Cracks in Diversity Research: The Effects of Diversity Faultlines on Conflict and Performance
- Cite this article as:
- Thatcher, S.M., Jehn, K.A. & Zanutto, E. Group Decision and Negotiation (2003) 12: 217. doi:10.1023/A:1023325406946
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In this quasi-field study, we investigate the effects of diversity faultlines on the conflict experience, performance, and morale of 79 groups. This is one of the first studies to operationalize the construct of diversity-related faultlines (Lau and Murnighan 1998). One of the most important contributions of this research is that faultlines incorporate multiple characteristics of group members simultaneously rather than assessing just one demographic characteristic at a time as most past diversity research has done. We develop a measure to capture the complexity of the faultline construct and to examine the effects of various group diversity faultline profiles on group outcomes. Linear results with a limited range of data show that faultlines are negatively related to conflict and positively related to morale and performance. Supplemental analyses that take into account the unique characteristics of our dataset indicate curvilinear relationships between diversity faultlines and relationship conflict, process conflict, group morale, and group performance. Groups with either virtually no faultlines (very diverse members) or strong faultlines (split into 2 fairly homogeneous subgroups) had higher levels of conflict and lower levels of morale and performance than groups with medium faultlines. The results suggest a more complex relationship between diversity and group process and outcome variables than typically described in diversity research. A detailed discussion of the faultline measure we developed and the methodological issues associated with measuring and interpreting faultlines are reported.