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Spaces That Signal Identity Improve Workplace Productivity

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DOI: 10.1027/1866-5888/a000148
Abstract
The physical spaces we inhabit have a profound impact on psychological functioning. People generally experience positive outcomes in spaces that support important identities and negative outcomes in spaces that threaten those identities. We investigated the effects of working in an ingroup or outgroup space on organizational performance. Participants completed exercises in a simulated work environment as a member of a research education development (RED) work team. The office space was designed to be identity affirming (decorated by a RED team), identity threatening (decorated by a rival business legacy usability and engineering [BLUE] team), or undecorated. Work teams performed better in both ingroup spaces and outgroup spaces than in undecorated spaces. The findings highlight the importance of considering the impact of physical space on psychological functioning in the workplace and beyond.
Figures
Original Article
Spaces That Signal Identity Improve
Workplace Productivity
Katharine H. Greenaway,
1
Hannibal A. Thai,
1
S. Alexander Haslam,
1,2
and Sean C. Murphy
1
1
School of Psychology, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
2
Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Toronto, ON, Canada
Abstract: The physical spaces we inhabit have a profound impact on psychological functioning. People generally experience positive outcomes
in spaces that support important identities and negative outcomes in spaces that threaten those identities. We investigated the effects of
working in an ingroup or outgroup space on organizational performance. Participants completed exercises in a simulated work environment as
a member of a research education development (RED) work team. The office space was designed to be identity affirming (decorated by a RED
team), identity threatening (decorated by a rival business legacy usability and engineering [BLUE] team), or undecorated. Work teams
performed better in both ingroup spaces and outgroup spaces than in undecorated spaces. The findings highlight the importance of
considering the impact of physical space on psychological functioning in the workplace and beyond.
Keywords: social identity, space, work, productivity, communication
To be human is to live in a world that is filled with
significant places: To be human is to have and know
your place.
Relph (1976, p. 1)
As Edward Relph (1976) noted in his seminal book Place
and Placelessness, the physical spaces people inhabit have
a profound impact on their psychological experience. Yet
in psychological research, the physical space people inhabit
is typically neglected as a factor that might influence the
way they think and act (Hopkins & Dixon, 2006). Where
research has considered this question, it has typically
focused on the way in which the physical properties or
layout of a space affect psychological outcomes (e.g.,
Gosling, Ko, Mannarelli, & Morris, 2002; Schaller, Park,
& Mueller, 2003). Yet, as Relph (1976) notes, it is not
simply their physical elements that make spaces psycholog-
ically impactful; often space is meaningful as a result of
the way it supports, communicates, and channels group
identity.
Research shows that the identity-related meaning of
spaces has an impact on well-being and performance. For
instance, sports teams win more games at home than away
(Allen & Jones, 2014), Christians are happier in a room with
a Christmas tree than one without (Schmitt, Davies, Hung,
& Wright, 2010), and show better self-reported and physi-
ological health when immersed in a cathedral rather than a
Mosque (Ysseldyk, Haslam, & Morton, 2014). Yet, just as
spaces can affirm the identities of some people, they
can also challenge and threaten the identities of others.
For instance, Sikhs and Buddhists are less happy in a room
with a Christmas tree than one without (Schmitt et al.,
2010); atheists show worse health when immersed in a
cathedral rather than a museum (Ysseldyk et al., 2014);
women report less interest in computer science in a room
containing objects considered stereotypical (a Star Trek
poster) rather than non-stereotypical of that field (a nature
poster; Cheryan, Plaut, Davies, & Steele, 2009). Extending
this work, the present research investigates the effects of
feeling at homecompared to out of placein ones phys-
ical space in an organizational context considering the
consequences of this experience for individual and team
performance.
