Ask any team member about the value of a diverse workplace and they will unanimously agree that it makes a positive impact in an organization. A diversity of opinions, knowledge and background adds value to problem solving by generating alternatives. Varied talents, experiences and perspectives tend to increase organizational performance, especially as more and more Gen Ys enter the workplace. (See Mentoring Across the Generational Divide). We recently asked a team we were consulting with about who they choose to spend time with at work and here’s what they told us: “Even though we work with and value people with diverse backgrounds, when we take breaks or lunches, we tend to seek out and spend time with familiar faces.” Like these team members, most of us prefer to spend time with those with whom we feel most comfortable.

The differences that promote workplace innovation and ingenuity can also create tension. We know that working through the discord is healthy for a team, but it can polarize one as well.

Who do you hang out with at work? Who are the people in your “circle of trust”? How different are they from you?

Here are four things to think about that can help enhance your communication skills, and strengthen your ability to manage conflict and difficult interactions.
1. Reaching out and seeking others with different perspectives and worldviews can significantly improve your leadership skills.
2. Learning to listen for understanding helps leaders become more receptive to your employees’ issues.
3. Checking for understanding and challenging personal assumptions ensures that you are clear and on track.
4. Embracing new ideas demonstrates openness to learning and sharing ownership of ideas.

See our course description of Critical Conversations: What to Say and How to Say It.