Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Science




Benson, Alex J.


An intergroup context can lead to decreased intentions to engage in positive intergroup behaviours. The current study examined the effect of a leader promoting an intergroup relational identity when there are potential tensions between groups. I used randomized between-subject experimental procedures. Participants (N = 281) were randomly assigned to work with outgroup members under a “collective” or “intergroup” leader. The main manipulation controlled for leader rhetorical focus. In the collective condition, the leader emphasized similarities. In the intergroup condition, the leader acknowledged contributions from both groups. Results showed that in the intergroup condition, participants were more likely to engage in organizational citizenship behaviours. Furthermore, being perceived as promoting an intergroup relational identity was positively associated with knowledge-sharing intentions, organizational citizenship behaviours-individual and organizational citizenship behaviours-organizational. Trust in leader mediated such relationships. My thesis highlighted the effective practice of recognizing each subgroup in intergroup contexts and the central role of trust.

Summary for Lay Audience

Working in organizations often entails collaboration, and sometimes employees need to work with people from other departments or even companies. An intergroup context (e.g., marketing departments from two locations of the same company collaborate on a project; a cardiologist and an orthopaedist work together on a complex surgery) might interrupt knowledge flow and lead to a decreased intention to engage in behaviours that benefit the whole group, partly because different groups hold different identities. Therefore, understanding ways to bring different groups together without them fighting against each other is essential. The current study examined ways to improve intergroup relationships via a leadership lens.

To evaluate the influence of leadership behaviours, I designed an experiment where I assigned participants to conditions characterized with a different leader rhetorical focus. Participants were asked to imagine working with people from an outgroup, which was in conflict with the current group. In one condition, the leader tried to minimize differences between groups and force a new identity (collective identity focus). In the other condition, the leader acknowledged contributions from both groups and emphasized the relationship aspect of both groups (intergroup relational identity focus).

On average, participants in the intergroup leadership condition indicated a higher intention to engage in behaviours that benefit the intergroup. Furthermore, irrespective of the experimental condition, when leaders were perceived as striving to promote an intergroup relational identity, participants were more willing to share information, help people from the other group and the whole group because they trust this leader. This study underlines the effectiveness of encouraging an intergroup relational identity when leading across groups.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.