Space in the Workplace
One popular approach to organizational space management
emerges from the work of Taylor (1911), who advocated
tight managerial control over workspace. In the latter part
of the 20th century, this functional approach to workspace
design spawned the leanphilosophy of space manage-
ment, which minimizes opportunity for personalization in
the office (Harris & Harris, 2006). The lean approach is
designed to eliminate waste and improve efficiency (Skin-
ner, 2005), ensuring employees focus on work tasks with-
out distractions in the form of personal belongings or
decorations. Indeed, lean approaches involve stripping a
workspace and workflow back to the minimum materials
!2016 Hogrefe Publishing Journal of Personnel Psychology (2016), 15(1), 3543
DOI: 10.1027/1866-5888/a000148
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required to perform the job functions at hand (Durmusoglu
&Kulak,2008). Although in the present research we focus
largely on the identity-related implications of workspace
management, this approach thus denies employees both
instrumental (i.e., function-related) and symbolic (i.e., iden-
tity-related) control over their workspace.
Yet despite having considerable appeal in managerial cir-
cles, much of the evidence that is invoked to support a lean
approach to space management is anecdotal. Moreover, the
approach is challenged by recent experimental research
that has found leaningones workspace can have detri-
mental effects (e.g., Nieuwenhuis, Knight, Postmes, &
Haslam, 2014). In particular, Knight and Haslam (2010a)
conducted two experiments in which participants per-
formed a productivity task in one of four conditions: (1)a
lean office with minimal decoration, (2)anenrichedoffice
decorated by the experimenter, (3)anempowered
office decorated by the participant, or (4)adisempowered
office decorated by the participant and then redecorated by
the experimenter. In both studies the enriched office
increased productivity relative to a lean office. Interestingly,
productivity was even higher in the empowered office when
participants were responsible for decoration. The authors
argued that this was because an empowered office allowed
participants the opportunity to express and realize their own
identity and therefore enabled them to imbue the space
with personal meaning.
As Knight and colleagues indicate, one theoretical frame-
work that can be used to make sense of such findings is the
social identity approach (e.g., Haslam, 2004, after Tajfel &
Turner, 1979; Turner, Hogg, Oakes, Reicher, & Wetherell,
1987). This asserts that individuals internalize group mem-
berships as part of their self-concept in a way that funda-
mentally shapes their perceptions, thoughts, and behavior.
As a result, in a range of social contexts, people view the
world through a social lens interpreting their own and oth-
ersactions with reference to social identities that they do
and do not share. More specifically, the social identity
approach to organizational life points to the importance of
recognizing social identities in the workplace, and to the
way in which the interaction of multiple identities serves
to structure individual and group behavior (Haslam,
2004,2014). Among other things, this means that when
people feel their workplace identities are respected by
employers and valued within an organization, they are
typically more willing to work toward organizational goals
because here the organizations interests are more likely
to be seen to be aligned with our interests(or even
my interests). As a result, being embedded in a support-
ive team environment generally provides a motivational
basis for improved performance (Haslam, Postmes, &
Ellemers, 2003).
Identity in the Workplace
In organizational contexts, identification with an organiza-
tion, department, or team tends to promote positive
organizational outcomes in the form of job satisfaction,
well-being, and productivity (Knight & Haslam, 2010b;
Millward, Haslam, & Postmes, 2007;VanDick,Grojean,
Christ, & Wieseke, 2006). As a result, workspaces that pro-
vide opportunities for the realization of important work
identities are typically found to promote positive organiza-
tional outcomes such as enhanced performance relative
to lean workspaces that do not afford their occupants the
same opportunities (Knight & Haslam, 2010a; Nieuwenhuis
et al., 2014). In the present research we extend this work by
examining whether these same benefits can be gained
vicariously through shared (and non-shared) group
memberships.
In this regard, a core tenet of the social identity approach
is that people are motivated to achieve or maintain positive
social identities. One consequence of this is that they often
engage in intergroup competition that involves striving to
compare ingroups (e.g., the work team to which they
belong) favorably with outgroups (e.g., a rival work team).
