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Productivity In A Politically Correct Workplace

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When you think of creativity, an image of throwing caution (and the rulebook) to the wind bubbles up. How can you truly be creative if you’re bogged down by rules? One study shows that not only can you be more creative but more productive as well in a politically correct workplace.

The diverse workplace of today can be pretty hard to navigate. Especially when it comes to mixed-gender companies. How can you make one side happy without ticking off the other? It can feel like you’re walking a tightrope on your way to equality and improving employee satisfaction. So how can we reach that nirvana? Investigators at Cornell University decided to dive into this topic and were pretty surprised by their findings. The practice of political correctness at the office actually increases productivity. Dr. Jack Goncalo, an associate professor of organizational behavior, chimes in with his thoughts:

“Our work challenges the widespread assumption that true creativity requires a kind of anarchy in which people are permitted to speak their minds, whatever the consequence.”

Censoring your behavior feels like it would be a good way to ruin your productivity and creativity all in one shot. In fact, we here at The Methodology Blog are pretty big fans of creating workplaces that inspire imagination. It takes the focus off your work and instead, scatters your concentration, doesn’t it? If we’re all concerned about equality and consideration in the office, how can we put all our efforts into not only being productive, but increasing our efficiency?

So how did they end up with these results? Two experiments with 582 participants took place. They separated them into groups of three people. They then asked random groups to be “politically correct” or “polite.” Other groups received no instructions whatsoever. Then, all of the groups were asked to have a brainstorming session to create some business ideas. The amount of creativity in this case was measured by how many ideas were produced during these sessions.

politically correct and productivity

© Flickr user kevin dooley

Normally, the idea of having to be politically correct and act in a certain way would make you feel stifled, thereby kicking creativity right out the door. But instead, this experiment proved that not only were the groups unaffected by being asked to be more considerate, it actually increased the productivity of the mixed-sex groups. This is exactly opposite of what was expected. It seems as though having a set guideline of how to behave or respond appropriately in a mixed-sex work environment actually creates a sense of comfort. People feel more comfortable creating and sharing ideas.

So wouldn’t be easier to skip all these issues of trying to be politically correct and just have offices comprised of the same gender? Not quite. We have explored the benefits of improving productivity through gender diversity. Surprisingly, having a gender diverse workplace actually promotes employee satisfaction.

While the results of these experiments were certainly surprising, the fact is that it is somewhat disturbing news. Goncalo explains:

“The fact that men and women still experience a high level of uncertainty while working together and that a norm as restrictive as political correctness provided a safer environment for free expression means we still have a lot of work to do.”

This means we have a long road ahead of us when it comes to figuring out the perfect mix of ingenuity and productivity in a bias-free environment. So what steps can you take to create a workplace in which your employees feel satisfied and are still yielding impressive results? Reach out to one of our business process improvement consultants today for more information!

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Alyssa Shea

Alyssa Shea

Alyssa Shea transplanted from Illinois to South Carolina. She loves to write, read, and spend time with her dog and her family. Alyssa is very active on social media. She has been part of the AccelaWork team since 2013.
Alyssa Shea

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