Diversity in Teamwork - MARKSTRAT as a Model for Diversity Training

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2007
26 Pages, Grade: 1,3



List of Figures

List of Tables

List of Abbreviations


Chapter 1 Diversity in Teamwork
1.1 Diversity as a Workforce Trend
1.2 Types of Diversity
1.3 The Impacts of Diversity on Teamwork
1.3.1 Disadvantages of Diversity
1.3.2 Advantages of Diversity
1.4 Managing Diversity

Chapter 2 MARKSTRAT as a Model for Diversity Training
2.1 What is MARKSTRAT
2.2 Demographic Diversity in MARKSTRAT SLAGELSE 2007
2.3 Teamwork in MARKSTRAT SLAGELSE 2007 - Group OO as an Example
2.3.1 The Team Members in the Group OO
2.3.2. From Forming to Performing: The Team Development in the Group OO


Works Cited

List of Figures

Figure The MBI Model of Managing Diversity and Its Impact on Team Performance

List of Tables

Table 1 Impact of Diversity on Work Groups

Table 2 Demographic Diversity in Group OO

List of Abbreviations

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Literally, diversity in a group can be defined as differences in psychological, demographic, and organisational characteristics caused by observable attributes such as race or ethnic background, age or gender, as well as by less visible attributes such as education, abilities etc.[1] An examination of literature on diversity shows that there are mixed arguments regarding diversity and team performance. Some studies stress that diversity in work teams often leads to miscommunication and interpersonal conflicts, which are difficult and time-consuming to solve, and diversity therefore has negative impacts on the team’s performance.[2] However, other authors suggest that social interaction among diverse perspectives has a great potential of leading to creativity and new ideas, as creativity in teams appears to depend on diverse viewpoints and perspectives.[3]

This paper intends to study the effects of diversity on teamwork. Chapter I starts by illustrating diversity in the workforce as a trend and continues with the classification of diversity. Since diversity has contrasting effects on teamwork, both disadvantages and advantages will be studied in the third section of this chapter. In order to make use of the positive aspects of working in diverse teams and still avoid or minimize the negative effect of differences at the same time, diversity should be effectively managed. This will be studied in the last section of Chapter I.

Chapter II takes a pragmatic approach to studying diversity in teamwork by providing the example of MARKSTRAT as a means of creating heterogeneous learning teams. This chapter begins by introducing MARKSTRAT and the demographic diversity in it. In order to present the work process in MARKSTRAT, one team has been singled out to depict team development and interpersonal interaction in this group, including how they became acquainted with one another, where disagreements came from, what was done to resolve conflicts in order to improve common understanding in this group and reach mutual decisions. As a member of this group, the author bases the study of these interactions on direct participation and/ or observations of the work process.

By exploring the effects of diversity in teamwork in both theory and practice, the author hopes to shed light on the importance of the constructive use of diversity in teamwork and thereby contribute to creating the awareness of diversity training.

Chapter 1 Diversity in Teamwork

Gone is the time when businesses used to be based primarily in one country or even one city in the business world. Many multinational corporations (MNC) such as DaimlerChrysler, Siemens, and General Motor now span continents and go global. Consequently, the topic of diversity has become increasingly important during the past two decades.

This chapter studies the growing trend of diversity in the workforce, its effects on team performance, as well as how it can be managed.

1.1 Diversity as a Workforce Trend

Scholars have determined the following five main factors supporting the fact that the workforce is becoming even more diverse.[4]

First, diversity is caused by an increase in the number of working women. Women represent an increasing percentage in organisations. While it was common for women to remain at home in the past, they are now entering the workforce in more and more. In addition, women are holding a larger share of jobs in management and the professions that have traditionally been male dominated such as medicine, accounting, law, and politics. Because women come in all shapes, sizes, and life-styles, having more women in the workforce and managerial positions creates a need for organisations to respond to this diversity trend and deal with the career demands of more working women.[5]

Second, the age difference is becoming more evident on all levels. People are living longer, the labour force is getting older, and the age of retirement is being extended in many countries. That means some young, entry-level people and more experienced workers may come and work together. Further, organisations may be called upon to deal with a work force from different generations.

Third, due to continuously changing demands, organisations are employing a rising number of people with diverse professional and specialist backgrounds. That is because a more diverse workforce will help firms improve relationships with customers and enable organisations to be more sensitive to the varying markets in society.

Fourth, the growing number of immigrants also has an effect on diversity, since they practice different customs, religions and cultures. The mix of languages and cultures in work groups presents additional challenges for employers attempting to create harmonious work teams.

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Finally, the ongoing globalisation is creating an increasing number of expatriates from various countries in the world who contribute different values and cultures. More joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions bring leaders from both home and guest countries as well as employees together. Thus, knowing how to interact in culturally diverse teams is important for successful communication in multinational companies.

As a result of all these factors, it is highly likely that future employees will be confronted with a diversity originating from differences in gender, age, occupation, race, nationality, as well as cultural and religious backgrounds. In order to support their ability to communicate with different types of people, understanding the types of diversity in work teams is vital.