Among other things, this can mean that they are highly
attuned to cues of outgroup presence and may find them-
selves distracted or intimidated by such cues. For example,
Brown and Baer (2011) found that people who negotiated in
another persons office performed worse than they did if
they negotiated in their own office or a neutral room. Alter-
natively, though, being in an outgroup spacemay also
galvanize individuals toward better performance. That is,
people can engage in social competition to try to assert
the superiority of the ingroup when confronted with cues
of outgroup presence.
In parallel to the social identity literature, such patterns
are also documented in the literature on workplace territo-
riality, which has studied the effects of feelings of psycho-
logical ownership associated with organizational spaces
(e.g., Brown, Lawrence, & Robinson, 2005). Here, a sense
of territoriality has sometimes been observed to confer
organizational advantages (Wells, 2000). For example,
workspace territoriality can motivate individuals to aggres-
sively defend their space, which can manifest itself in the
form of greater motivation on work tasks (Brown, 2009).
Again, though, territoriality can also have detrimental
effects. For example, workspace territoriality can preoccupy
employees, leaving them with less time and energy to work
on other tasks (Hall & Richter, 1989). Indeed, employees
can become disengaged and discomforted when other peo-
ple (e.g., managers) encroach upon or attempt to control
their workspace (Haslam, 2004;Knight&Haslam,
2010b). As a result, workspacesthatthreatenimportant
36 K. H. Greenaway et al., Identity and Productivity
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identities for example, by reflectingtheidentityofrival
work teams may lead to negative organizational outcomes.
The Present Research
The goal of the present study was to investigate the organi-
zational effects of being in a space that contained identity
cues relative to a lean space in which identity markers were
absent. For this purpose, participants formed work teams
and completed exercises in a space that appeared to be dec-
orated by an ingroup, an outgroup, or was undecorated. We
measured organizational performance in terms of effective
group communication and productivity. While these repre-
sent distinct forms of organizational performance, effective
group communication is nevertheless necessary for groups
to be productive. Given that initial differences in group
communication ability may influence later measures of
communication and productivity, we controlled for baseline
group communication when assessing the effects of the
space manipulation on later outcome variables. In addition,
productivity was assessed both at the individual level and at
the group level. This allows us to establish whether teams
function better together, or individuals put more effort into
team productivity, or both, when in different types of
workspaces.
Whereas prior work has investigated the effects of an
office space manipulation at intrapersonal (Knight &
Haslam, 2010a) or intragroup levels (Nieuwenhuis et al.,
2014), in the present research we focus on an intergroup
manipulation that explores the consequences of being in
ingroup territorycompared to outgroup territoryfor
individual and group performance. We investigate this
research question in the social identity tradition of minimal
groups, in which participants are assigned to ad hoc groups
(e.g., red vs. blue group). These groups have no prior mean-
ing for participants, and thus allow researchers to establish
the minimal conditions necessary to produce relevant forms
of group behavior (e.g., discrimination; Tajfel, Flament,
Billig, & Bundy, 1971).
On the basis of social identity theorizing we hypothesized
that ingroup space would increase performance (operation-
alized as communication and productivity) relative to lean
space (H1). In contrast, we countenanced competing
hypotheses about being in an outgroup space, predicting
that this might either decrease performance relative to lean
space (H2a) or increase performance relative to lean space
(H2b). Thus, we expected the social meaning of the space to
impact organizational performance positively, when the
space affirmed team identity and indeterminately when
the space threatened team identity.
We also investigated potential identity-related mecha-
nisms through which physical space might influence
performance. In line with the social identity approach,
we anticipated that participants would feel more identified
with ingroup team members when in an ingroup space.
However, we anticipated that participants would feel more
competitive toward outgroup team members when in an
outgroup space. We also tested exploratory hypotheses that
increased identification would mediate the effect of ingroup
space on performance and that increased competition would
mediate the effect of outgroup space on performance.
