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Capitalizing On Diversity: Interpersonal Congruence In Small Work Groups

Jeffrey T. Polzer, Laurie P. Milton, William B. Swarm

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We examine interpersonal congruence, the degree to which group members see others in the group as others see themselves, as a moderator of the relationship between diversity and group effectiveness. A longitudinal study of 83 work groups revealed that diversity tended to improve creative task performance in groups with high interpersonal congruence, whereas diversity undermined the performance of groups with low interpersonal congruence. This interaction effect also emerged on measures of social integration, group identification, and relationship conflict. By eliciting self-verifying appraisals, members of some groups achieved enough interpersonal congruence during their first ten minutes of interaction to benefit their group outcomes four months later. In contrast to theories of social categorization, the interpersonal congruence approach suggests that group members can achieve harmonious and effective work processes by expressing rather than suppressing the characteristics that make them unique.