Behavioral Rules Foster Workplace Creativity

Staten Island commercial bank cites research that it pays to be civil


STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – New research from a university's business school shows that imposing norms of civility encourages creativity among mixed-gender work groups.

Victory State Bank, Staten Island's only community-based business bank, offers that the findings can be instructive for proprietors and managers.

Setting clear expectations of how women and men should interact with each other in a work environment unexpectedly encourages creativity among mixed-gender work groups by reducing uncertainty in relationships, the study found.

Highlights released by the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, summarize an article about political correctness (PC) submitted to Administrative Science Quarterly.

The study, which some may construe as controversial, highlights a paradoxical consequence.

While PC behavior is generally thought to threaten the free expression of ideas, Professor Jennifer Chatman of the Haas School’s Management of Organizations Group and her co-authors found that positioning PC norms as the office standard provides a layer of safety that fosters creativity.

“Creativity is essential to organizational innovation and growth. But our research departs from the prevailing theory of group creativity by showing that creativity in mixed-sex groups emerges, not by removing behavioral constraints, but by imposing them,” says Chatman in the university's synopsis.

“Setting a norm that both clarifies expectations for appropriate behavior and makes salient the social sanctions that result from using sexist language unleashes creative expression by countering the uncertainty that arises in mixed-sex work groups.”

“Our contention is controversial because many have argued that imposing the PC norm might not just eliminate offensive behavior and language but will also cause people to filter out and withhold potentially valuable ideas and perspectives,” says Chatman.

“We suggest that this critical view of the PC norm reflects a deeply rooted theoretical assumption that normative constraints inevitably stifle creative expression — an assumption we challenge.”

The authors designed their experiments taking into account the different incentives men and women have for adhering to the PC norm.

Men said they were motivated to adhere to a PC norm because of concerns about not being overbearing and offending women.

Whereas one might expect women to perceive a PC norm as emblematic of weakness or conformity, women in the experiment became more confident about expressing their ideas out loud when the PC norm was salient or prominent.

In contrast, in work groups that were homogeneous – all men or all women – a salient PC norm had no impact on the group’s creativity compared to the control group.

Study participants were randomly divided into mixed-gender groups and same-gender groups. Next, researchers asked the groups to describe the value of PC behavior before being instructed to work together on a creative task.

The control groups were not exposed to the PC norm before beginning their creative task. The task involved brainstorming ideas on a new business entity to be housed in a property left vacated by a mismanaged restaurant – by design, a project that has no right or wrong strategy.

Instead of stifling their ideas, mixed-gender groups exposed to the PC norm performed more creatively by generating a significantly higher number of divergent and novel ideas than the control group.

As expected, same sex groups generated fewer creative outcomes.

Previous studies have found that homogenous groups are less creative because people in these groups are similar to one another with similar ideas and therefore, less divergent thinking occurs.

The study's full title is “Creativity from constraint: How the PC Norm Influences Creativity in Mixed-Sex Work Groups” and is co-authored by Chatman and two Haas PhD graduates, Jack Goncalo, who teaches at Cornell University, and Jessica Kennedy at Vanderbilt University, as well as Michelle Duguid of Washington University.


About Victory State Bank


VSB Bancorp, Inc. (OTCQX: VSBN) is the one-bank holding company for Victory State Bank. As Staten Island, N.Y.’s only community-based commercial bank, Victory State Bank operates five full-service locations on the Island: The main office is in the community of Great Kills, and branches are in the communities of West Brighton, St. George, Dongan Hills and Rosebank. For additional information, Victory State Bank may be reached at 718-979-1100 or visited online at

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