ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2016, Vol. 48 ›› Issue (7): 867-879.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2016.00867

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Way different, never work together? A moderated model of informational faultlines, overlapping team tenure, transactive memory system, and team learning

CHEN Shuai1; WANG Duanxu2   

  1. (1 Business Administration College, Zhejiang University of Finance and Economics, Hangzhou 310018 China) (2 School of Management, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310058 China)
  • Received:2015-08-31 Published:2016-07-25 Online:2016-07-25
  • Contact: CHEN Shuai, E-mail:


There is an old Chinese saying: “Do not attempt to work with people whose way is not your way”. In parallel, social categorization theory and social identity theory have pointed out that people tend to categorize each other according to demographic characteristics (such as gender, age, ethnicity and vocation, etc.). As both proverb and theories suggested, teams with faultlines tended to perform bad in learning due to malfunction in across-subgroup interaction. However, we argued that faultlines were not always detrimental and that they might even play a facilitating role in some cases. First, we focused on information-based faultlines, which were expected to exert different effect on team learning compared to social category faultlines. Second, we elaborated on the typology of team learning and investigated the impact of information-based faultlines on two different dimensions of team learning. Finally, we considered the moderating role of overlapping team tenure and transactive memory system to better understand when faultlines might affect team learning and what managers can do to manage and use faultlines to their advantage. Data were collected using a questionnaire survey approach. Two different types of questionnaires were presented: a team manager questionnaire and a team member questionnaire. The team manager questionnaire was primarily used to collect team learning data, whereas the team member questionnaire was used to collect member demographic information and transactive memory system data. We contacted and invited 106 workgroups within 36 companies to participate. By excluding team data that lacked adequate observations, we kept 76 teams with matched observations. We further eliminated samples with incomplete individual demographic information as required by the measure for faultlines. Also, teams with less than four team members were dropped because subgroups within these teams had been shown to exhibit different dynamics. Therefore, the effective sample size was 56 teams (including 56 team leaders and 364 team members). We used regression analysis to test the hypotheses. The findings indicated that information-based faultlines had effects neither on team internal learning nor on team external learning. Nevertheless, the effects of information-based faultlines on both types of team learning were moderated by overlapping team tenure and transactive memory system. Specifically, the effects of information-based faultlines on team internal and external learning were stronger when overlapping team tenure was long and when the level of transactive memory system was high within teams. The research enriched the faultlines theory by specifying the types of faultlines and focusing mainly on the dynamics of information-based faultlines. We also extended team learning literature by theorizing about the two properties of team learning and exploring their respective forming conditions. Taken together, this study challenged some straightforward fashions by exploring the boundary conditions concerning the effects of information-based faultlines on bilateral team learning.

Key words: team faultlines, informational faultlines, internal learning, external learning, transactive memory system, overlapping team tenure