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Webucator's Free Workplace Diversity Tutorial

Lesson: Individual Differences

Welcome to our free Workplace Diversity tutorial. This tutorial is based on Webucator's Diversity Training for Employees and Managers course.

Each and every person on the planet is a unique individual. Each person has similarities and differences when compared to other individuals. There are certain differences that are more prominent within particular groups and learning these can help you work more cohesively as a team.

Lesson Goals

  • Learn how to identify cultural differences.
  • Learn how to identify personality differences.
  • Learn how to identify generational differences.

Cultural Differences

People sometimes see the same situation in different ways due to cultural differences. Social customs and cultural differences can have a big impact in the workplace, whether it is in a team or interacting with clients.

These are some possible cultural differences to be aware of:

  1. Hand signals: A good example of this is the hand signal in the U.S. for OK. This gesture means money to the Japanese, means zero to the French, and is a pretty big insult to Russians, Turks or Brazilians.
  2. Personal space: Americans typically require more distance between them and the person they are speaking with.
  3. Calendar dates: In the U.S. dates are written as month/date/year, whereas in Europe they are written as day/month/year.
  4. Holidays: Different countries and different religions celebrate different holidays. Most companies try to work around the holiday needs of employees or clients.
  5. Context: Cultures with low context prefer more up front, explicit conversations. High context cultures typically expect more indirect communication. These are easily misunderstood cultural differences that can cause issues in the workplace.
  6. Multi-tasking: Certain cultures prefer to only do one task at a time and focus on one thing without interruptions. American culture typically embraces more multi-tasking. Managers of different cultures must be aware of these differences and harness the benefits of both types of people.

Although no individual fits into any one box or description perfectly, there are customs associated with different cultures. No one should be judged or discriminated against because of these differences. Increasing awareness of cultural differences can make for better working relationships and a more successful team.

Understanding Cultural Differences

Duration: 10 to 15 minutes.

Answer the following questions and then discuss as a class.

  1. In a situation where you are working with someone from another culture, what would you do if they used a hand signal which you found to be offensive?
  2. If you were managing a team with employees from different countries and different religious beliefs, how should you schedule vacation time?
  3. A culture that expects more indirect communication is what?
    1. High Context
    2. Low Context
  4. There are cultures that value multi-tasking abilities, and there are cultures that prefer to focus on doing one thing at a time without interruption. Which type would Americans typically fall under?
    1. Focused, one task at a time
    2. Multi-tasking


  1. Ask the person who used the hand signal what they meant.
  2. Ask them about vacation/holiday time ahead of time so if there are conflicts they can decide what days off are most important.
  3. A. High Context
  4. B. Multi-Tasking

Personality Differences

There are many personality tests currently used in the business world. Here are a few examples:

  • The Myers Briggs Type Indicator
  • The DiSC Test
  • The Five Factor Personality Inventory
  • The Strength Deployment Inventory
  • The Newcastle Personality Assessor

Some of these place individuals in particular quadrants and explain strengths and weaknesses of each personality type. Some tests compare each person to an animal or label people as colors. As gimmicky as this may sound, this is a way for people to relate to each other and be more aware of similarities and differences. They also receive information on which personality types work best together and possible scenarios that require more work to overcome personality differences.

Descriptions of different personality styles, along with suggestions for managing individuals with each personality style, follow:

  1. Dominant / Leader
    1. Some individuals need to be in control no matter what the situation is. Every project needs a leader to take action and move things forward.
    2. It may be beneficial to give a co-worker with this personality style more authority when possible.
    3. Manage these individuals with a more hands-off approach to make it appear that they are in control.
  2. Planner / Thinker
    1. These individuals prefer taking time to analyze data and think things through.
    2. They prefer working with facts and need organization.
    3. Manage these individuals by giving deadlines and exact details of what is expected.
  3. Creative / Innovator
    1. These individuals like to find new ways of doing things or improving processes.
    2. They prefer to be creative and test out new ideas.
    3. Manage these individuals with an open mind to new ideas and allow for a little extra creative time.
  4. Communicator / Supporter
    1. These individuals are all about people. They value communication and the feelings of others.
    2. They prefer to work in teams and discuss projects thoroughly. They make sure to involve everyone's opinions.
    3. Manage these individuals with constant communication and keep them updated on their performance. Remember to value their feelings.