1.2 Types of Diversity

There are different kinds of classification for diversity. One of the basic divisions of diversity is by personal attributes and functional attributes. While personal attributes include differences in personality, values, attitudes, and various demographic variables such as age, gender, and race, functional attributes concern knowledge, abilities, and skills related to the work environment.[6]

Another way to classify diversity is to identify three main forms. 1) Demographic diversity relates to gender, race & ethnicity, nationality, age and religion; 2) organisational diversity is caused by differences in people’s relationship to an organisation. Factors such as organisational rank, occupational speciality, department affiliation are examples of organisational variable. These variables primarily affect an individual’s status in the organisation, which has important consequences for how people communicate in teams; 3) psychological diversity refers to diversity in people’s personality and behaviour. People vary in their values, beliefs, and attitude; they may be conservative or liberal, religious or not religious, risk oriented or risk averse. People also differ in personality and behavioural styles, and they can be competitive, cooperative, assertive or aggressive. Finally, people differ in technical expertise, artistic skills, and communication. This dimension of diversity categorisation is one of the most used classifications, as it provides more specific definitions.[7]

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Depending on how easily they can be observed, surface-level factors such as age, sex, or race can be considered as an observable type of diversity, whereas deep-level factors such as psychological variables can be considered as non-observable types of diversity. One reason for differentiating between observable and non-observable types of diversity is that when differences between people are visible, they are particularly likely to evoke responses that are due directly to prejudices or stereotypes. People who are similar in surface-level factors are more likely to be initially attracted to each other. Deep-level diversity takes time to recognize, yet helps individuals form stronger social attachments to each other in the long run. Similarly, the effects of these deep-level differences on teams take time to develop.[8]

1.3 The Impacts of Diversity on Teamwork

Diversity influences work relationships with one another and thus has impacts on the performance of teamwork. An examination diversity literature shows that heterogeneity in team members is both an opportunity and a challenge to the functioning of teams. Some authors maintain that getting diverse people to work together is a challenge due to the tensions diversity can create. Others studies stress new ideas and creativity that have resulted from social interaction among diverse perspectives. For this reason, diversity, described as a “double-edged sword”,[9] has both advantageous and disadvantageous impacts on teamwork. Both of these forms will be illustrated in the following section.

1.3.1 Disadvantages of Diversity

In diverse teams, differences among members may lead to inefficiency in communication and increase emotional tension and conflict within the team. Thus, the most common disadvantages of diversity include miscommunication and distrust.

Miscommunication: One example of miscommunication can be caused by difference in language. Language and communication are inseparable. If team members do not come from the same cultural background or speak the same language, effective communication will be hindered because a lack of a common language in diverse teams makes it difficult for team members to exchange ideas. According to some researchers, when the receiver of a message belongs to another diversity category than the sender, the chances of precisely transferring a given message will be lower than if both receiver and sender belong to the same diversity category. Diversity may, thus, prevent knowledge sharing and problem solving if the language is not translated, and therefore, leads to misunderstandings and miscommunication.[10]

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Distrust: Since diversity in teams often leads to miscommunication and conflicts which are difficult and time consuming to solve, distrust within teams will arise. Moreover, people are likely to have false stereotypes and prejudices of individuals who are different. If individuals carry out negative stereotyping and baseless perceptions of others, it may prevent them from developing a trusting relationship and effective cooperation with each other.[11]

Once distrust exists, this may cause a group to divide into in-group and out-group members, and power conflicts between majority and minority members arise. Minority in this case means people with demographic or organizational backgrounds that are different from those of most group members. As a consequence of power struggles, it is likely that the majority group will ignore the minority members’ contributions. Minority members, since lacking power in this group, naturally respond to this by contributing less to group communication, which causes them to have less of an impact on the group’s decisions. This is fatal, since a potential benefit of diversity is the increase in the types of information and variety of perspectives that may be used to solve problems in a group. If minorities are not recognized and rewarded for their actual contributions, they may not become motivated team members. The benefit is lost if they do not provide input or if the group ignores the input of minority members, since the group is not fully using its resources.[12] This may lead to a vicious cycle in team performance in the long term: the way the group treats minority members may reduce their desire to contribute; over time, minority members become less committed to the team’s goals and less motivated to perform for the team, which in turn is used to justify not rewarding minorities or failing to do much to contribute to the team performance.[13]

Apparently, these two kinds of disadvantages mentioned above are related to each other. Because miscommunication prevents individuals from sharing and combining knowledge all together, one natural consequence is that they will lose confidence in each other.

Although diverse groups may have difficulties with communicating, some studies state that this does not prevent them from performing better than homogeneous groups. This is because diversity has clear benefits improving the quality of team performance.


[1] S. L. Muhr, „Openness to Diversity - Turning Conflict into Teamwork Creativity“. Online resource (14.02.2006): http://www.mah.se/upload/IMER/Forskning/Diverse/Muhr%5B1%5D.pdf, p. 2.

[2] Muhr, p. 3.

[3] A. Sammartino, J. O’Flynn and S. Nicholas, “The Innovation and Learning Advantage from Diversity: a Business Model for Diversity Management”, online resource (14.02.2006): http://www.diversityaustrala _gov.au/_inc/doc_pdf/inn_learn_model.pdf, pp. 2-6.

[4] L. Gardenswartz and A. Rowe, “Managing Diversity – A Complete Desk Reference and Planning Guide”, New York, 1993, pp. 386-392.

[5] L. Gardenswartz and A. Rowe (1993), p. 386.

[6] NN, “Diversity”, online resources (14.02.2006): http://www.sagepub.com/upmdata/14146_Chapter 13.pdf, p. 229.

[7] Muhr, pp. 2-3.

[8] NN, „Diversity“, pp. 221-222.

[9] S.L.Muhr, p. 2.

[10] Muhr, p. 3.

[11] NN, „Diversity“, p. 227.

[12] NN, „Diversity“, pp. 227-228.

[13] Muhr, p. 4.

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Diversity in Teamwork - MARKSTRAT as a Model for Diversity Training
University of Kassel
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Diversity, Teamwork, MARKSTRAT, Model, Training
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Diplom-Wirtschaftamerikanistin Xiumei Liu (Author), 2007, Diversity in Teamwork - MARKSTRAT as a Model for Diversity Training, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/73776


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