Diversity and Groups: Volume 11


Table of contents

(18 chapters)

The very first issue of the Research on Managing Groups and Teams volume in 1998 was on the topic of Group Composition. As an inaugural topic that choice reflected the importance of the issue of composition in the study of groups and in the changing American and global landscape. Now, 10 years later, the topic of the volume, Diversity and Groups, has emerged again at an opportune time in the research, managerial, and societal dialogue on this issue. One of my very first publications was a chapter in that inaugural issue of Research on Managing Groups and Teams with Charles O’Reilly and Sigal Barsade titled “Group Demography and Innovation: Does Diversity Help?” So as you can see, this topic is one that has been central to my own research agenda since its inception. When Maggie and Beta asked me to be the volume editor for this issue on Diversity and Groups I was excited to have the opportunity to bring together an interdisciplinary set of scholars thinking about the questions of when, why, how, and for what theoretical reasons does diversity affect individual and group functioning.

Despite the oft made argument that demographic diversity should enhance creativity, little is known about this relationship. We propose that group diversity, measured in terms of demographic faultlines, affects creativity through its effects on group members’ felt psychological safety to express their diverse ideas and the quality of information sharing that takes place across subgroup boundaries. Further, we propose that the relationship between faultlines and creativity will be moderated by task interdependence and equality of subgroup sizes. Finally, we provide suggestions for how organizations can establish norms for self-verification and use accountability techniques to enhance creativity in diverse groups.

Although some researchers have recognized that context can play an important role in explaining the mixed findings of past diversity research, to date a comprehensive framework for specifying these contextual influences has been lacking. In order to address this gap, we propose a framework for future research that incorporates contextual variables at extra-organizational, organizational, and team levels. We consider how these various aspects of diversity influence categorization-based or elaboration-based diversity outcomes. We also present findings of a literature review that identifies aspects of diversity context that have received attention directly or indirectly in research conducted between 1999 and 2007.

In this chapter, we posit that identity integration, an individual difference variable measuring the degree to which multiple and disparate social identities are perceived as compatible, moderates the relationship between team diversity and innovation. Prior research shows that individuals with higher levels of identity integration exhibit higher levels of innovation on tasks that draw from identity-related knowledge systems. In this chapter, we extend this research to examine how innovation can be increased in cross-functional teams. We propose that reinforcing the compatibility between functional identities within a team facilitates access to functionally unique knowledge systems, which in turn increases team innovation.

Research and theory on diversity in organizations tends to examine relations between the majority and minority and to overlook relations within the minority. In this chapter we explore the dynamics within a minority that represents a token percentage (less than 15%) of the larger group (Kanter, R. M. 1977b). We argue that members of a minority sub-group are subject to inter-group and intra-group pressures and that these pressures are greatest for a minority of two. We introduce the term “duo-status” to describe this two-token situation and examine the positive, neutral, and negative dynamics that result depending on the coping strategy chosen by each member of the duo.

A number of scholars have called our attention to the need to consider the social significance of demographic categories when evaluating the association between a team's composition and its performance. Implicit in the call is the idea that the association between a team's composition and its performance is more predictable when the demographic categories that define the team's composition are more significant. How to define the social significance of a demographic category is unclear. One approach is to define the importance of a demographic category in terms of interpersonal attraction. Important demographic categories generate more positive affect between category members. Alternatively, one could define the social significance of a demographic category in the context of task-related processes and activities. A demographic category is significant if it affects the activities that are more likely to be assigned to a team member (i.e., an individual's work-set). I maintain there is much to gain by adopting a role-based approach to the question. An attraction-based approach is a subset of a role-based approach. Moreover, an empirical analysis of the association between demographic categories and job categories would allow us to uncover how categorical people are in their thinking and therefore how socially significant different demographic categories are at work. When combined with a team's demographic composition and the activities that a team must accomplish, the empirical results would move us one step closer to predicting a team's success rate a priori.

