A status perspective on the consequences of work group diversity


Correspondence should be addressed to Hans van Dijk, Department of Human Resource Studies, Tilburg University, PO Box 90153, 5000 LE Tilburg, The Netherlands (e-mail: j.vandijk1@uvt.nl).


In accounting for the positive and negative consequences of work group diversity, researchers have generally relied on the information/decision-making (i.e., diversity as variety) and the social categorization (i.e., diversity as separation) perspective, respectively. In this conceptual paper we argue that there is a need to integrate status-related processes (i.e., diversity as disparity) as key to understanding the outcomes of work group diversity. Based on expectation states theory, we argue that status differences between group members automatically emerge when group members differ in their characteristics and/or associated (informational) resources. These within-group status differences lead to the formation of a status configuration, an informal social order that serves a coordination function. We propose that the effect of a status configuration on group performance depends on the interplay between the veridicality, the legitimacy and the stability of a status configuration. We discuss how our propositions can be tested and how our status perspective relates to the information/decision-making and the social categorization perspective. We close with a discussion on the implications of our status perspective for practitioners.

Practitioner Points

  • In diverse groups, group members tend to attribute competence (i.e., status) based on the differences between group members.
  • These perceived status differences in the group serve a tacit coordination function, informing group members on who is the (potentially) right person for a job.
  • Status differences result in detrimental performance of the group if the status that is attributed is not based on actual task competence, but enhances group performance when status aligns with competence.
  • When group members feel that their status in the group is lower than it ought to be, this has a negative impact on their commitment and functioning.