Having a Voice in Your Group: Increasing Productivity through Group Participation

104 Pages Posted: 1 Oct 2021

See all articles by Sherry Jueyu Wu

Sherry Jueyu Wu

University of California Los Angeles

Elizabeth Levy Paluck

Princeton University Department of Psychology

Date Written: September 30, 2021


Participatory work structure is a popular concept but its causal impacts in real world work groups have heretofore been unquantified and research has been Western-centric. We test the hypothesis that participatory group structure increases productivity for blue collar workers in a context where participation is not a normative default. We conducted a longitudinal field experiment with 65 Chinese factory groups (1752 workers). Half of the groups were randomly assigned to a 20-minute participatory meeting once per week for six weeks, in which the group’s supervisor stepped aside and workers contributed ideas and personal goals in an open discussion of their work. The other half continued with status quo meetings in which supervisors spoke and set goals, workers listened, and a researcher observed. In an independent survey, American full-time workers predict those who listen to the supervisors to be more productive than those who engage in an open discussion. Yet, we found that participatory vs. a hierarchical structure led to a 10.6% average increase in individual treatment workers’ productivity, an increase that endured for 9 weeks after the participatory experiment ended. The brief participatory meetings also increased treatment workers’ retention rate and feelings of empowerment such as job satisfaction and sense of control. We find no evidence of informational gains or new worker goals; instead, evidence suggests that the increase in frequency of workers’ voicing opinions may have driven higher productivity.

Keywords: Participation, Productivity, Voice, Group Dynamics, Field Experiment

Suggested Citation

Wu, Sherry Jueyu and Paluck, Elizabeth Levy, Having a Voice in Your Group: Increasing Productivity through Group Participation (September 30, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3933505 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3933505

Sherry Jueyu Wu (Contact Author)

University of California Los Angeles ( email )

405 Hilgard Avenue
Box 951361
Los Angeles, CA 90095
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HOME PAGE: http://www.sherryjwu.com

Elizabeth Levy Paluck

Princeton University Department of Psychology ( email )

Peretsman Scully Hall
Department of Psychology
Princeton, NJ 08540
United States
6092589730 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.betsylevypaluck.com/

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