Method
Participants and Design
Fifty-four university students (45 female, M
age
=21.05,
SD =1.80) participated in the experiment for $AU20.The
experiment had a between-subjects design in which partici-
pants occupied an ingroup space (n=18), an outgroup space
(n=16), or a lean space (n=20). Testing sessions were con-
ducted in groups of three to four participants. This resulted
in 15 teams, with 5teams per condition.
Manipulations and Measures
Work Team Creation
Participants imagined that they worked for a fictional orga-
nization with two work teams: The Research Education
Development (RED) team and the Business Legacy Usabil-
ity and Engineering (BLUE) team. All participants were
assigned to the RED team and were provided with unique
staff numbers and job descriptions. Team members com-
pleted a series of get-to-know-you exercises in which they
introduced themselves and their job role, answered per-
sonal questions in a fast friendsparadigm (Page-Gould,
Mendoza-Denton, & Tropp, 2008), created a team poster,
and decorated the room in their team color (red). To
enhance motivation, participants were informed that the
total productivity scores of all RED teams would be com-
pared with the total productivity scores of all BLUE teams.
Participants were provided with iPads to complete the rest
of the procedure.
Baseline Team Communication
Participants completed a measure of team communication
before the space manipulation to control for baseline differ-
ences in group communication ability. Participants played
SPACETEAM
!
, an iPad game in which each individual
has a unique control panel they must operate collectively
to fly a spaceship. During each round, individuals receive
simultaneous on-screen instructions to operate switches
and buttons on their own and other teammatespanels.
The team must therefore verbally communicate
K. H. Greenaway et al., Identity and Productivity 37
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instructions to other team members, and comprehend and
implement the instructions of others under time pressure in
order to progress past a game level. Team communication
was measured as the number of levels cleared in the game
within a five-min period.
Office Space Manipulation
The experimenter exited the room during the SPACE-
TEAM
!
task. On returning, they informed participants that
the room was double-booked and that they therefore
needed to relocate to an adjacent room. Participant groups
were randomly assigned to continue the experiment in one
of three conditions in which the room was designed to
appear as though another work team had previously occu-
pied the space. The experimenter explained that another
team had used the room but there was no time to redeco-
rate before beginning the next task. In all conditions, the
space contained two desks and four chairs in the middle
of the room. The ingroup space (coded as 1)wasdecorated
as though a previous RED team had occupied the space.
The outgroup space (coded as !1) was decorated as though
a previous BLUE team had occupied the space. The lean
space (coded as 0) was undecorated.
Team Communication and Productivity
After relocating rooms, participants completed another
round of the SPACETEAM
!
communication task. They
then completed Crowns(2007) letter-word-sentence task,
which has been used as a measure of productivity in previ-
ous research (Ronay, Greenaway, Anicich, & Galinsky,
2012). Each team member received a unique matrix of 16
letters and was instructed to use the matrix to create words
of more than three letters. Teams then worked to combine
their individual words into sentences. Participants were
given 10 min to complete the task.
Individual productivity was measured as the total number
of words produced by each team member (M=5.62,
SD =2.82). Team productivity was measured as the total
number of words in sentences created by groups divided
by the number of participants per group (M=6.74,
SD =2.95). Individual contribution to the team was mea-
sured as the total number of words each individual contrib-
uted to team sentences divided by the number of
participants per group (M=1.97,SD =1.54).
Self-Reported Attitudes
Four items created by the authors so as to have face validity
in the experimental context measured identification with
the rooms previous occupants (I identify with the group
that was in this room before us;The group that was in
this room before us was part of the RED team;Icould
work with the group that was in this room before us;
and The group that was in this room before us had our
best interests at heart), α=.67. The authors also used face
validity as a basis for creating four items that measured
competitiveness with the rooms previous occupants (Ifeel
competitive toward the group that was in this room before
us;The group that was in this room before us represents
a threat;I want to win against the group that was in this
room before us; and I dislike the group that was in this
room before us), α=.78. All items were scored on a scale
ranging from 1,strongly disagree to 7,strongly agree.
