By Kyle Scott

One of the biggest debates in the U.S. Congress has been how to integrate gay service men and women into the military ranks without disturbing the balance or camaraderie required in battle.

While the stakes may not be as high on the assembly line or in a cubicle, dealing with diversity in the workplace is an obstacle that stands in the way of productivity. Whether it’s in the government, military or the business world, good management is needed to keep diversity from becoming a hindrance – when it could be an asset.

As a result, I offer a three-point plan that can help management in ANY sector to better handle diversity. The first point appears this week – the remaining ones will be presented next week.

* SIZE MATTERS – An organization that is too big will not be able to treat its members as meaningful contributors and risks alienating them. Moreover, an organization that is TOO BIG will not be able to recognize a problem until it is too late. Conversely, an organization that is TOO SMALL can’t achieve its full potential.

This is where management strategies come into play. The goal is to capture the positive attributes of both large and small organizations. This can be accomplished through the creation of small working groups with enough autonomy to accomplish tasks on their own. This will enable organizations to grow as large as necessary without compromising accountability and interpersonal communication. Within such a structure, problems can be recognized before they get too big – thus enabling managers to be proactive in finding solutions.

Equally important is the fact that the employees in work groups can get to know one another on a more personal level and thus overcome the prejudices that can occur when people have only worked with their specific race and/or ethnicity. In small groups, members become more understanding of opposing positions, which in turn makes conflicts less likely.

Kyle Scott is a lecturer at the University of Houston, and author of the soon-to-be-released “Federalism: Theory and Practice.” This article appears in the April 2011 issue of Employee Assistance Report. For more information, check out the Impact Publications website (and EARN link within) at the upper right.