Demography and Group Performance: Does Diversity Help?

Demography and Group Performance: Does Diversity Help?

By Charles A. O’Reilly, Katherine Y. Williams, Sigal Barsade
1997Working Paper No. 1426

Although a number of author's have proposed a "value in diversity" hypothesis, the empirical evidence in support of this is, at best, mixed. Reasons for the lack of support are reveiwed. Two primary problems identified are a lack of clarity in the theories used to understand diversity and a failure to use disaggregated measures of group process and performance. Using 32 project teams from a large clothing manufacturer with a national reputation for it successful management of diversity, we find support for the negative effects of diversity on group process, negative effects of conflict on the implementation ability of the group, but positive effects of diversity on group performance after controlling for the effects of conflict on performance. Using social categorization theory, we provide a framework for understanding how and why diversity can have positive and negative effects on group process and performance. Based on reveiw of previous research and the results of this study, we suggest how diversity may be managed to avoid some of the negative consequences that occur when individuals cognitively construct ingroups and outgroups using task-irrelevant attributes.