Karalee Nielsen, George McFarlane, Amber Johnson, Jeanette Dieball, and Claire Belisle Mr. Elgin Management 331 8 April 2003
Diversity Factors Affecting Team A Performance
Within the framework of the team environment, there are often both positive and negative factors affecting team performance. While diversity among members provides “a wide pool of talent and view points…this diversity may also create difficulties as members try to define problems, share information, and handle interpersonal conflicts” (Organizational Behavior, 95). Learning teams are often comprised of individuals who do not have similar backgrounds or lifestyles. While there are several factors that may affect team performance, including ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status, religion and personality traits, through a survey of Team A, one can narrow the field to four main areas. These include gender, geographic differences, occupation and differences skills and abilities. As one delves into these issues, both the positive and negative impacts will be identified and discussed.
Beginning this exploration, one finds that gender is an important aspect of team diversity, but also a complicated one. When discussing the intricacies of gender it is always beneficial to remember that most statements are generalizations delivered by management and social experts. Team A is comprised of one male and four females. Thus far, there have been no conflicts stemming from this gender difference. To ensure the productivity and harmony among team members, it is important to root out possible conflicts before they arise.
According to Lindsley G. Boiney, Ph.D., what separates the genders in team scenarios is their motivation. Generally, in work team environments, men place more value on clear objectives and definite strategies; whereas, women are more likely to value strong communication (1). This could possibly explain why men tend to focus more on solving the problem and women focus more on the problem solving process. Conflict may develop between the genders if either feels shortchanged by the emphasis on the other gender’s values. Hence, an effective way to discourage conflict within a team of mixed genders would be to establish the importance of communicating frequently and openly, while maintaining a clear objective. Boiney was also quick to note that men and women deal with conflict differently (5). Women are more likely to search for a solution to conflict within a group, utilizing other team members to facilitate resolution. Adversely, men are more likely to isolate themselves as they develop solutions to conflicts. To avoid the misconception that one way is better or more effective than the other, it would be advisable to implement team conflict management tools to enlighten team members about the potential for conflict early in the formation of the team.
Further exploration of Team A reveals that there are vast geographical differences that not only span great distances, but also cover two time zones. Thompson, et al refers to this as the “different-place, different-time model” and the authors identify e-mail as the main form of communication among team members in this model (197). Another form of communication that may prove useful is instant messaging, but time differences must also be overcome. If those in the Eastern time zone choose to meet at 7:00 p.m., this translates to a 6:00 p.m. meeting time for those in the Central time zone and may interfere with dinner plans for those in the Central time zone. If the meeting does occur, one faces the possibility that the meaning of one’s message is lost in the interpretation, as the tone of voice and body language of the speaker are lost.
Once again the time zone differences come into play as members in the Eastern time zone may have to wait for responses to questions from those in the Central time zone. As a result, the entire process may be delayed, but this can also have its advantages within the learning team environment. If the team is running behind schedule for some reason, the team effectively has extra time for posting its assignment as the time zones for the team members determine the time the assignment is due. With members falling into different time zones, the time Central time zone would take precedence for the time due.
As the exploration of Team A continues, one sees that the members are all working adults from various occupations attending a University with their own goals and futures in mind. The occupations of this group include a Director of Operations, a Finance Coordinator, a Financial Analyst, an Administrative Assistant, and an Accountant. Although individuals in these positions often work together within a business, the individuals may not have full comprehension of the other positions. Organizational Behavior refers to “the sum total of knowledge, expertise, and energy available from organization members [as] intellectual capital” (79). As such, Team A can be seen as having high amounts of “intellectual capital” and should provide the team with readily available resources for completion of projects and team management.
While these varying backgrounds within the business environment may prove beneficial, there is also the possibility that there will be negative effects. Communication among members may prove difficult as the “business” language used among different occupations can vary. Maintaining good communication will be key to the success of the team.
The final factor with great potential to affect team performance within Team A is differences in skills and abilities. As a team, each individual is equally skilled in the knowledge of standard business applications such as word processing, presentations and spreadsheets. PowerPoint software seems to be the most predominant application among the group. Everyone has a certain level of comfort conducting research, while one individual exhibits a natural talent for the proofreading of grammar, spelling and sentence structure. Each member brings a range of skills that, when combined, should enable the team to produce the best work possible.
While the range of skills and abilities of the team should prove quite beneficial, there is the possibility that the overlapping of what the individuals perceive their skills and abilities to be may cause friction among the members. This effect was experienced by two of the team members in a previous class as follows:
Two of the members of Team A were teamed with a third individual in a prior class. For purposes of this example, they will be named Fred, Eric and Mandy. Fred and Mandy both considered themselves to be good writers and good editors, so they tended to class when it came to those areas for the projects. In an attempt to eliminate the situation, Fred eventually let the writing be done by Mandy, while continuing to do the editing.
From this example, one can see that having multiple individuals on a team with skills and abilities in common may cause conflict. While there is the possibility that there were other factors involved, if the overlapping had not occurred, the problem might not have surfaced.
As one reflects on this examination of Team A, it is important to note that not all possible factors affecting the team were explored. An analysis of a survey was used to determine that gender, geographic differences, occupation and differences in skills and abilities would provide the most impact on the team’s performance. While there are both positive and negative implications from all factors, the diversity of this team should give the members the ability to reach their greatest potential.
Boiney, Lindsley G. Ph.D. “Gender Impacts Virtual Work Teams: Men Want Clear Objectives While Women Value Communication” The George L. Graziadio School of Business Management, Pepperdine University. 2001. <http://gbr.pepperdine.edu/014/teams/html>
Thompson, Leigh, Eileen Aranda, and Stephen P. Robbins. Tools for Teams. Boston: Pearson, 2000.
University of Phoenix, ed. Organizational Behavior. University of Phoenix custom edition e-text. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2002. MGT331 – Organizational Behavior. Resource. University of Phoenix. 7 April 2003 <https://mycampus.phoenix.edu/secure/resource/resource.asp>