Results
Team Outcomes
Participants scored as a team on the measures of group
communication and group productivity, and thus only one
outcome is available for analysis per team. We therefore
report the results below collapsing the group-level commu-
nication and productivity measures across teams. It is
important to note that, given the small number of teams,
an analysis of these outcomes is very underpowered to
detect our effects of interest. We therefore include these
results primarily to note that the pattern of means mirrors
that of the individual-level outcomes, described below.
Baseline Team Communication
A one-way ANOVA revealed that baseline communication
(prior to the manipulation) differed marginally as a function
of the space manipulation, F(2,12)=3.56,p=.061,
η
p
2
=.372. Participants in the ingroup space showed poorer
initial team communication (M=0.68,SD =0.27)thanpar-
ticipants in the outgroup space (M=1.60,SD =0.86),
p=.029, and marginally poorer communication than par-
ticipants in the lean space (M=1.45,SD =0.45),
p=.060. There was no significant difference between the
latter two conditions, p=.691. To control for these coinci-
dental preexisting differences, and to account for the fact
that better initial team communication is likely to affect
later team outcomes, baseline communication was included
as a covariate for analyses on post-manipulation communi-
cation and productivity variables.
Post-Manipulation Team Communication
A one-way ANCOVA (controlling for baseline communica-
tion) revealed no significant effect of the space manipula-
tion on post-manipulation communication, F(2,11)=1.56,
p=.254,η
p
2
=.201.
Team Productivity
A one-way ANCOVA (controlling for baseline communica-
tion) revealed a marginally significant effect of the space
manipulation, F(2,11)=3.66,p=.060,η
p
2
=.313.
38 K. H. Greenaway et al., Identity and Productivity
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Supporting H1,participantsintheingroupspaceshowed
greater team productivity (M=8.21,SD =3.34)thanpartic-
ipants in the lean space (M=4.70,SD =2.35), p=.050.Sup-
porting H2b, participants in the outgroup space also showed
greater team productivity (M=8.65,SD =2.59)thanthose
in the lean space, p=.045.Therewasnodifference
between the ingroup and outgroup conditions, p=.816.
Individual Outcomes
To account for the nesting of individuals within groups,
individual-level outcome measures were tested with
mixed-effects models using the lme4package in R
(Bates, Maechler, Bolker, & Walker, 2014). These are mul-
tilevel models that account for the nonindependence of
observations that comes with nested data. The ANOVAs
and ANCOVAs reported below are analyzed similarly to
their non-multilevel counterparts, with the exception that
the variance in observations attributable to group member-
ship is first parceled out, yielding results that control for the
nesting of observations within these groups. p-values and
degrees of freedom for these models are based on the Satt-
erthwaite approximation, which can result in decimal
places for the degrees of freedom (Schaalje, McBride, &
Fellingham, 2002).
Individual Productivity
A one-way mixed-effects ANCOVA (controlling for baseline
communication) revealed no significant effect of the office
space manipulation, F(2,11.71)=0.12,p=.885.
Individual Contribution to Team Productivity
A one-way mixed-effects ANCOVA (controlling for baseline
communication) revealed a significant effect of the office
space manipulation, F(2,9.88)=7.05,p=.013. Supporting
H1, participants in the ingroup space contributed more
words to team productivity (M=2.43,SD =1.40)thanpar-
ticipants in the lean space (M=1.05,SD =0.80), p=.032.
Supporting H2b, participants in the outgroup space also
contributed more words (M=2.72,SD =1.98) than partici-
pants in the lean space, p=.006. There was no difference
in contributions between ingroup and outgroup conditions,
p=.650;seeFigure1.
Team Identification
A one-way mixed-effects ANOVA revealed a marginally
significant effect of the office space manipulation,
F(2,52)=3.11,p=.053. As expected, participants in the
ingroup space felt more identified with previous room occu-
pants (M=3.97,SD =1.21) than participants in the lean
space (M=2.78,SD =1.36), p=.020, while participants
in the outgroup space did not (M=2.89,SD =1.15),
p=.230. However, participants in the ingroup space did
not feel more identified than participants in the outgroup
space, p=.260,seeFigure2.
