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Similarity-Attraction Paradigm and Attraction- Selection-Attrition Framework

All of these points are consistent with the key argument of the similarity- attraction paradigm. Byrne and Lamberth (1971) posited that as the saying goes “birds of a feather flock together” so too do people inherently prefer others who are similar, rather than dissimilar, to themselves. Adding to this, Schneider’s attraction-selection-attrition framework (1987) postulated that companies are more likely to select those who are similar to their existing employees. Owing to these factors, demographic characteristics of employees in an MNE tend to become more similar over time.

Taken together, social identity theory, uncertainty identity theory, similarity-attraction paradigm, and attraction-selection-attrition framework commonly argue that people have a tendency to exaggerate the similarities between in-group members and the differences between ingroup members and out-group members, especially under conditions of uncertainty. This is due to the fact that similarity, in general, has been believed to generate attraction, loyalty, mutual support, trustworthiness, and cohesion within the group (Byrne, 1997; Byrne & Nelson, 1965; Harrison, Price, & Bell, 1998); and in turn, in-group similarity is positively associated with various group-level outcomes, such as organization tenure, group functioning, and organizational behavior (Byrne, 1971; Day & Bedeian, 1995; Jackson et al., 1995; Turban & Jones, 1988).

Subsequent studies, however, have pointed out that similarity evokes these positive outcomes, particularly in a relationship with a stranger or in the beginning of a relationship. In other words, the effect of in-group similarity on work-related outcomes varies considerably depending on the context. Similarly, numerous scholars have noted that the positive association between in-group similarity and outcomes becomes trivial in ongoing relationships (Montoya & Horton, 2004; Sunnafrank, 1991, 1992) and long-term relationships (White & Hatcher, 1984), which share a historical context in either the past or the present (Bochner, 1991). In this view, expatriate relationships are hardly considered relationships among strangers or relationships in the nascent stage; rather, they are more likely to be classified as existing and continuous relationships, since international assignments, in most cases, require a certain period of time and ongoing efforts. In sum, the positive consequences of similarity will be reduced, or even cancelled, in the expatriate context.

Furthermore, based on the attraction-selection-attrition theory, Jackson et al. (1991) argued that similarity decreases the likelihood of conflict; yet at the same time, the lack of group conflict can lead to groupthink. The term groupthink was first introduced by Janis in 1972 and refers to an absence of critical thinking in groups (Cox, 1994). Homogeneous groups are often subject to groupthink, because they typically tend to ensure higher levels of group cohesiveness, seek an extreme consensus, and as a consequence, lack divergent ideas; in other words, they do not want to “rock the boat” (Herring & Henderson, 2014). Given the fact that innovation often requires thinking “outside the box,” groupthink, as a tendency to remain “inside the box”, can stifle innovation (Weisberg, 2009).

In contrast, diverse groups oftentimes provide different frames of reference, which offer rich and unique insights into the work; as a result, it reduces the probability of groupthink and creates more opportunities for innovation (Cox & Blake, 1991). Similarly, Basset-Jones (2005) insisted that innovation is enhanced by the existence of diversity. Nonetheless, diversity is the least understood force for innovation (Page, 2007). In this regard, we assert that non-traditional talents, particularly LGBT expatriates, will make international assignments more diverse and multifaceted and eventually more innovative.

However, diversity enhances innovation not simply because it generates more ideas, but because innovation emerges through communication- friendly environments in the diverse group. Findler, Wind, and Barak (2007) have found evidence that workforce diversity demonstrates a willingness to accept the differences and encompass divergent ideas, even conflicting ideas; as a result, it fosters mutual respect and creates more inclusive and tolerant communications for the diversity of opinion. In other words, diverse and inclusive contexts in the workplace enrich communications and enhance idea sharing; by doing so, it leverages differences and allows everyone to reach his/her full potential. As a natural consequence, it provokes greater innovation. In addition, according to a recent report by McKinsey & Co. (2015), MNEs with more diverse workforces financially outperform their rivals, and therefore, diversity, including sexual orientation, produces greater competitive advantages for MNEs. As such, we believe that diverse and inclusive expatriate environments make MNEs more acceptable, more marketable, and ultimately more competitive.

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