Teamwork- How Team Personality Influences Individual Behaviors
In most work places, teamwork is a common feature that can have many benefits for organizational productivity and competitiveness.
But not all group dynamics are helpful or add value, so a fair bit of research has been done on the behaviors that produce desired outcomes. Much of it has looked at how someone’s personality affects whether they would be helpful or not. But few researchers have looked at the impact “team personality” has on individual actions.
The team of researchers behind a new study on teamwork and cooperation sought to examine the extent to which group dynamics ultimately influence individual behaviors.
TEAM PERSONALITY AND GROUP NORMS
Group norms are the accepted, unofficial standards that members of a group follow, which help to evaluate the behavior of individuals. These norms help individual group members identify which behaviors would be permissible within a certain situation and which would not.
Some groups have norms that promote greater interdependence, and therefore appreciate helping behaviors more that groups which don’t adopt these norms. In general, groups with co-operative norms have higher performance and satisfaction.
This study investigated the influence Team Personality (i.e. those characteristics that define a group) would have on encouraging these norms and its subsequent impact on individual helping behaviors.
THE IMPORTANCE OF EXTROVERSION & AGREEABLENESS
Researchers were interested in examining two primary traits at the group level– extroversion and agreeableness.
Agreeableness is essentially about cooperation with others, while extroversion concerns the sociability of the individual. Given the social characteristics of individuals with these traits, teams that are characterized by such individuals tend to show greater cohesion and work-load sharing, but less friction.
The researchers believed that a group with a large number of individuals who ranked high on extroversion and agreeableness would have high levels of cooperative group norms, which is a strong predictor for an increase in individual helping behaviors.
THE RESULTS OF THE STUDY
Researchers found that the level of extroversion within a group’s team personality impacted the adoption of cooperative norms, even when there was quiet a difference in extroversion levels amongst individual members.
A high level of extroversion implies a greater degree of assertiveness and influencing of others to accept certain norms. So, even if there are only a few team members who rank high on extroversion, they’re still influential. The norms accepted within this group then influence individual helping behaviors.
Agreeableness was different. Only where there was little difference on agreeableness between team members would it quickly facilitate the adoption of co-operative norms. If there was a lot of difference between team members, then the emergence of co-operative norms was often hampered.
BIG PICTURE TAKEAWAYS
Cooperative norms and high levels of helping behaviors can greatly enhance a team’s output. This study showed that team personality does affect these aspects.
The results have implications for managers wanting to facilitate the change of group norms, as well as those bringing a new individual on to a team.
In short, understanding both the team personality and the individual personality are important for finding a good fit, and also important for influencing helping behavior outcomes.
How Well-Connected Leaders Help Foster Creativity
In recent years organizations have increasingly come to recognize the importance of fostering innovation and creativity. The problem is, how?
New research suggests that the key might be dependent on the size of team leaders’ social networks. By working with leaders who have substantial social networks within the organization, employees are granted access to more resources, ideas, and strategies to utilize in creative ways.
STUDYING WELL-CONNECTED LEADERS
The new study, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, examined 214 employees working in public technology and environmental services. The research focused on the impact of the social networks of the leaders and employees involved, as well as instances of radical creativity.
The study found that it’s important that leaders be connected to the members of their team, but equally important that they be well-connected outside the team as well.
Leaders with expansive connections beyond the scope of the immediate work team provide access to a broader variety of resources, including new perspectives and ideas which the leader can then pass on to their team.
WHY A WIDE SOCIAL NETWORK MATTERS
The importance of having a wide social network as a team leader hinges on the value of providing a broad-view strategy for employees. The more people a team leader knows, the more connected they become to Big Picture concepts rather than focusing solely on the current thoughts within a team.
Of course, it’s not enough for the leader to merely make new connections. They also need to focus on sharing the insights and strategies these connections provide. By sharing diverse perspectives, team leaders can help battle the creative stagnancy that often happens with teams over time.
This research suggests that employee social networks can also be instrumental if they serve as liaison to individuals outside the team, especially when their leaders are less integral to the team or are not stepping up to the plate. But the interplay between employee and leader social networks needs to be better explored in the future in order to fully understand the different impacts of each.
BIG PICTURE TAKEAWAYS
The important info organizational leaders can glean from this research is that creativity is fostered by connectivity to others in the organization.
Access to additional outside perspectives help to provide unique resources and ideas that could lead to innovative creative development.
