A Field Study of Group Faultlines, Team Identity, Conflict, and Performance in Organizational Groups
33 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2002
Date Written: December 2001
We further the theoretical understanding of group faultlines (hypothetical lines that split a group into subgroups based on two or more demographic attributes; Lau & Murnighan, 1998) in demographically diverse organizations by also conceptualizing the distance of difference between the two subgroups. We create a faultline algorithm to capture not only how cleanly a group splits into subgroups (faultline strength) but also how far apart these subgroups are (faultline distance) on demographic differences (e.g., two members of age 20 are closer in age to two members of an opposing faultline of age 21 than of two members of age 71). To examine how group faultlines affect conflict and performance, we develop and test hypotheses in an organizational setting of 78 groups. We also investigate the moderating effects of team identity on the faultline-conflict link. The results show that groups with strong group faultlines (both high on faultline strength and distance) are more likely to have high levels of task, relationship, and process conflict. Furthermore, group faultlines are found to be detrimental to performance. Finally, a strong sense of team identity among group members minimizes the detrimental effects of group faultlines. Future research directions are presented.
Keywords: Group faultlines, team identity, and inter-subgroup conflict
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