Adding a new member to a working group can create distrust between members and hinder group functions, but a new study suggests that the distrust created is between older group members rather than about the newcomers – especially when previous group performance with just the older group members is poor. The results are part of a study published in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Matthew McCarter and Roman Sheremeta from Chapman University (U.S).
Previous studies report that changing members in an existing group hurts group performance, but the underlying reasons have been unclear. To identify these, the researchers in this study asked participants to play a 4-person coordination game. After a group had played, two members of the group were replaced and the newly formed group asked to repeat the game.
The authors found that replacing old group members with new individuals decreased trust across the group, which caused a drop in the group’s performance. This effect was mitigated if the group knew the newcomers’ performance history, but only if the new members also knew the older members’ history.
Citation: McCarter MW, Sheremeta RM (2013) You Can’t Put Old Wine in New Bottles: The Effect of Newcomers on Coordination in Groups. PLoS ONE 8(1): e55058. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0055058
Financial Disclosure: This research was made possible by the generous funding of the Argyros School of Business and Economics provided to both authors, the Wang-Fradkin Research Fund awarded to the first author, and the facilities at the Economic Science Institute at Chapman University. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Competing Interest Statement: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.