plans.

Transformational Leadership

There’s no trouble in convincing company leaders that diversity and inclusion are important components of any thriving organization, but there is another important element that companies need in their efforts to embrace diversity. The American Psychological Association demonstrated in a 2009 study that teams diverse in factors like education, nationality and age required a transformational leader in order to succeed.

Transformational leadership is demonstrated in a manager’s ability to encourage employees, and, more specifically, to set clear goals and then provide the necessary support to help team members achieve objectives. This includes clear steps for conflict resolution.

It’s simply not enough to recruit and hire diverse talent. Managers have to be equipped with the tools they need and an understanding of their team as individuals who are uniquely skilled and motivated in their roles within the company.

Many companies approach this backwards, promoting diversity in hiring first. Instead, they should first train managers in highly-effective conflict resolution strategies, realizing that the impact of continued conflict isn’t just more conflict.

In companies where diversity is embraced without effective conflict resolution, there’s an effect called diversity fatigue, in which employees become skeptical about their employer’s diversity and inclusion efforts.

How to Approach Conflict Resolution in Diverse Settings

Conflict resolution strategies can differ, but effective ones always embrace genuine, authentic conversations, in which employees are encouraged to identify the value in working with one another. It also acknowledges differences, rather than ignoring them. A multicultural approach is more effective than a “colorblind” mindset.

In addition, diversity efforts should never be approached from a laissez-faire perspective, but instead should see effective leadership and conflict resolution as central elements steering the success of the initiative. Perhaps most importantly, conflict should not be seen as a sign of failure, but simply as part of the process.

At PI Consulting Group, we help you better understand your team members as individuals, including their values and motivations, so that you can help them find how they can best work on a team. Conflict resolution is an important part of effective talent management, so contact us to learn more about how to implement these important strategies for your organization to thrive.