Team Competition
A one-way mixed-effects ANOVA revealed a significant
effect of the office space manipulation, F(2,51)=5.67,
p=.006. As expected, participants in the outgroup space
felt more competitive toward the rooms previous occu-
pants (M=4.83,SD =1.49) than participants in the lean
space (M=3.62,SD =1.62), p=.007,andtheingroupspace
(M=2.96,SD =1.10), p=.003. There was no difference in
perceived competition between the ingroup and lean space
conditions, p=.662, see Figure 2.
Testing for Mediation
We used the mediationpackage in R (Tingley, Yamamoto,
Hirose, Keele, & Imai, 2014)toassesswhethertheoffice
0
0.5
1
1.5
2
2.5
3
3.5
Out
g
rou
p
s
p
ace Lean s
p
ace In
g
rou
p
s
p
ace
Individual contribution to group productivity
Figure 1. Number of words contributed by individual participants to
group sentences as a function of the office space manipulation.
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
Out
g
rou
p
s
p
ace Lean s
p
ace In
g
rou
p
s
p
ace
Attitudes toward previous
room occupants
Identification
Competition
Figure 2. Identification and competition with previous room occu-
pants as a function of the office space manipulation.
K. H. Greenaway et al., Identity and Productivity 39
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space manipulation had indirect effects on the individual
productivity variables via team identification or team
competition. To account for thenestingofobservations,
we conducted multilevel mediation. This involved using a
standard difference-in-coefficients approach (Zhang, Zyphur,
&Preacher,2009)tocomparetheeffectoftheindependent
variable (IV) on the dependent variable (DV) with and with-
out the mediator in the regression equation, and with the
addition that both regression equations were estimated with
multilevel models that controlled for the variance attribut-
able to group membership. We created dummy-coded vari-
ables that contrasted the ingroup space against the lean
space in one mediation, and then in a separate mediation
contrasted the outgroup space against the lean space to
examine possible differences in causal mechanisms behind
their effect on individual productivity. For all analyses we
entered baseline communication as a covariate and used
bootstrapping with 10,000 resamples to generate confidence
intervals.
There were no significant indirect effects via team com-
petition (i.e., all confidence intervals spanned zero). The
indirect effects via team identification on individual produc-
tivity were also nonsignificant. However, as seen in Table 1,
for individual contribution to group productivity, there was
a marginally significant indirect effect of the ingroup space
via team identification (IE = 0.31,95%CI=!0.050 to
0.877), while there was no evidence of mediation
through identification for the outgroup space (IE = 0.11,
95%CI=!0.140 to 0.462). These analyses suggest that
increased productivity in the ingroup space may be partially
due to increased team identification, while the same cannot
be said for increased productivity in the outgroup space.
However, the relative size of the two indirect effects was
not significantly different (IE = .20,95%CI=!.311 to .819).
Discussion
The goal of this experiment was to investigate the impact of
identity-enriched space on individual and group productiv-
ity. Here space that had ostensibly been decorated by an
ingroup was found to promote work-related productivity
relative to a lean space that contained no identity-related
information. This pattern accords with previous work
showing that enriched workspaces enhance organizational
performance (Nieuwenhuis et al., 2014)particularly when
people are able to live out their identity within the space
(Knight & Haslam, 2010a). We also found that working in
a space decorated in the color of a rival outgroup led to
improved productivity relative to a lean space. This finding
is consistent with evidence from previous social identity
research which has shown that intergroup rivalry can some-
times lead to improved organizational performance because
it serves to increase motivation and engagement (Ellemers,
De Guilder, & Haslam, 2004).
