Why You Should Support Different Working and Communication Styles in The Workplace
May 4, 2020
When companies talk about diversity in the workplace, they usually focus on the obvious traits such as age, race, gender, and nationality.
Often overlooked are the factors like employees’ working and communication styles. By not supporting different working and communication styles, you won’t be able to properly leverage the diversity of your team.
Imagine you have an emotionally oriented employee who is great at facilitating team interaction, cultivating relationship, and building rapport with stakeholders. If you build an environment that is overly analytical, data-oriented, or linear in structure and communication, you’d be missing out on their greatest strengths and risk stifling their full potential as an employee.
Diversity does not automatically mean inclusiveness
While diversity and inclusion are often lumped together, they are significantly different sides of the same coin.
Diversity comes from without, based on the traits of the people you hire. Inclusion stems from within, based on the organisation and the structures it has in place to facilitate equitable interaction.
This means you can raise your diversity profile by hiring people of different races, physical abilities, religious affirmations, or socioeconomic status, but if people still feel marginalised, alienated, or psychologically unsafe in your organisation – you will never reap the full benefits of a diverse workforce.
How to support different working styles with the help of user manuals
According to productivity consultant Carson Tate, you’ll find 4 main working styles in the workplace:
Logical: Analytical, linear, and data-oriented
Organised: Sequential, planned, and detailed-oriented
Supportive: Expressive and emotionally oriented
Big-picture: Integrative and ideation-oriented
An easy way to start supporting different work style is to have everyone, from managers to employees, draw up their own user manuals.
An individual’s user manual outlines the best ways for others to work with them. Here is a template you can use to kickstart your efforts, which includes information like:
My working style
What frustrates me
How to best communicate with me
How I like to be appreciated
Sharing this information helps create a collaborative work environment, and encourages open and honest conversations about personal strengths, weaknesses, and anxieties.
But acknowledging differences is only the first step. The next is ensuring that each working style is represented on every project and team. This way, they cover each other’s blind spots and provide contributions based on their unique strengths – a committee of only Logical workers may overlook creative or out-of-the-box solutions, and need Big-picture colleagues to help with brainstorming; a team of only Big-picture workers may neglect the minutiae of planning or overlook operational realities, and need colleagues who are Organised to help with working out the details.
How to support different communication styles in meetings
But we all communicate differently, and not supporting differences in communication styles raises the potential for miscommunication – an issue that costs large companies (over 100,000 employees) $62.4 million a year and smaller businesses (100 employees) $420,000 a year.
A good ground zero to start implementing inclusive communication practices is in meetings.
As a microcosm of workplace communication, meetings should ideally be a safe space for people of diverse demographics and personalities to communicate without fear of repercussions or backlash. But as our whitepaper shows, minorities in the office are still finding it a struggle to express themselves in effective and authentic ways, and feel compelled to downplay their diversity in order to avoid stereotyping.
To combat that, here are 4 steps to building a more inclusive meeting environment:
1. Share meeting agendas
Agendas help alleviate anxieties by giving attendees an idea of how to prepare and what is expected. This works especially well for introverts on your team, who prefer to contemplate ideas before communicating them.
2. Establish meeting rules that promote inclusiveness
Basic rules include: explaining who is in charge of which agenda item; having a strict “no interruptions” policy; acknowledging those who bring up good points without allowing hijackers to get away with appropriation; and ensuring that no persons dominate the conversation.
3. Provide anonymous platforms for people to speak up
Take the attention away from the person and focus it on the question itself with an anonymous Q&A platform. This is especially helpful for employees with anxieties about being judged for their questions, and prevents the more vocal ones from hogging the spotlight.
4. Assign a Devil’s Advocate
Groupthink is toxic in any meeting, so a Devil’s Advocate is needed to encourage people to challenge viewpoints and make it clear that it is safe to express disagreement.
An inclusive workplace that supports different working and communication styles allows employees to perform their best, while ensuring that everyone respects each other’s uniqueness. This translates to better employee engagement, and hence improved productivity and profitability.