The Impact of Relational Demography on Teamwork: When Majorities Are in the Minority

The Impact of Relational Demography on Teamwork: When Majorities Are in the Minority

By Katherine Y. Williams, Charles A. O’Reilly, Sigal Barsade
1999Working Paper No. 1551

Diversity and teamwork are two themes that characterize the writing about the future of organizations. We explore the effects of age, tenure, sex, and race/ethnicity on teamwork. Consistent with the predictions of similarity/attraction and social categorization theory, the result how that individuals who are more different from the group report less teamwork. However, there are important differences in sex and race/ethnicity in this pattern that are not predicted by either similarity/attraction or social categorization theory. For example whites, but not minorities, report more teamwork when in more ethnically diverse groups and men in female-dominated groups also report higher levels of teamwork. Careful analyses of subgroups suggest that the often-reported negative effect of diversity on teamwork depends importantly on the composition of the group and that being a "minority" may be as much a function of the group's context as one's demographic characteristics.