It is possible that the same mechanism was responsible
for the effect of both identity-enriched spaces on productivity
insofar as the decoration of office space per se had a positive
effect on team functioning. This explanation would accord
with other research that has observed a positive effect of
workspace enrichment on organizational productivity
(Knight & Haslam, 2010a; Nieuwenhuis et al., 2014). Nev-
ertheless, findings on self-report measures suggest that
other processes may also be at work here. For, as one would
expect, participants felt more identified with previous occu-
pants when those occupants ostensibly belonged to the
same RED team, but felt more competitive with previous
occupants when those occupants belonged to the rival
BLUE team. Although we did not find statistical evidence
for the differential impact of these processes, this pattern
suggests that different mechanisms may underpin the
effects of working in ingroup rather than outgroup space.
Limitations
As with all researches, the present experiment was not
without limitations. First, our sample size was relatively
small due to the complicated procedure and necessity of
recruiting participants in groups. Second, participants were
undergraduate students and not actual employees, which
compromise the studys external validity. We attempted
to increase external validity by having participants interact
for an extended period at the start of the study, allowing
them to become acquainted with one another and their
work roles, encouraging them to feel ownership in decorat-
ing their workspace, and generally giving them an opportu-
nity to function as a team. It is also notable that prior
experimental studies of related phenomena by Knight and
Haslam (2010a) have found effects produced in the labora-
tory to be generalizable to real-world office contexts.
Table 1.Effects of ingroup space and outgroup space versus lean space on contribution to group productivity mediated through identification
Ingroup vs. lean space Outgroup vs. lean space
Estimate CI Lower CI Upper Estimate CI Lower CI Upper
Indirect Effect (IE) 0.31 !.05 0.88 0.11 !.14 0.46
Direct Effect (DE) 1.10 !.03 2.20 1.61 .65 2.54
Total Effect (TE) 1.41 !.05 0.95 1.71 .73 2.68
40 K. H. Greenaway et al., Identity and Productivity
Journal of Personnel Psychology (2016), 15(1), 3543 !2016 Hogrefe Publishing
http://econtent.hogrefe.com/doi/pdf/10.1027/1866-5888/a000148 - Katharine Greenaway <k.greenaway@psy.uq.edu.au> - Tuesday, April 12, 2016 7:32:42 AM - KU Leuven IP Address:193.190.253.145
Nevertheless, future research would clearly benefit from
replicating the present study in a real workplace.
Third, as intimated above, it is unclear which specific
mechanism is responsible for the effects of physical space
on organizational performance. Although there is sugges-
tive evidence that team identification and competition both
play a role, our findings here were inconclusive. Under-
standing the precise mechanisms through which physical
space influences psychological outcomes therefore contin-
ues to be an important direction for future research. In this
process, it may also be useful to compare the benefits
gained through crafting a comfortable physical environ-
ment to the benefits gained by other organizational inter-
ventions, such as increasing job autonomy and the quality
of leadership.
Implications for Social and Organizational
Psychology
Organizational research that has investigated productivity
has tended to focus on what job employees perform and
how they perform it as key job features for intervention
(e.g., Arthur, Bennett, Edens, & Bell, 2003;Combs,Liu,
Hall, & Ketchen, 2006). The present research suggests that
the relatively neglected question of where employees work
also has an important bearing on organizational outcomes.
In particular, our findings speak to an emerging literature
demonstrating the dangers of leaningoffice space
(Knight & Haslam, 2010b; Nieuwenhuis et al., 2014)and
the benefits of adding enrichment and meaningto office
space for organizational performance (Knight & Haslam,
2010a). Importantly, they do this by demonstrating (to
our knowledge for the first time) that such effects can occur
vicariously through shared (or in some cases, unshared)
group membership. More specifically, people appear to ben-
efit from inhabiting a space that has been decorated by fel-
low ingroup members. This could be important in large
organizations in which individual personalization of collec-
tive spaces is unfeasible. The findings also demonstrate that
outgroup decorated space can also improve performance, at
least in the short term. Nevertheless, we suspect that over
time this boost in motivation may fade, leaving individuals
disengaged and discomforted in a space that does not
reflect their identity (Cheryan et al., 2009; Schmitt et al.,
2010; Ysseldyk et al., 2014). Such an effect would be con-
sistent with work by Brown and Baer (2011) in which it
was observed that people performed worse on negotiations
when in another persons workspace.
