Today while working out, I started to think heavily about the word “differentiation” and its meaning.  This occurred due to reflection of a recent conversation with a few HR professionals about reducing conflict through enhancing awareness, tolerance and appreciation for differences in the workplace.

Sweeping generalizations- what comes to your mind when you think of this term? Have you ever been on the recipient end and feared someone has made a generalization about you? Or perhaps it was confirmed you were being treated differently than others on a team and couldn’t quite get your head around the cause?  Furthermore, may be you witnessed comments or were a recipient of an internal rumor mill of someone making remarks about another  individual on the team or group such as, “Mary can’t be trusted”, or ”That HR dpt. is worthless.”

Seems there are two continuums to differentiation capacity; high and low. Those with low have a tendency to project their views on to others and assume others see things the one he/she does. Those with high on the other hand really avoid stereotyping and understand and appreciate the differences of others.

I truly believe it is critical that individuals and those in teams have self-awareness and are able to distinguish between self qualities and strengths as well as those of others on the team.  All too often I have witnessed workplace relations which are anything but ideal, observed the impact of conflict within teams, and it begs one to ponder not just the risk but the compromises organizations find themselves in because of the root cause of lack of awareness and appreciation for differences. Aside from relational grievances, what about the lost opportunities, the lack of relations and sales because a salesperson made a judgment about a potential client along the lines of, “I haven’t heard from Joe, and he was really asking me tough metrics around the solution I proposed. He is just wasting my time.” As opposed to recognizing perhaps Joe needs to reflect and think through the problems, consider the concrete details and makes his decisions from seeking flaws in one’s logic, etc.

This leads me to being incredibly passionate about a simple tool, MBTI® type. At an individual level, one recognizes strengths and weaknesses, learns about other preferences and an emphasis on diversity, gains insight about communicating with other types, as well as potential individual blind spots and personal development. With teams,  it also fosters openness and trust, builds culture, and emphasizes the value of team diversity and reduces conflict.

Ask yourself, do you make assumptions that what is true for you is true for others? How might you be contributing to conflict and trust issues? What if you had a glimpse of the various individual “operating manuals” for individuals, how might that insight improve relations, trust, teamwork, sales, etc.?



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