8 reasons why your team should be as diverse as possible


Our Rainbow Nation allows us to mix with many different people from various backgrounds. Here's how to embrace the opportunity.

Have you ever looked at your colleague and thought to yourself: “Oh my word, it’s like we’re from completely different worlds...”?

Whether it be the way you were raised, the dorpie you’re from, or that you’re from the 80s and they’re from what feels like the 1920s. Other differences that you might experience at work relate to physical ability, gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, educational background and so on.

More often than not, birds of a feather flock together. This can mean that cliques are formed in the office, each social group choosing to interact with those that share the same traits, with the potential of creating somewhat of a division amongst co-workers. In time, this separation could affect the camaraderie amongst colleagues and team work in general.

Read: Annoying co-worker? How to complain professionally

The real danger of not interacting with those in your in-group could lead to misunderstandings, accidental discrimination, and miscommunication caused by ignorance. And the quality of your work and the business might suffer.

Before we get into the nitty gritty details of how to handle these differences in a professional capacity, here are the reasons why you should be celebrating diversity in the workplace. You know, it really is a wonderful opportunity for you to expand your horizons.

Variety of viewpoints

If you’ve ever heard the expression two heads are better than one then you know that the best solution to a problem is found when people collaborate. In this instance, people from diverse backgrounds can share unique insight that might lead to great solutions and ideas.

Broader service range

A diverse workforce allows you to reach a diverse customer and client base. By having an ‘insider’s view’ into as many markets as possible, your service range has lots of potential to grow.

More effective execution

If you understand how to keep your colleagues motivated by playing to their strengths and always being considerate and mindful of your assumptions, you can inspire them to perform at their peak - without feelings of exclusion and dissatisfaction. It’s been proved over and over again, a happy employee is a productive employee.

Here’s what you can do to create an inclusive environment and foster good teamwork in a diverse workplace:

Avoid making assumptions

Throw all your stereotypes, preconceived notions and generalisations out the window. Each person is a unique individual with their own opinions, habits, and sense of normal, independent from any group that you think they belong to.

Mind your language

Be aware of what you’re saying at all times. Your incorporation of slang and idiomatic expressions could exclude someone. If you are in a situation where you feel undermined, address the culprit in a calm manner - they may not even know that they’ve offended you. Be firm when you explain what was offensive and that they should mind their language in future too.

You have at least one thing in common

Every single employee contributes to the success of the company. Each of your co-workers have an important job and if one person slacks, it can negatively affect all of you. This same is true for excellent behaviour… a workplace atmosphere tends to have a ripple effect.

Even when you aren’t seeing eye to eye with another on a personal level (go see HR immediately if this is you), that should be put aside to ensure the success of your immediate projects.

Make an effort

Team work cannot be emphasised enough. We dare you to step out of your comfort zone and mingle with a group other than your own.

Regular team building activities does wonders to build solid relationships. Making memories and having fun together can break barriers and create pleasant memories. We’re not saying take on a boot camp, but make drinks after work a regular activity. Urge your boss to allow the team to celebrate a great performance or new launch. Find a few silly but easy games that everyone will be able to participate in. (And don’t forget that you will of course have to respect everyone’s dietary requirements.)

Read: How to spot (and deal with) and office bully

Show some respect

Every single person on this planet has their own beliefs, and they believe in them as strongly as you do yours. If you consider how you feel when someone undermines your opinion, or disregards your integrity for whatever reason, then you should not want to make anyone feel the same way.

“You have to give respect to get it” is for primary school children. You’re big. That’s the thing about being an adult: If you’re the giver, you’ll be the getter too.

If you’re unhappy with your company’s corporate culture, you can browse new job opportunities in other cities across South Africa.