The present work also serves to identify points of contact
between the social identity approach and previous work on
territoriality. More specifically, our findings help to explain
why people become territorial over space namely, because
this reflects an extension of themselves and their social
identities. Although speaking to similar issues, the territori-
ality and social identity approaches have not previously
been combined to understand attachment to space. Never-
theless, it would appear that integrating these theoretical
approaches has the power to yield insights into peoples
connection to place and space that might fruitfully be
applied to domains outside the workplace (e.g., Hopkins
& Dixon, 2006).
The use of minimal groups allows us to conclude that
group identity-related enrichment of office space improves
productivity, because participants were assigned to ad hoc
groups (RED vs. BLUE). Nevertheless, it is possible that
the effects observed here may be stronger (though less
pure) in preexisting groups that have more meaning for
participants. Certainly, research on territoriality suggests
that individuals can become protective of spaces that hold
meaning and express important (preexisting) identities
(Brown et al., 2005). To address this possibility, future
research might therefore consider investigating these
effects in groups that do have prior meaning for participants
(e.g., where space communicates work or university
identities).
Conclusion
The present research supports the conclusion that the way
organizational space is managed has important implications
for work-related performance. In the simplest terms, our
findings suggest that when it comes to space management
meaning beats leaning insofar as spaces that are rich in
identity-laden information promote better performance.
More broadly, the study underlines the point on the
identity-related dimensions of space matter.Elsewhere,
researchers routinely neglect the physical environment as
an important contextual factor in their studies, assuming
that the spaces participants occupy are neutral backdrops
against which psychological processes of scientific interest
unfold. Yet the present research shows that the mere pres-
ence or absence of identity cues in ones environment can
influence psychological functioning in previously unantici-
pated, but powerful, ways. As a result, we see that space
is not just a stage for performance, but a stimulus.
Acknowledgments
Preparation of this paper was facilitated by awards to
Katharine H. Greenaway and S. Alexander Haslam from
the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research: Social Inter-
actions, Identity, and Well-being Program. The authors
K. H. Greenaway et al., Identity and Productivity 41
!2016 Hogrefe Publishing Journal of Personnel Psychology (2016), 15(1), 3543
http://econtent.hogrefe.com/doi/pdf/10.1027/1866-5888/a000148 - Katharine Greenaway <k.greenaway@psy.uq.edu.au> - Tuesday, April 12, 2016 7:32:42 AM - KU Leuven IP Address:193.190.253.145
would like to thank Nicholas Williams and Jason Weiss for
their assistance in data collection.
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42 K. H. Greenaway et al., Identity and Productivity
Journal of Personnel Psychology (2016), 15(1), 3543 !2016 Hogrefe Publishing
http://econtent.hogrefe.com/doi/pdf/10.1027/1866-5888/a000148 - Katharine Greenaway <k.greenaway@psy.uq.edu.au> - Tuesday, April 12, 2016 7:32:42 AM - KU Leuven IP Address:193.190.253.145
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Published online April 12, 2016
Katharine Greenaway
School of Psychology
McElwain Building
The University of Queensland
St Lucia, QLD 4072
Australia
Tel. +61 7 3346-9563
Fax +61 7 3365-4466
E-mail k.greenaway@psy.uq.edu.au
K. H. Greenaway et al., Identity and Productivity 43
!2016 Hogrefe Publishing Journal of Personnel Psychology (2016), 15(1), 3543
http://econtent.hogrefe.com/doi/pdf/10.1027/1866-5888/a000148 - Katharine Greenaway <k.greenaway@psy.uq.edu.au> - Tuesday, April 12, 2016 7:32:42 AM - KU Leuven IP Address:193.190.253.145
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