The Challenge of Managing Diverse Teams

Ibarra and Hansen indicated that “Research has consistently shown that diverse teams produce better results, provided they are all well led. The ability to bring together people from different backgrounds, disciplines, cultures and generations and leverage all they have to offer, therefore, is a must have for leaders” (Ibarra and Hansen 2011: 71).

The term ‘diversity’ varies in terms of meaning depending on situation being used. As defined by Harrison and Klien, diversity is known as “the distribution of differences among the members of a unit with respect to a common attribute such as tenure, ethnicity” (Harrison & Klein 2007: 1200). Focusing onto many organizations in today’s generation, diversity isn’t something new and many organizations around the world are diversified in order to produce creativities that are valuable to the organization.

Many organizations today are facing fast paced changing lifestyle which then propelled into a different level through media platform where everyone is constantly aiming to achieve higher performances and prospects in order to compete with their competitors. It has been proven that organizations that have ethnically diverse team are more likely to perform better compared to organizations with lesser diversities (Hunt, Layton and Prince 2015).


Figure 1: Advantages of diversified team in organization (Source: McKinsey 2015)

Alternately, there will be limitations and challenges in managing a team of diversified members and even if diversified teams brings better performances, there will always be challenges at the end of the day. Refer to the table below for better understanding on both advantages and limitations of managing a diverse team.

Advantages Limitations & Challenges
Diversified team brings forward the term variety; which indicates differences in terms of professional outcomes such as information, knowledges, and experiences among the diversified team (Harrison & Klein 2007:1200). Diversity between members of the team can lead to communication problem due to language barrier if English isn’t used as the main medium in communication. This prevent productivity and segregation among team members (Dike 2013).
Diversified companies are able to produce top talents and enhance consumer’s aspects and satisfaction and decision making among the group. These contributions lead to a high profitability return (Hunt, Layton and Prince 2015). Members that do not accept other member’s culture will tend to breed disrespect among one another which will prevent communication and a tense working environment (Dike 2013).
Studies have proved that having diverse team in terms of racial and ethnic diversity in a team provide better financial performances.

10 percent increase in both racial and ethnic diversity in a team, increases the Earnings Before Interest & Taxes (EBIT) by 0.8 percent (Hunt, Layton and Prince 2015).

May lead to the formation of informal divisions where different employees with different cultural background will avoid one another and mix with those that only share similar cultural backgrounds. This is known as social integration (Dike 2013).
Has better collaborations and retention among the diversified team which in return give back significant improvement in market shares and better penetration into the new market (Ernst & Young 2016). Diversified team may come to a point where conflict occurs due to different mentality and creativity of each and every individual thus leading to misunderstanding amount the team members.

Examples of Organizations, Practicing Diversities

There are many organizations that adopt diversities in their organizations and one of them would be McKinsey & Company where diversities do matter to them as shown in Figure 1, that diverse companies are more likely to perform better. Various employees from different racial and cultural background were recruited from various part of the world sitting together in a round table providing the best possible solutions from their customers. This is one of the main reasons of the success and reputation McKinsey & Company has till today. Video below demonstrates the diversity do matter in providing the best possible outcome.

Why does Diversity matters? Source: (McKinsey&Company 2014)

Refer to the video link about to understand why diversity matters.

            Another example would be L’Oréal’s product development and manufactured in various part of the world to suite consumers based on their cultural backgrounds. For example, star product from Korea known as Blemish Balm (BB) cream had allow the R&D team in L’Oréal to develop new type  of BB cream where it is developed with adaptation to the local culture and skin color to suit the consumer of every region they approached (L’Oréal Group 2016). 

How Managers or Leaders Manage Diversity?  

Managing diversity is never an easy task from every leaders hence therefore there is a need to start from scratch. Not every team (homogenous or heterogeneous) is able to fully be functional at the beginning because a team needs to grow from one stage to another, understanding one another and eventually work as a proper team. According to Tuckman’s model 1965, a perfect team needs to undergo four stages known as ‘forming’, ‘storming’, ‘norming’, and lastly ‘performing’.


Figure 2: 4 Phases of Tuckman’s Model. Source: (Christian 2012))

Table 1: Phases of Tuckman’s Model. Points

Phases Explanations
Forming Initial stage of team development where every member from different backgrounds but dealing with the same role are called up together to form a diversified team. This is the stage where everyone gets to know one another and get themselves comfortable before the tasks are given.
Storming Secondary stage of team building where members begin to brainstorm and provide relevant idea. Ideas that may challenge one another on the things to achieve for the given tasks. In this stage there will be conflicts and arguments due to disagreements.
Norming The tertiary stage where team members start to develop chemistry as a team after settling rules and regulations. The team will start to cooperate with one another, providing ideas and thoughts to accomplish the given tasks.  This synergy will eventually bring success to the team and the organization.
Performing The final stage where the members begin to know the purpose and the goal of the team. There will be shared vision and mission among the members, understanding in thoughts and ideas, and work together effectively to achieve success

However, as it significant as it sounds, the Tuckman’s model does have a limitation where it refers to the how straight forward is team building. The model itself explains that every member in the team from ‘forming’, ‘storming’, ‘norming’, and lastly ‘performing’ are all able to cooperate without any loop holes during the stages (Bonebright 2010). The norms of the society know that not every team building goes as according to plan and there are always ups and downs in every scenario. Nevertheless, the model itself taught us the right mindset of the proper team building


            As conclusions, leading manage diversity is never an easy task. In order to produce better outcome and performances from a diversified team, leaders must have the proper understanding of the members regardless of their genders, racial, religion, generation and etc. in order for them to communicate with them at a workplace (Yukl 2013)

Leader themselves must encourage tolerances and appreciations among the diversified team members rather than intolerance and discrimination to bring unity among diversified team. Providing equal opportunities is something leaders must comprehend as the world now currently faces gender (women inequalities) and racial discrimination. Providing such equalities may provide future prospects to the organization and allow bright minded people in stepping into the limelight (Yukl 2013).


Figure 3: Gender Equality supported by Barclays. Source: (Barcalys 2016)

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Barcalys, (2016) Heforshe | Barclays [online] available from <; [3 October 2016]

Bonebright, D. (2010) “40 Years Of Storming: A Historical Review Of Tuckman’s Model Of Small Group Development”. Human Resource Development International 13 (1), 111-120

Christian, H. (2012) April | 2012 | Project Reno [online] available from <; [17 October 2016]

Dike, P. (2013) The Impact of Workplace Diversity On Organizations. Degree. Arcada University

Ernst & Young, (2016) Diverse Teams Are Proven To Stimulate Innovation And New Ways Of Problem Solving [online] available from <; [2 October 2016]

Harrison, D. and Klein, K. (2007) “What’s the Differences? Diversity Constructs as Separation, Variety, or Disparity in Organizations.” Academy of Management Review 32 (4), 1199-1228

Ibarra, H. & Hansen M (2011) ‘Are You a Collaborative Leader?’. Harvard Business Review, [online] 89 (7/8), 68-74.

L’Oréal Group, (2016) Stories of Multicultural Innovations – L’Oréal Group [online] available from <; [3 October 2016]

McKinsey&Company, (2014) Diversity & Inclusion At Mckinsey [online] available from <; [3 October 2016]

Yukl, G. (2013) Leadership in Organization. 8th edn. New York: Pearson