The Relationship Between Managers’ Interpersonal Skills and Diversity Efforts

An article in the Journal of Psychological Issues in Organizational Culture studies the relationship between managers’ interpersonal skills and their role in achieving organizational diversity and inclusiveness initiatives.  Based on a study of 143 managers at a Fortune 100 multinational defense contractor, the authors identify a direct correlation between the managers’ interpersonal (Versatility) skills and their efforts to leverage diversity and sustain an inclusive organizational culture.

The authors found that people can have a variety of individual behavioral styles or backgrounds, yet the key element to managerial effectiveness and organizational transformation is the level of Versatility that an individual possesses.  Consistent with other studies of interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence, this study offers an important perspective on individual effectiveness, attitude and behavior.

The authors say that diversity and inclusiveness (DI) is a business imperative and a competitive strength.  They say DI extends beyond legal requirements of Affirmative Action and Equal Employment to include a broad range of qualities that make people unique.  They go on to say that through DI interventions, “individuals will be more effective in their roles, teams will be more innovative and organizations will be more profitable.”

With that powerful backdrop, the article looks at whether interpersonal skills — specifically the Versatility skills included in TRACOM’s SOCIAL STYLE Model — make a difference in creating a DI-supportive environment.  Versatility was measured using the SOCIAL STYLE Profile multi-rater questionnaire from TRACOM.  Concurrent with the Versatility assessment, each manager’s direct report also completed a 38-item diversity and inclusiveness survey.

Learn more in the Versatility and Diversity Among Leaders Whitepaper

The data from this 2011 study showed that managers with high Versatility were rated significantly more effective at promoting diversity and inclusiveness than managers with lower Versatility. Importantly, these evaluations came from the managers’ direct reports, those who are in a particularly good position to determine managers’ interpersonal effectiveness and DI behaviors.   Each manager had at least three reports who were invited to participate in the study.

“. . . managers with high Versatility were rated significantly more effective at promoting diversity and inclusiveness”

This study builds on other studies looking at the relationship between Versatility and managerial performance.  An earlier study at an international publishing company found that managers with high Versatility were significantly better at leading teams, coaching others, affecting organizational commitment and achieving overall performance.  This Managerial Success Study is available here.

Perhaps most importantly, the authors point out that “managers can learn to be more Versatile” and this study provides a mechanism to improve organizational results.

Learn more here. 

Mulqueen, C., Kahn, A. and Kirkpatrick, J. S. (2012), Managers’ Interpersonal Skills and Their Role in Achieving Organizational Diversity and Inclusiveness. J of Psych Issues in Org Culture, 3: 48–58. doi: 10.1002/jpoc.21062

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