There are a number of ways project managers can increase team members’ awareness of and appreciation for diversity. The primary influence on individual awareness of diversity is one’s own feelings about diversity. Next, communication about different types of diversity and factors to consider when dealing with diverse team members is important. Finally, understanding the role of diversity in intergroup relations is critical to improve diversity awareness and appreciation within project teams.
1. Identify Feelings about Diversity
Before a project manager can expect team members to understand and appreciate diversity, it is critical that team members be given the opportunity and guidance to explore one’s feelings toward diversity. Providing regular sessions to discuss feelings about diversity can help team members identify personal barriers to acceptance and understanding that stem from life experiences and prior encounters with highly diverse situations or people. Furthermore, these discussions should be moderated to discuss potential ramifications associated with violating anti-discrimination or anti-harassment laws and company policies.
After team members are given the opportunity to fully explore individual feelings associated with diversity, project managers should implement informal and formal team communication standards to continually address common diversity-related issues observed in the workplace. First, it is important that team members become aware of how diversity manifests itself in teams. Next, project managers can survey team members on topics related to sense of space, time consciousness (relative or absolute), values and norms, and work habits and expectations. Once these results are evaluated, it is important to discuss these differences with the team to increase awareness of potential barriers to effective communication and positive team interactions.
3. Interpersonal Relationships
The final way to foster diversity awareness and appreciation is to thoroughly discuss the differences that diversity makes in team member relations. Differences among team members’ personalities, background, culture, working conditions, and environment can greatly influence how team members interact with one another. Individuals typically have varying preferences toward conflict resolution and confrontation styles. Furthermore, the more diverse team members are, the more likely teams are to have individuals with differing cultural norms, expectations, beliefs, standards of excellence, and grooming/attire habits, which all influence how members interact and contribute to the overall team goal.