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Diversity researchers have distinguished between surface-level (e.g., social categories) and deep-level (e.g., attitudes, opinions, information, and values) diversity, but have not fully explored the complexities of their simultaneous existence in groups. We examined how the relationship between surface-level and deep-level diversity impacts the emotional and behavioral reactions of dissenting group members and the effectiveness of decision-making groups. We conducted two studies focusing on dissenting social majority members (individuals who hold dissenting deep-level task perspectives yet belong to the surface-level majority) in three-person groups. The results show that surface-level diverse groups (with two similar and one dissimilar individuals) were perceived as more positive and accepting, fostered more persistent and confident voicing of dissenting perspectives, and displayed greater task engagement than surface-level homogeneous groups (containing all similar individuals). Surface-level diversity (both task-relevant and irrelevant) may be beneficial for groups even when the group member who is different on the surface does not have a different deep-level task perspective to share. We discuss implications for understanding how surface-level diversity affects organizational work groups.
Journal: Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes - Volume 99, Issue 2, March 2006, Pages 143–160