You’ve worked hard to build—and retain—a diverse team. When you look around the table, you see faces, ages, genders, backgrounds and personality types that cover a wide spectrum. You’re proud of each member and their diverse contributions to group goals. But as with any diverse group of people, their interests and motivations vary. For this crew, blanket management strategies just don’t work. When you apply the same sticks or carrots to everyone, your efforts tend to fall flat. Not everyone follows your metaphors and analogies and not everyone responds to your praise or disapproval. So, what now? Here are a few tips that can help you manage a diverse team.

Identify broad strokes.

Don’t stereotype your employees based on age, race or gender. Assumptions made along these fault lines are historically inaccurate and harmful. But do recognize that introverts and extroverts respond to different management approaches. So do people who value money over free time and vice versa. So do competitors versus collaborators. So do people-pleasers versus lone wolves. Feel free to categorize as long as you’re using self-assigned preferences and ideologies and you aren’t buying into worn-out assumptions that are incorrect and illegitimate.

Don’t force what isn’t working.

“Rewarding” employees with mandatory fun is a bad idea. If you try to motivate your team by taking them out for mini-golf, or holding an award ceremony, or engaging in chants and cheers, there’s a chance this simply won’t work. If it doesn’t work, let it go. It’s not a fit. Try something else. (The same applies to threats or negative consequences.)

Stay agile.

If you gaze into the soul of one employee and discover the perfect motivation strategy for them, and your motivation strategy works, celebrate your victory. But don’t assume you’ve found a magical key that can open every door. Your victory ends as soon as you find yourself sitting down with the next employee. Keep a clean slate and an open mind.


Employees will typically tell you what they like and don’t like, where they want to take their careers, what drives them to lean in, and what drives them to check out. Sometimes they speak in words, and sometimes they offer nonverbal cues. Stay alert to both.

Use criticism like a surgical tool.

Just as “rewards” don’t always make employees feel rewarded, criticism can also backfire. Handle it carefully. Strive to criticize only the employees who tend to turn criticism into improvement and success. For the rest (those who respond with disengagement or discouragement), use other approaches. Try positive feedback, peer-to-peer conversation, redirection or clearer instructions.

For more on how to adjust your management style to meet the needs of each employee, turn to the staffing experts at Extension.


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