Department of Political Science

How Do Socially Distinctive Newcomers Fare? Evidence from a Field Experiment

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New hires offer a mixed blessing. They can spur teams to reflect on their processes in ways that encourage learning. But organizational newcomers may also struggle to achieve inclusion. This article examines how newcomers' experiences in public organizations depend on their social distinctiveness. While diversity is usually framed in terms of biodemographic factors such as race and gender, educational background is another form of social distinction. Educational differences may trigger psychological responses such as negative social categorization and serve as an observable criterion by which professional status and power are allocated. Using a field experiment, schools were provided two types of new hires: those who shared the educational background of existing teams and more socially distinctive newcomers. Both types of newcomers led to heightened team reflection processes relative to a control group. However, old‐timers were less accepting of educationally distinct newcomers, viewing them as less competent and cooperative.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPublic Administration Review
Pages (from-to)874-882
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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