Women at such workplaces are also more confident about expressing their ideas out loud when the political correctness (PC) norms are prominent.

"Our research departs from the prevailing theory of group creativity by showing that creativity in mixed-sex groups emerges not by removing behavioural constraints but by imposing them," says professor Jennifer Chatman from the University of California's Berkley's Haas School of Business.

"Setting a norm that both clarifies expectations for appropriate behaviour 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," Chatman adds.

In contrast, in work groups that were homogeneous - all men or all women - researchers found that salient behavioural norms had no impact on the group's creativity.

The team found that instead of stifling their ideas, mixed-sex groups exposed to the PC norm performed more creatively by generating a significantly higher number of divergent and novel ideas than the control group.

"Imposing a norm that sets clear expectations of how women and men should interact with each other into a work environment unexpectedly encourages creativity," Chatman says.

"Our contention is controversial because many have argued that imposing the PC norm might not just eliminate offensive behaviour and language but will also cause people to filter out and withhold potentially valuable ideas and perspectives," he adds.

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 concludes.

The paper is forthcoming in the journal Administrative Science Quarterly.

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