by guest blogger Cindy Schneider
Picture this: You and a co-worker are coming back from a meeting in mid-January. You arrive at your gate just in time to find your flight has been canceled by the blizzard you had hoped to beat. Traffic is at a standstill as well, so you are stuck in the airport for the foreseeable future. Looks like you and your colleague will be spending some quality time together for the next 12 hours or so!
What’s your reaction to this?
You might grab some dinner at the brew pub on the next concourse, chat about work (what’s up with that new IT guy?), argue about how the Vikings will do next season, commiserate about your kids’ crazy sports schedules…it’s all good.
But what if your co-worker’s life, culture and background is distinctly different from yours? Does this scenario then turn into a panic situation? Do you secretly think: I have to hang out with this person for how long? We have nothing in common – what are we going to even talk about? Get me out of here!
As leaders, our first impulse can be to hire people who are just like us. It’s human nature to want to surround ourselves with people who share similar background and values. But is it healthy for your organization in the long run?
Teams with members from different cultures, backgrounds, family structures, and life experiences can offer many unique perspectives, bringing different ideas and opinions to your organization. Encouraging team members to get to know each other and to take an interest in one another’s lives can make the difference between a functional, creative team and one where individual members actively avoid working closely with one another.
Cindy Schneider works in the Human Resources Division of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and supports the Talent Management Team. She is currently completing her bachelor’s degree in Technical Communications and Professional Writing at Metropolitan State University.