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Heterogeneity of a general counsel’s direct reports may degrade a team’s performance

Those who report to a general counsel in large law departments differ from each other on such demographic characteristics as age, gender, race, religion, department tenure, education, and work background. “A team’s demographic heterogeneity, assessed using a variety of indexes, has been found to be negatively related to level of team rapport and informal communication,” according to research cited in the Acad. Mgt. Rev., Feb. 2005 at 72 (citations omitted). Many people tout the benefits of having employees of different backgrounds on teams, such as the direct reports to a general counsel. Yet others claim those differences gum up the works (See my post of June 23, 2009: mixed findings on whether diverse work groups function more effectively.).

More specifically, diversity on a team “impedes task-related processes and reduces information exchange,” not to mention “invoking defensive behaviors, distrust, conflict and hostility.” Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

Let’s consider this controversial issue still open. Meanwhile, during the two years since my last collection of posts on diversity (See my post of June 17, 2008: diversity with 29 references.). I have written 13 more (See my post of March 6, 2009: diversity easier in a global law department; Aug. 6, 2008: McDonalds’ Santona and her emphasis on diversity; Sept. 21, 2008 #2: DuPont teaming with Wal-Mart on diversity; Dec. 5, 2008: evaluations of firms on diversity performance; Dec. 14, 2008: Pfizer and diversity initiative; Dec. 14, 2008: generational diversity; April 6, 2009: varied demographics among 20 most influential GCs; April 16, 2009: a tool to understand and encourage diversity in sexual orientation at law firms; May 20, 2009: department with a plethora of diversity; June 24, 2009: some history about efforts by legal departments to encourage use of diverse lawyers in firms; July 13, 2009: Williams Co. ranks firms on diversity and tells them their ranking; Aug. 20, 2009: statements by general counsel in support for good causes; Dec. 7, 2009: Coca-Cola and its best-in-class evaluation of “partner” firms; and Dec. 7, 2009: sizeable internship program at Bristol-Myers Squibb.).

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