What’s the business case for diversity in the workplace? It’s less about what diversity adds, and more about what homogeneity takes away.
Many people share a sense of moral responsibility to advocate for diversity in organizations, but what is the functional value of diversity in the workplace? Over half a century of research has provided few straightforward or consistent answers. Some studies have shown diverse teams—that is, teams comprised of people of different races, genders, and backgrounds—promote creativity, foster critical thinking, and tend to make better, more thoughtful decisions because they consider a wider range of perspectives. Other studies indicate diverse teams fuel interpersonal conflicts, reduce cohesion, and slow the pace of learning.
Larry, one of the employees you supervise, hasn’t been performing his job up to expectations. But you’ve been reluctant to take him aside and speak with him candidly: Like most senior people in the company, you are white. What if Larry, who is black, takes your criticism the wrong way or, worse, thinks you are racist?
The last thing you want is for others to think your actions were influenced by race. So you’ve held off talking to him about performance issues that you’d likely have raised with your non-minority employees. You’re relieved that a potentially thorny situation was averted, even pleased with your capacity to be so racially sensitive.