ABSTRACT: Reducing Faultlines in Geographically Dispersed Teams: Self-Disclosure and Task Elaboration
Faultlines have the potential to significantly disrupt team performance due to the creation of intergroup bias. In geographically dispersed teams, given the combination of dispersed locations and other diversity characteristics, faultlines are potentially a major issue that needs to be more fully understood. This study examines the impact of faultlines on geographically dispersed teams and how problems caused by faultlines can be resolved. An experimental study of 40, four-person student teams finds that perceived faultlines heighten conflict and impair decision process quality. The findings also suggest that self-disclosure via weblogs and task elaboration can repair damage caused by faultlines. However, self-disclosure does not have a direct effect on reducing faultlines; the relationship is moderated by social attraction. That is, as team members disclose personal information to out-group members and out-group members are attracted to such disclosure, perceived faultlines are diminished. This study also finds that even in teams with strong perceived faultlines, team members are still able to exchange and integrate perspectives if they have a better understanding of their out-group members via self-disclosure. The negative consequence of faultlines therefore is eased when task elaboration occurs during task execution. Implications of these coping mechanisms for teams with faultlines in organizations are discussed.