Article | Academy of Management Journal | August 2006

Extending the Faultline Concept to Geographically Dispersed Teams: How Colocated Subgroups Can Impair Group Functioning

by Jeffrey T. Polzer, Brad Crisp, Sirkka L. Jarvenpaa and Jerry W. Kim

Abstract

We theorize that in geographically dispersed teams, members' geographic locations are likely to activate "faultlines" (hypothetical dividing lines that split a group into subgroups) that impair team functioning. In a study of 45 teams comprised of graduate students from 14 schools in ten countries, we found that geographic faultlines heightened conflict and reduced trust. These faultlines were stronger when a team was divided into two equally sized subgroups of colocated members and when these subgroups were homogeneous in nationality.

Keywords: Geographic Location; Nationality Characteristics; Groups and Teams; Trust; Conflict and Resolution;

Citation:

Polzer, Jeffrey T., Brad Crisp, Sirkka L. Jarvenpaa, and Jerry W. Kim. "Extending the Faultline Concept to Geographically Dispersed Teams: How Colocated Subgroups Can Impair Group Functioning." Academy of Management Journal 49, no. 4 (August 2006). (This article was subject of a Recent Research of Note in the Organization Management Journal, Vol. 3, no. 3 (2006): 157-159.)