Can diversity positively influence team and work group dynamics?

by | Apr 26, 2024 | I-O Psychology, Leadership, Organizational Development | 0 comments

When I was in grad school for my MS in I-O Psychology, we read about and discussed Leader-Member Exchange Theory – otherwise known as LMX Theory – during our organizational management and behavior class. For a while, I thought, “Hey, this makes sense!” This theory which began in the 1970s, states that work groups as “ingroups” possess a strong relationship between leaders and their followers. Leaders develop a strong level of trust, positive emotional ties, and respect from the ingroup members. The individuals within these groups tend to share similar values, beliefs, interests, and other traits (Oh et al, 2018) which leads to less turnover, higher job satisfaction, and better organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs) (Robbins & Judge, 2018).

This appears to exhibit what we seek in strong organizational cultures at face value.

However, LMX poses a huge problem in many cases. While homogeneity within work groups may foster feelings of cohesiveness, commitment, and identification with the organization and that team, (Bahat, 2021), it tends to exclude outgroups – people outside of the ingroup. This can result in marginalizing individuals, leaving them out of meetings, being unfair in work assignments, and creating a divided work environment. Moreover, the ingroup can develop a singular way of thinking when solving problems.

Welcoming heterogeneous teams and work groups with people of diverse backgrounds, personalities, and interests has demonstrated fairness and effectiveness when making decisions with lasting consequences (Conte & Landy, 2018). Celebrating differences may help to maintain individuality and diversity. Leaders who help people feel safe expressing their viewpoints, culture, and beliefs – even if they are different – may foster organizational commitment while avoiding the risks of groupthink.

Organizations should do whatever they can to avoid issues of exclusion and promote diversity for more harmonious workplaces. 

For more information, contact us a WorkBalance Consulting at www.workbalanceconsulting.com.

References

Bahat, E. (2021). Person–organization fit and commitment to volunteer organizations. Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary & Nonprofit Organizations, 32(6), 1255–1270. https://doi-org.libauth.purdueglobal.edu/10.1007/s11266-020-00212-x

Conte J. M., & Landy F. J. (2018). Work in the 21st Century: An Introduction to Industrial and Organizational Psychology. [MBS Direct]. Retrieved from https://mbsdirect.vitalsource.com/#/books/9781119493440/ 

Oh, I., Han, J. H., Holtz, B., Kim, Y. J., & Kim, S. (2018). Do birds of a feather flock, fly, and continue to fly together? The differential and cumulative effects of attraction, selection, and attrition on personality‐based within‐organization homogeneity and between‐organization heterogeneity progression over time. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 39(10), 1347–1366. https://doi-org.libauth.purdueglobal.edu/10.1002/job.2304

Robbins, S. P., & Judge, T. A. (2018). Organizational Behavior (18th Edition). Pearson Education (US). https://mbsdirect.vitalsource.com/books/9780134729749References

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