Thursday, January 19, 2012

Impact of Diversity on Group Dynamics & Effectiveness

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Impact of Diversity on a Group


Diversity is omnipresent. Our group is comprised of five members and within this small group diversity is clearly visible. We have members of both sexes, ages varies from to 8 years. Experience varies from nil to 7 years. We have people from India and Nepal and within India as varied as people from Jammu, Punjab, UP and Delhi. These all add up to a group diverse in gender, age, ethnicity, skills, values, personality and occupation.


In our group we feel that the following are the four most important factors which have contributed to the diversity in our group


1. Ethnicity


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. Personality traits


. Occupation


4. Value and attitude differences


Ethnicity


Ethnicity relates to the values that are handed down to us from our previous generations. It talks of the values that define us as a person, our beliefs, our background, our roots. These are definitive in the way we think and form our opinions


Considering the base culture that our group is from and the common global values of accepting cultural diversity there is a positive vibe because of the variation in our ethnicity. The difference in each ones cultural up bringing enhances the diversity. At the same time the inherent curiosity about different cultures and regions works as a building and binding force which brings the group together. We have a chance to learn more about each others’ culture, their dress codes (despite its generalizations and westernization in modern society), their different food habits, languages, festivals, beliefs etc.


A typical example is that we have individuals from Delhi and Punjab. Generically speaking, people from these areas are boisterous and aggressive. These traits are visible in these people. We have another individual from Kanpur, UP and inherently people from these are mild mannered which is visible in this individual. Nepalese people are perceived to be extroverts but at the same time they are not aggressive. This is very much visible in the individual we have in our group.


While ethnicity can be a binding and building force, it has a strong potential of being a destructive fore as well. The presence of an anti-Semite in a group having a couple of Jews can be destructive to the group. This will hinder the functionality, working and progress of a group.


Personality Traits


Personality is defined as the sum total of ways in which an individual reacts and interacts with others. A personality train on the other hand is defined as enduring characteristics that describe an individual’s behavior. There have been as many as 17,5 (and counting) various traits in an individual. This in itself in enough to portray the wide diversity that a group can experience on account of personality traits. Some common traits that add to the diversity in a group are extrovert vs. introvert, relaxed vs. tensed, group dependent vs. self sufficient, practical vs. imaginative, self esteem, self motivation etc.


Within our group consider our task today; it is to evaluate the impact of diversity on a group and the determinants of it. From a given list of 1 factors we were asked to choose four most critical ones. The variation of personality traits impacts how these choices are made; how a consensus is arrived at. An introvert person, while having good opinions, may not step forward and have his opinion heard. Contrasting to that is an extrovert person who not only has his opinions heard but also accepted by the group. Similar line of thought also applies to submissive vs. dominant persons. A submissive person with valid and valuable inputs will forego his opinion to a dominant.


In a group, we expect all persons to contribute equally as far as possible. But in a given group, if a person works more than the other, gives more inputs that the other, gives more quality work that another; such variations because of personality traits can negatively impact the group dynamics and harmonics.


Values and Attitude Differences


Values are basic convictions that a specific mode of conduct or end-state of existence is personally or socially preferable to an opposite mode. Attitudes are evaluative statements or judgments concerning objects, people or events.


Difference in values and attitudes impact the choices we make and how we behave. To take a current example, while making the choices for the four most critical factors impacting the group effectiveness, we each different four choices. While there was some over lap, but the variation was high. This is a classical example of how values and attitude differences can create a negative impact on the group. Given similar values and attitudes, we would more or less have chosen similar four factors and saved time on the ensuing discussions.


The experiences we gather and take back from this exercise molds our impressions and hence our attitudes to our group members. This will in turn reflect in our future interactions within this group. This can have positive and negative impacts.


Occupation


Occupation relates to the individual’s work. This bears an impact on the group since people with different occupational background bring to the table varied experience and hence different values, attitudes perceptions etc.


While there is only one working person in our group, that individual brings a different dimension to the discussion and debate within the group. Some of the team members felt that age and sex are critical factors in effective group functionality. But the alternate view that was put forward was that we expect and anticipate such variations and are to a certain extent ready for it. At the same time there are some factors which are not o absolute an age and sex and hence bring more uncertainty to the environment.


Summary


To summarize, we see a large amount of diversity in our group through a multitude of facets. These have the capability of either bringing the group together so that we work as a single unit or break us apart. The factors that can exert this enormous influence on the group are many, but we have tried to illustrate with examples from within the working of our group the four most critical ones viz. ethnicity, personality traits, occupation and value & attitude differences





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