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Shocking dimensions of diversity in the workplace!

Updated on May 15, 2010

Diversity is old

Diversity in the workplace is nothing new. Companies have been preaching this for decades. Getting different perspectives from different countries/backgrounds can really make or break a high performing team

Hidden dimensions of diversity

What most people are not aware of is that diversity can go far beyound the color of one's skin, or the socioeconomic background or national origin!

Shocking as it might be, even a bunch of 30 year old white males working a white collar job at corporate america would exhibit striking personality differences and will view the world very differently!

This concept is very important for team building best explained through the introduction of the Myers-Briggs personality profiles

Myers Briggs as a tool for self awareness

Since around the age of 12, every person starts to develop his own personality preferences and continues to develop them throughout their life.

Discovered over 100 years ago and improved 50 years ago, the personality questionnaire, now known as Myers-Briggs helps a person understand oneself and others.

How does it work?

Myers Briggs is a ~70 statement self assessment which shows preferences on 4 scales

Myers Briggs chart

Extroversion/Introversion

Introversion means finding meaning and looking at internal life, rather than focusing on the external, which is extraversion.

In the workplace, introverts would prefer to work behind closed doors, alone and would generally object to invasion of their personal space (my cube is my temple) or time. During long meetings introverts would need breaks for reflection and they will often come to conclusions after a meeting is over. Introverts love to think things through. 

Extraverts in the workplace tend to be open and outgoing, and they surely love to talk! The extravert's need for outside contact means that they come up with ideas during conversations or by simply being around other people. This is why they would often come up with ideas during a meeting. Extroverts love to talk things through. 

Because about 65% of the US population is extroverted, it is important to be aware of this hidden dimension of diversity!

Sensing and iNtuition

The preference for sensing or intuition deals with how people perceive the world. Sensing people focus on details, specifics and facts. Intuitive people perceive the world in terms of opportunities, concepts and ideas. This explains quite a lot of conflicts that may be present in the workplace!

In the workplace,sensing people focus on details. Their powerpoint slides are filled with facts and their emails have precise numbers. They use concrete words and phrases, like "operating expenses, profits, etc"

Intuitive people, on the other hand, are more concerned with possibilities and ideas and tend to use quite a lot of abstract language, which to them means quite a lot. They are the ones who would talk about "diversity, opportunity, etc"

More than 65% of the US population are of the sensing type

Thinking and Feeling

The thinking/feeling dimension of diversity is most notable among the gender lines. Men are over 70% thinking type, while for women it is over 70% feeling type. This dimension of diversity is incredibly important when developing new products and launching new products and campaigns. Being too heavily focused on one will leave your team with a blind spot and will likely result in a substandard result!

Thinking types deal with problems objectively. The result is more important than the people involved. Thinking types have a preference for facts and logic rather than emotions.

The feeling types are focusing on interpersonal relationships and deal with problems subjectively. Feeling types have a preference for using emotions when making decisions.

Both types can use both feeling and logic, but show a clear preference for one when making decisions. This dimension of diversity is very important for building corporate teams 

An interesting thing to note is that the Feeling types are rarely found starting with the mid-manager levels and are instead frequently found in training and education fields.

Judging and Perceiving

The final dimension of diversity is the preference for Judging (control) or Perceiving (spontaneity). This is another important dimension of diversity, especially when new hires are concerned.

Judging types prefer strict schedules, meeting that start on time, and will generally form opinions of people rather quickly.

Perceiving types have a preference for loose schedules, priorities taking precedence over schedule and in general prefer "firefighting" to scheduled activities. 

This is a common source of tension in the corporate world, and it is important to note that changing people is almost impossible. 

Putting the pieces together

Having 4 preferences gives rise to 16 personality types and 4 archetypes that can be encountered in the workplace. These types are not distributed evenly, with some personality types a lot rarer than most. 

This has been just a glimpse at the Myers-Briggs model, which has volumes written about it. The important thing to note here is that there's no best personality type, and all of them are equally good. In a corporate setting, a feeling of misfit may arise from being in a job that does not fit the individual's personality preferences. 

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