Background Note | HBS Case Collection | February 2003

Identity Issues in Teams

by Jeffrey T. Polzer and Hillary Anger Elfenbein


This note explains how identity dynamics underlie many of the observable interpersonal problems that team members encounter, ranging from lack of participation and low involvement to misunderstandings and dysfunctional emotional conflict. It provides a framework for understanding how to recognize and manage identity issues in teams, including sections on communicating identities, forming impressions, and the consequences of the resulting level of congruence between people's identities and others' impressions of them. Outlines action steps managers can take to increase the level of interpersonal congruence in their teams, which should, in turn, make their teams more effective.

Keywords: Framework; Managerial Roles; Outcome or Result; Performance Effectiveness; Groups and Teams; Conflict and Resolution; Emotions; Identity;


Polzer, Jeffrey T., and Hillary Anger Elfenbein. "Identity Issues in Teams." Harvard Business School Background Note 403-095, February 2003.