In this chapter, we theorize that metaperceptions (beliefs about how one is viewed by others) derived from social identity categories will influence intrapersonal processing and resultant member interaction patterns in diverse work groups. In turn, such patterns of interactions will affect the quality of emergent states within diverse groups, ultimately impacting group-level outcomes. We will extend previous work in this area by examining the formation, nature, and consequences of metaperceptions in workgroups within which individuals vary with regard to social identities. In addition, we will describe the implications of metaperceptions for the effective leadership of diverse groups.

Many organizational efforts to improve co-worker relationships entail inducing employees to bring their “whole selves” into the workplace, which for employees often means disclosing personal experiences at work. Several psychological theories suggest that increased self-disclosure will lead to better relationships in organizational work groups. However, this chapter considers the factors impacting self-disclosure in demographically diverse settings. We posit that although self-disclosure has led to closer relationships in past research, it may not increase cohesion for employees in demographically diverse work groups, or those who are demographically dissimilar from the majority of their co-workers.

In this chapter, we argue that beyond the self-enhancement motive (i.e., the desire for a positive identity), other identity motives play a significant, yet underspecified role in homogeneous and diverse groups. In particular, we explore how the desire for self-verification, belonging, and distinctiveness offer alternative and, at times, even contradictory explanations for findings typically attributed to self-enhancement. We also consider the ways in which these motives are influenced in homogenous and diverse groups and the effects they have on group processes and performance. Through our examination, we aim to stimulate research on the role of multiple identity motives in homogenous and diverse groups.

This chapter examines the processes by which a group's racial composition affects its performance and the social-cognitive tendencies of its individual members. Drawing on published and unpublished experiments regarding group composition and interracial interaction, this review demonstrates that the information exchange perspective on diversity – in which demographic heterogeneity is expected to translate into informational heterogeneity – is more complicated than some have suggested, and is not wholly responsible for the positive performance effects of racial diversity. Indeed, many of the benefits of diversity can be attributed to the impact of heterogeneous settings on White individuals, as well as to motivational and other non-informational processes.

In this chapter, we introduce a theoretical model to explain under which conditions different insights or approaches within a team do not necessarily undermine team cohesiveness or prevent the development of a common team identity, and can in fact even reinforce each other. We will review a program of research that examined the formation of a common identity in new collaborations, as well as the extent to which teams accept newcomers who possess unique resources. We show that clarity and congruence determine the likelihood that team members will maintain a common identity while they effectively use the differences among them and accommodate to team changes.

To reap the value in diverse teams, leaders may try to manipulate structural interdependence – through task design – to foster synergistic collaboration. However, ambiguity about the nature and appropriate intersections of members’ unique and valuable cognitive perspectives can make it difficult to fully anticipate collaborative activity in task design. Here, teams need emergent interdependence – members must develop the desire and expectation to work interdependently for the benefit of the work. We therefore present a model of how leaders can promote emergent interdependence for diverse team success, identifying key antecedents and discussing psychological safety as a condition which can enhance their efforts.

This chapter explores the role of language in the relationship between diversity and team performance. Specifically, we consider how a linguistic approach to social categorization may be used to study the social psychological mechanisms that underlie diversity effects. Using the results of a study examining the effects of gender, ethnicity and tenure on language abstraction, we consider the potential implications for team processes and effectiveness. In addition, we propose a revised team input-process-output model that highlights the potential effects of language on team processes. We conclude by suggesting directions for future research linking diversity, linguistic categorization, and team effectiveness.

One interesting and unequivocal theme across the chapters is that everyone in teams, not just minority members, is affected by the group's composition – whites and blacks, men and women, and those who are experienced as well as inexperienced. Further, though there is evidence that minority members may be more affected than majority members (both positively and negatively – see, e.g., Chatman, Boisnier, Spataro, Anderson & Berdahl, in press), it is clear that majority members are influenced by group composition as well.

Publication date
Book series
Research on Managing Groups and Teams
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
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