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Research on the Relationship between Team Faultlines and Performance:a Knowledge-based Perspective

Author: ChenShuai
Tutor: WangDuanXu
School: Zhejiang University
Course: Business management
Keywords: team faultlines team performance team learning team transactivememory system team perception of inclusion team psychological safety climate
CLC: F272
Type: PhD thesis
Year: 2012
Downloads: 426
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To improve team effectiveness and build up competitive advantage, team managers have to make clear of the basic function of team composition first and make best use of it then. Research on team diversity has grown popular over the last few decades. Nevertheless, cumulative findings of the effects of demographic diversity have been inconsistent. These inconsistent findings are attributed to the treatment of the concept of demographic diversity, that is, team diversity is examined through only a single demographic attribute or set of attributes singly. By this way, the potential impact of other attributes or their interactions is neglected. Different from the concept of diversity, Lau and Murnighan used demographic faultlines to depict the composition of member distribution depending on the alignment of multiple demographic attributes. Based on individual members’alignment along multiple demographic attributes, a team is likely to be subdivided into several homogeneous subgroups in which team members are relatively similar to each other, and the hypothetical dividing lines between such subgroups are defined as team faultlines.The introduction of team faultlines has led to a hot discussion in the academic. However, we have gained insuffient knowledge about team faultlines. Specifically, we consider the following theoretical questions:The first question is how team faultlines affect the processes of knowledge obtaining, sharing, exchange, and integration? Are these processes able to explain the relationship between team faultlines and team performance? Second, are team faultlines always harmful? From knowledge-based perspective, is there any contingent factor that influences the relationship between team faultlines and performance? Third, are the effects of team faultlines affected by demographic attributes that compose them? Specifically, do faultlines composed of relation-based attributes and those composed of task-based attributes have different effects on team performance in different way?With the above theoretical questions, we conduct a series of studies based on team knowledge-based perspective. Research focusing on workgroups with multisource data design is adopted. The first study is to examine the process mechanism between team faultlines and team performance. From learning behavior perspective, we test the mediating role of internal of external team learning. From team cognition perspective, team transactive memory system is thought to mediate the relationship between team faultlines and team performance. We also examine the mediating role of team perception of inclusion from knowledge perception perspective. It is confirmed from the empirical studies that internal and external team learning mediate the relationship between team faultlines and team performance. That is, team faultlines will inhibit team performance through damage of both sources of team learning.Our second study conducts a mediated moderation model between team faultlines, team psychological safety climate, team transactive memory system and team performance. As our results indicate, when teams have high levels of team psychological safety climate, the structure of faultlines can improve the levels of team transactive memory system, which in turn facilitate team performance. In contrast, under a circumstance of low levels of team psychological safety climate, faultlines may be harmful for team transactive memory system and thus dampen team performance.Through refining the content of faultlines, our third study examine different roles played by faultlines based on diverse demographic attributes. By classifying team faultlines as task-based and relation-based ones, we test their separate effects on team performance through team transactive memory system and team perception of inclusion. We find through analyses that task-based faultlines positively influence team performance through improvement of team transactive memory system. In contrast, relation-based faultlines negatively affect team transactive memory system and team perception of inclusion. In conclusion, different kinds of faultlines may affect team performance in different direction and in different way. These results are also believed to be able to reply to the findings about team transactive memory system and team perception of inclusion in the first study.The studies makes a number of theoretical contributions. First, we find knowledge-based perspective to explain the relationship between team faultlines and team performance besides the processes of increased intragroup conflict and ineffective social integration. This helps us peer into the black box between team faultlines and team performance. Second, we find the boundary condition in the relationship between team faultlines and team performance. That is, faultlines are not always destructive. In fact, the negative effects of faultlines can be mitigated and even turn into an informational edge for overall team performance under some condition (such as positive team psychological safety climate). Third, we find different roles played by separate dimensions of faultlines based on diverse demographic attributes, which suggests that team faultlines research needs further elaboration. Fourth, the reserch extends theories in some other fields, such as team learning, team transactive memory system and team perception of inclusion. Besides, we contribute to empirical methodology on faultlines since the research based on workgroup survey provides empirical evidence for triangulation.Finally, we summarize the main conclusions, as well as the theoretical and practical implications. The limitations and future directions are also provided.

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