Group diversity and faultline strength: assessing when diversity will have positive or negative effects

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Bates, Donna Lee
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University of Guelph

Due to the diversification of workgroups in organizations, research examining the effects of diversity for both the individual and the organization has increased. This research has revealed that diversity can have both positive and negative effects. To explain these mixed findings, Lau and Murnighan (1998) proposed the notion of "group faultlines." According to their theory, diversity can have positive effects, unless a group faultline is present and active. The potential effects of faultlines on intragroup conflict, emotional reaction to the group experience, and group performance were considered in this study. Of importance, two equally diverse groups with different faultline strengths did not significantly differ on any of these variables. Thus, the study failed to support the notion that diversity can have differential effects depending on the strength of the group faultline. Implications for organizations wishing to manage an increasingly diverse workforce and directions for future research are discussed.

Group faultlines, Group diversity, Workgroups, Positive, Negative