5 Strategies to Manage Workforce Diversity

Topics: Sociology, Social psychology, Demographics Pages: 32 (9920 words) Published: February 6, 2011

Aparna Joshi and Susan E. Jackson

The growing sophistication of research on diversity in organizations parallels the evolution of organizations into increasingly complex and dynamic forms . More than a decade ago, Miles and Snow (1986) described a futuristic network organization characterized by constantly evolving inter-team linkages that allow organizations to quickly respond to technological and market changes, and thereby improve their chances of survival . Today, we witness widespread implementation of such team-based organizational forms (Hackman, 1999) . As teams interact with other teams, the organizational context in which teams operate can create opportunities as well as pose challenges for team functioning . In this chapter, we consider how the demographic characteristics of the organizational context influences teamwork and so attempt to contribute to the academic discourse on diversity in two ways . First, we draw attention to the intrinsic value of diversity in relation to a team's external relationships . To meet organizational goals, each team must be effective in terms of its internal functioning . In addition, each team must effectively manage its relationships with other teams and individuals in the organization . Through their relationships, team members nay gain access to needed resources and exert influence that is beneficial to the team and its individual members . Past research, grounded in social psychological theory, has focused on the negative relationship between team diversity and internal team processes such as team cooperation. We recognize that an additional component of team functioning is relationships between teams . Based on social psychological theory, we argue that diversity in teams will he manifested in cooperative behaviors between teams in organizations . A second contribution of this chapter is to provide a framework for understanding how the demographic composition of organizations influences the relationships between and within teams . Building upon social identity theory as well as social network theory, we argue that International Handbook of Organizational Teamwork and Cooperative Working . Edited by M . A. West, D. Tjosvold, and K . G . Smith . © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd .


A . Joshi and S . E . Jackson

cooperation within and between teams is a function of the demographic distinctiveness of team members in relation to the immediate environment . By recognizing organizational level demography as a contextual influence on the outcomes of team diversity, we draw workplace diversity research into the realm of cross-level theory and methodology . Based on an ongoing research study involving several hundred service teams, we also provide empirical support for our theoretical framework and make suggestions for future research and practice . This chapter is primarily organized into four sections . Past research on team functioning has found that the diversity present in teams has important implications for how team members behave toward each other, as well as for the team's overall performance . In the first section, we begin by considering the implication of team diversity for cooperative behaviors within teams . Next, in the second section we extend existing research and theory to describe how team diversity is likely to influence external team relationships and cooperation between teams . Our review and extension of the literature suggest that diversity can have paradoxical consequences in organizations . On the one hand, diverse work teams may experience lower levels of cooperation among team members . On the other hand, diversity within a team may bolster the team's external communication and its ability to cooperate with other teams . In the third section we argue that understanding these paradoxical outcomes of team diversity would be incomplete without an appreciation...
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