Diversity is becoming a trend in workplaces. Surveys show that the demographic of the workforce is growing more diverse than ever. This is supported by the demographic data provided by Pew Research Center that the newer generation (post-Millennial) is diverse in races and ethnicities. Often labeled as Generation Z, this generation will make up 27% of the workforce by 2025 according to McCrindle.
Cletus, et al. (2018) define diversity as a concept that embraces respect and acceptance among many individuals. It also implies a shared understanding of the distinctive qualities that people have by nature. From this definition, we can learn that diversity is not only about cultural differences. It can also be about gender, religious beliefs, mental health conditions, disabilities, social identities such as sexual orientation and political views, and even age groups!
In their 2022 press release, the International Labour Organization (ILO) expressed that more inclusive working environments are needed. One study investigated that a diverse workplace supplies its workers with chances of developing their soft skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Moreover, adopting diversity as a value can enhance corporate attractiveness and foster innovation. However, getting these benefits is faced with challenges.
This article will provide explanations of how the challenges affect one’s behavior at work. After that, this article will also share simple at-work practices based on the psychological concept of “self-awareness”.
Challenges in working with diverse people
Everyone has had their share of working with different people. They may develop a nice work relationship along the way, but other times may not. Ever wonder why? Addressing these challenges maybe can help.
People usually have a set of initial thoughts when they interact with people from different groups. Unfortunately, these initial thoughts mostly existed in a degrading manner. Dalton & Villagran (2018) elaborate that implicit biases affect the atmosphere at the workplace in ways that people become more likely to overgeneralize which group is good or bad and limit themselves from learning new ‘truths’ about other groups. Furthermore, the persistence of implicit biases led the biased groups to blend in with the majority and they lost the chance to present their ideas.
It is also noted that implicit biases are related to discriminatory behaviors in workplaces. Sometimes it will manifest in other forms, such as bullying, violence, scapegoating, or harassment. Statistics showed that 46% of workers are concerned with discrimination at their workplace. Another survey added that women are more vulnerable to such discriminatory acts.
Another challenge within a diverse workplace is communication. From language barriers to a lack of rapport, these are common cases. Therefore, it is important to understand how these problems impact the overall working experience for everyone.
Basically, poor communication among workers will lead to poor team performance. For example, being unable to communicate well in English in an English-speaking environment will lead to confusion in task completion. Likewise, being unable to incorporate an empathetic approach when confronting workers from different backgrounds will create tense relationships and further endanger team cohesion.
The role of self-awareness
These challenges can be mitigated by practicing self-awareness. Duval & Wicklund (1972) explained that people are self-aware when they start to see themselves as an object and make a self-evaluation based on them. The concept is further developed by Carden, Jones, & Passmore (2021), adding that self-awareness involves directing attention to one’s emotions, cognitions, and physiological responses. Although it sounds self-centered, being self-aware also means taking into account how people’s psychological states may affect or influence other people.
Practicing self-awareness in the workplace can bring great benefits. Generally, self-aware employees are more productive, have better communication skills, and are more confident than the less-aware ones. Especially when working with diverse people, it is important to build cohesiveness within the team members as it helps with overall productivity. A study found that greater team cohesion is associated with better team performance.
Simple self-awareness practices at work
After understanding the benefits of practicing self-awareness in a diverse workplace, here are some methods to enhance self-awareness at work.
Learn about implicit biases
As explained before, everyone has implicit biases. Since it usually happens automatically, taking steps like expressing biased thoughts in writing can aid in identifying them. According to the study by Maxfield, et al. (2020), implicit biases can be overcome by becoming personally aware of them. Understanding the negative impacts they cause can also help people control themselves to not be judgmental.
Take a personality assessment and share them with coworkers
Sutton, Williams, & Allinson (2015) used this method in their study and found that the use of a personality test can have positive effects on employees. Some remarks include that employees feel that they gained a better understanding of how they behave as well as how they looked from others’ perspectives. Moreover, they also reported that they understand better how and why other people behave differently. Consequently, they are able to show compassion and be more empathetic towards coworkers.
Schedule a time to reflect on work progress
Great team performance is gained through successful individual task completion. This requires a high level of self-awareness among employees. Dierdorff, Fisher, & Rubin (2018) emphasized that employees have to reflect and accurately assess their behaviors and skills in a working environment. The more accurate the self-evaluation, the clearer the expectations set for the team’s goal. On the contrary, inaccurate self-evaluations may disturb team cohesion and potentially cause conflicts.
The purpose of this method is to build self-awareness in terms of interdependence with other coworkers. This is particularly helpful in encouraging an interactive working environment. Zajac, et al. (2021) noted that teams that took the time to gather and analyze data, start team talks, discuss what happened right away after an incident, schedule regular time to evaluate activities, analyze errors, and talk about how to improve team procedures in the future were successful.
Building and fitting in a diverse workplace can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. Challenges such as implicit biases and communication problems can be attenuated by developing one’s self-awareness. Some simple practices to become more self-aware include learning about one’s implicit biases, getting to know oneself and others through personality assessment, and scheduling a time to reflect on work progress.
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