Most people do not fit into just one category, but if you listen and observe them, they typically lean more towards one or two of these styles.

There are many other terms that are used for different personality traits, but the point remains the same. People are different and each individual prefers to work a certain way. Understanding the benefits of each style and recognizing how to work together as a team can create a more productive and happier work environment.

Understanding Personality Differences

Duration: 10 to 15 minutes.

Answer the following questions and then discuss as a class.

  1. True or False: Personality tests tell individuals how they can change to be more efficient at work.
  2. What personality type prefers to work in teams and get everyone's opinions?
    1. Leader
    2. Thinker
    3. Innovator
    4. Supporter
  3. What personality type should be managed by giving deadlines and exact details of what is expected?
    1. Leader
    2. Thinker
    3. Innovator
    4. Supporter
  4. What personality type likes to find new ways of doing things or improving processes?
    1. Leader
    2. Thinker
    3. Innovator
    4. Supporter


  1. False. You may make small changes from these personality tests, but the ultimate goal is to learn more about the way you are and how you work best with others who may or may not be like you.
  2. D. Supporter
  3. B. Thinker
  4. C. Innovator

Generational Differences

There are typically four different generations working together in a company. Generational differences in work styles can be beneficial, but can also cause conflicts when employees are not aware of how to interact with each other.

The different generations are:

  1. Traditionalists / Veterans
  2. Baby Boomers
  3. Generation X
  4. Millennials / Generation Y

Traditionalists / Veterans

  1. Born before 1946.
  2. These individuals are typically dedicated hard workers.
  3. They respect authority and value seniority and tenure.
  4. They do not deal well with change.
  5. Traditionalists prefer more formal communication and are typically more discrete.
  6. They do not like a lot of meetings or anything that wastes their time.

Baby Boomers

  1. Born between 1946 and 1964.
  2. These individuals are typically workaholics and believe their self-worth is directly related to their work ethic.
  3. They do not like change and they question authority.
  4. Their careers are extremely important and define them. Their personal life is centered around their career.
  5. They work well in teams and enjoy sharing their opinions and ideas.
  6. Baby Boomers prefer open, direct communication and a diplomatic work environment where their ideas matter.

Generation X

  1. Born between 1965 and 1980.
  2. These individuals value balance between work and their personal lives.
  3. They prefer to work smarter not harder. Increase efficiency and eliminate the long hours.
  4. They are project oriented and want to get paid to get the job done.
  5. Generation Xers prefer a more casual work environment and tend to be skeptical of authority.
  6. They detest micro-management and want independence.
  7. They adapt well to change and are highly educated.

Millennials / Generation Y

  1. Born between 1980 and 2000.
  2. They are team players.
  3. They have a strong sense of entitlement and can get impatient.
  4. These individuals are high-performing and technologically savvy.
  5. They want flexibility at work, which means working any time, any place. They want to work to get the job done, not based on a 9 to 5 schedule.
  6. Millennials also want a good balance between work and life outside of work.

Each generation offers excellent qualities that we can all learn from. Many of the characteristics of one generation are similar to the characteristics of other generations. It is important to be open to new ideas and new methodologies that work for all generations. Each person, each department, and each company must play their part to find a healthy balance for all generations.

Understanding Generational Differences

Duration: 10 to 15 minutes.

Answer the following questions and then discuss as a class.

  1. Which generation would someone be if they were born in 1980?
  2. Are all baby boomers workaholics?
  3. Which generation or generations prefer more flexible work schedules?
  4. Which generation typically includes the hardest workers?
  5. Which generation is typically the most formal and does not like wasting time with meetings?


  1. This could be Generation X or Generation Y. Typically a person born at this time takes on some of both traits.
  2. No. Baby boomers tend to be hard workers, but that certainly doesn't mean they all are.
  3. Generation X and Generation Y both value flexible work schedules.
  4. Baby Boomers
  5. Traditionalists