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Managing diversity within teams

The advantages and disadvantages of diverse teams

Type theory suggests that teams made up of diverse personality types will be more effective as they have a greater range of viewpoints and strengths to draw upon. In other words, the presence of diverse types and viewpoints within a team will ensure sophisticated, all-round solutions to problems. But that is only true if the differences are respected and can be harnessed effectively by the team leader. 

Many of the team problems outlined earlier share a common root cause - lack of awareness and lack of respect for difference. In teams where there is diversity of type but no understanding or appreciation of it, the diversity becomes a liability to the team rather than an asset.

This lack of awareness means that the conflict which inevitably arises from type differences cannot be managed because there is little understanding of the problem. What could be explained as healthy type differences appear to team members as unhealthy feuds between individuals which will never be resolved. Pessimism becomes rife.

Managing diversity within a team

When a team is composed of diverse types but is aware of personality differences and willing to see that each type has a valuable perspective and way of doing things which could help the team’s overall effectiveness, then this awareness is often enough to help the diverse team deal with difference.

It can be helpful, however, for teams to adopt a way of running meetings which ensures that all perspectives can be heard. This can be more time-consuming but will often ensure that better decisions are made and that a more harmonious and productive atmosphere prevails.

The advantages and disadvantages of similarity

Similarity of type preference on a team may, or may, not lead to effective team working. For example, in teams largely comprising NTs team members share a common overall perspective and have similar strengths and weaknesses, but the individualism of NTs and their unwillingness to compromise often makes for poor team working.

Teams largely comprising STs will often discharge their business effectively but that little of what could be called a team atmosphere prevails. Any team member who does not have a preference for ST usually feels undervalued and marginalised.

In teams where Fs predominate –either SF or NF – conflict and resentment is often simmering under the surface which can then undermine team working. Harmony may appear to prevail at team meetings but a true team spirit is often compromised by festering resentment.

Teams comprising similar types are also likely to have definite strengths but significant weaknesses or blindspots. In NT teams, for example, original innovative solutions to problems may abound but the team’s lack of attention to practical detail means delivery of these solutions is likely to be weak.


© Carol Craig

MBTI, Myers-Briggs, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator are registered trademarks or trademarks of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Trust in the United States and other countries; OPP Ltd. has exclusive rights to these trademarks in the U.K.

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