Chapter | Looking Back, Moving Forward: A Review of Group and Team-Based Research | 2012

When Identities, Interests, and Information Collide: How Subgroups Create Hidden Profiles in Teams

by Jeff Polzer and Lisa Kwan

Abstract

Purpose—We review how team members' identities and interests affect team functioning, paying special attention to subgroup dynamics triggered by fault lines and coalitions. This review sets the stage for describing novel pathways through which identities and interests, when considered together, can affect team processes and outcomes.

Design/approach—We use an extended example of a hypothetical team's decision-making process to illustrate how team members' identities and interests intertwine to affect the distribution and flow of information, subgroup dynamics, and team decisions.

Findings—We develop three specific ideas to demonstrate the utility of this integrative approach. First, we show how the formation of identity-based subgroups can shape information sharing to create a hidden profile where there was none initially. Second, we describe how individual defection can weaken subgroup competition and, paradoxically, increase the chance that a team will optimize its collective welfare. Third, we analyze how shared identities can shape team members' side conversations in ways that create shared interests and information among those with similar identities, even before the team begins its formal meetings.

Originality/value—By identifying new routes through which identities and interests can affect team functioning, we provide a foundation for scholars in this domain to theoretically develop and empirically test these and related ideas. More generally, we encourage scholars to study the interplay among identities, interests, and information in their own research to paint a more complete picture of how individuals, subgroups, and teams perform.

Keywords: Information; Conflict of Interests; Interests; Groups and Teams; Identity; Performance;

Citation:

Polzer, Jeff, and Lisa Kwan. "When Identities, Interests, and Information Collide: How Subgroups Create Hidden Profiles in Teams." In Looking Back, Moving Forward: A Review of Group and Team-Based Research. v.15, edited by Margaret Neale and Elizabeth Mannix, 359–381. Research on Managing Groups and Teams. Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing, 2012.