Diversity in Work Groups: Effects on the Level of Conflict

Organisatonal Design Workshop, Eiasm-European Institute for Advanced Studies in Management

21 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2011 Last revised: 3 Mar 2012

See all articles by Massimo Franco

Massimo Franco

Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II - Department of Political Science

Francesca Di Virgilio

Università degli Studi del Molise

Loredana Di Pietro

University of Molise

Date Written: October 3, 2011

Abstract

This paper provides the results of an empirical study on diversity and conflict within teams.

In much of the previous literature, conflict is generally view as negative and something to be avoided or immediately resolved.

Some studies, however, have examined the benefits of organizational conflict and methods for stimulating productive conflict (Amason and Schweiger, 1994; Van de Vliert and De Dreu, 1994; Jehn, 1994-1995; Pelled, 1996). The ability to face the conflict and to resolve problems efficiently is the most critical factor for the success or failure of a group. Conflict is a powerful instrument of organizational change which, if managed in an opportune way, leads to the an evolution of a working group.

Diversity in teams is one of the most important component of conflict process. From a organizational perspective diversity of team members is often seen as source of conflict due to less effectiveness of communication, increasing cost caused by identity harassment and discriminating behaviour, all phenomena causing cost. Since avoiding diversity is not feasible, working group have to cope with diversity in a positive way. Consequently, many group’s mission statements focus on fairness and respect, but as Adler (1986) shows empirically, it is not enough just to establish heterogeneous working groups, but it is also necessary to manage them (Deetz, 2003; Hanappi Egger, 2003-2005).

This paper will concepts of diversity relevant for intragroup conflict through an experiment with 28 working groups of students from the Course of Management, University of Molise, Italy. Laboratory experiments on working groups (Deutsch, 1990; Weingart et al., 1993; De Dreu et al., 1999; De Dreu et al., 2000; Franco, Di Virgilio and Di Pietro, 2006) analyzed the existing correlations between the level of conflict within the group and one of the characteristic of the team structure: diversity (dependent variable). We examined how different kinds of diversity influenced group conflict. We looked at two aspects of demographic diversity, age and gender, and at two aspects of background diversity, educational level and work experience (Loden and Rosener, 1991).

The paper is presented as follows: first we analyzed the foundations of conflict and diversity within the group and we develop our hypothesis. Second we describe the methodology (deductive approach and statistical analyses). Following this, we present our results and finally we draw the principal conclusions, implications and limitations of our research.

Keywords: working group, conflict, demographic diversity, background diversity

JEL Classification: M54, D7, D23

Suggested Citation

Franco, Massimo and Di Virgilio, Francesca and Di Pietro, Loredana, Diversity in Work Groups: Effects on the Level of Conflict (October 3, 2011). Organisatonal Design Workshop, Eiasm-European Institute for Advanced Studies in Management. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1937506

Massimo Franco (Contact Author)

Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II - Department of Political Science ( email )

via Mezzocannone, 4
Napoli, 80138
Italy
0812534086 (Phone)
0812534061 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.docenti.unina.it/massimo.franco

Francesca Di Virgilio

Università degli Studi del Molise ( email )

Via De Sanctis
Campobasso, Campobasso (CB) 86100
Italy

Loredana Di Pietro

University of Molise ( email )

Via de Sanctis
86100 Campobasso
Italy
00390874404460 (Phone)
00390874418924 (Fax)

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