When outsiders come in: an identity-based view of group boundary work and effectiveness

Ferguson, Amanda (2012) When outsiders come in: an identity-based view of group boundary work and effectiveness. Doctoral thesis, University of London: London Business School. OPEN ACCESS


Boundary work, or task-related activities with external actors, has been shown to positively influence small group performance. However, these "external activities" may also detract from important internal group processes that help groups function. This research examines the puzzle of how groups can perform external activities without compromising their internal group dynamics. I explore how groups perform boundary work and consider the effectiveness of different methods of boundary work from a group identity perspective. Using both qualitative and quantitative methods in experimental and field-based settings, I compare and contrast boundary work that involves sending group members outside the group boundary to interact with external actors individually (i.e., an outward-bound approach), with an inward-bound approach, which entails inviting outsiders in to provide information, resources, or support to the group as a whole. Across four studies, I find that an inward-bound approach to boundary work strengthens group identity and subsequent group satisfaction and viability (Studies 1, 2 and 4), an outward-bound approach used in combination with an inward-bound approach can positively influence task performance and group satisfaction and viability (Study 4), and that an initially weak group identity leads group members to choose an inward-bound approach over an outward-bound approach when interacting with outsiders (Studies 1, 3 and 4). The main contributions of this work are 1) delineating different ways in which groups interact with outsiders, 2) considering the nature of the relationships between boundary work methods and group identity, and 3) investigating the consequences of performing these methods of boundary work using multiple criteria of group effectiveness. Findings converge to reveal that inward boundary work is an important phenomenon for organizational groups. Ultimately, this research offers a more nuanced view of the external perspective of small groups by suggesting that the ways in which groups interact with outsiders are both multidimensional and consequential.

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Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subject Areas: Organisational Behaviour
Date Deposited: 10 Feb 2022 16:29
Date of first compliant deposit: 10 Feb 2022
Subjects: Work groups
Behavioural science
Last Modified: 10 Aug 2022 10:03
URI: https://lbsresearch.london.edu/id/eprint/2306

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