Interesting research led by the University of Konstanz, Cluster of Excellence ‘The Politics of Inequality’, investigates the behavior of employees who are in minority. Most of the working organizations believe that group diversity results in higher productivity among team members, for instance hiring women in male-dominated professions, or older employees in a team of young team members.
Florian Kunze and Max Reinwald spearheaded the study. They believe that until now the research conducted in the area of teamwork in a professional environment has provided ‘unclear’ and ‘conflicting statements’. “For instance, some studies have found that male-dominated teams function more effectively once one or two women join them, but others have found the opposite, while others yet could not find a significant effect either way. It is quite hard to form an opinion based on current results. And all the while there is this sure conviction that diversity is automatically of benefit to companies,”Reinwald explained.
The Swiss-based service company became the team’s source of investigation. The researchers observed more than 800 teams over a course of seven years. The study focused on gender and age of the team members. According to them, these two elements formed the most perceptive characteristics and were prone to prejudice. The team concluded that the earlier the team members found themselves in uncomfortable situations within a team, the more prone they are to discrimination. This later builds the perception of the subject’s teamwork. Dissatisfaction was measured on the basis of a member’s lack of integration. Among such members, absences from work were observed as a common trait.
The team studied 2,711 persons in total for the survey. Their date of a team entry, team composition, team swaps, absenteeism were examined anonymously. Kunze said in a statement, “The trend is pretty obvious: during their first year on a new team, new members remain inconspicuous regardless of their fit. But after that, the curve rises, and quite steeply in many cases. After a few years, women in purely male teams, and older employees in very young teams, are absent almost twice as much as their colleagues in teams where they have a good fit. It comes down to about eight annual days of absence compared to four, which is pretty significant.”
The study is limited to blue collar environment. Allegedly such offices are more conducive to prejudices towards women and older co-workers. The study concludes that these groups are often more prone to discrimination which intensifies over a period of time. The team of researchers hope that this study will open up opportunities for organizations which can design diversity in teams more successfully. They are hoping that the study will allow team leaders to be more sensitive towards the needs of workers and will also avoid negative anchoring and instances of discrimination.