This research also supports the notion of a connected organization wherein ideas are shared freely between leaders in order to stimulate the creativity of the entire company.
The Secret Recipe for Good Workplace Conflict
The term “Workplace Conflict” sounds ominous. It conjures up images of yelling, screaming, finger pointing and, in rare cases, hunkering down under makeshift table forts and lobbing used Styrofoam cups at rival camps.
But can workplace conflict occasionally be good? New research by Todorova, Bear, and Weingart (2014) has found that, under the right circumstances, frequent workplace conflict can lead to an exchange of valuable information and, eventually, to higher job satisfaction.
TYPES OF WORKPLACE CONFLICT
Employees who express differing opinions about how work should be done are engaging in “task conflict.”
There are two different ways they can do this. When intense conflict occurs, employees “clash and argue,” and typically spend more time defending their own opinions than listening to the other side. Naturally, this doesn’t often lead to any good outcomes.
But employees can also engage in mild conflict, which is characterized by “debating and expressing.” In this scenario, employees are still arguing, but they are also listening to the other side in an honest attempt to solve the problem. This type of conflict can lead to more positive results.
HOW MILD WORKPLACE CONFLICT LEADS TO INFORMATION
The current study found that frequent mild task conflict provides employees with new information that will ultimately help them succeed at their jobs. For example, after debating about the best way to file records, a secretary may learn a more efficient way of doing his or her job.
And what happens when people get better at their jobs? The researchers found that they are more likely to feel active, energized, interested and excited. These positive emotions about work lead to higher overall job satisfaction.
The positive effects of frequent mild task conflict are stronger in two different circumstances.
The first is when conflict occurs in an active learning environment, which is when employees experiment, reflect and use feedback in an attempt to discuss results and improve work processes. This learning environment communicates to employees that conflict is meant to be constructive, helping them learn to improve at their jobs. Accordingly, employees respond well and feel good about learning new information.
Secondly, when mild task conflict occurs between people who work in different functions, more novel information is shared and employees respond better. The study found that, when task conflict occurs between people who work in the same job, there is simply not as much new information to be gained.
GOOD WORKPLACE CONFLICT
This article helps leaders understand how to use workplace conflict to the benefit of both their employees and the workplace. Here’s a simple guide to having more productive workplace conflict:
- Conflict should be task-related and about how to do work, and not interpersonal.
- Conflict should be kept to mild expressions of debate, and not intense arguing.
- Conflict works best in a learning environment, which is when employees are actively engaged in discussing and improving work processes.
- Conflict provides best results when it is between people who have very different organizational functions.
Employee Start Time: Does the Early Bird Get the Worm?
We have plenty of adages emphasizing the positive implications of starting the day early. Past research seems to suggest that elevated morning activity is seen as an indicator of being responsible, dutiful, and a hard worker.
In a series of three new studies, lead researcher Kai Chi Yam and his colleagues examine whether this pro-morning bias actually exists by examining how employee start time influences supervisor ratings of their job performance.
They also question how the supervisors’ own preference for morning or afternoon activity might play into that relationship.
EMPLOYEE START TIME AND JOB PERFORMANCE
Past empirical research found that employees’ level of morning activity is usually associated with positive traits such as being conscientious and having a solid work ethic.
Conscientious employees are typically rated as higher performers because they tend to display stronger work motivation when compared to employees who are low in conscientiousness.
Across two different samples, Kai Chi Yam and his colleagues found that employees who report later start times are perceived as less conscientious by their supervisors, and this negative stereotype ultimately results in lower performance ratings for those employees.
THE ROLE OF THE SUPERVISOR’S PREFERENCE
The authors found that the negative implications for employees who start the work day late largely depend on their supervisors’ own preference for morning or afternoon activity.
That is to say that late-starters are rated as low performers due to being perceived as less conscientious only among supervisors who prefer morning activity themselves.
For those supervisors who are more night owls than day larks, the morning bias doesn’t usually translate into negative repercussions.
IMPLICATIONS OF THESE FINDINGS
The current study highlights the potential consequences of using flexible work arrangements, such as starting the work day late.
Given that performance ratings may largely depend on the supervisors’ own chronotype, it is recommended that managers are reminded of potential negative consequences of morning bias, and encouraged to remain objective in their performance evaluations of employees.
The Pitfalls of Inconsistent Leader Behavior
Bad boss alert! Let’s say your supervisor was incensed with the results of yesterday’s baseball or football game. As a result, today he’s been condescending, hypercritical, and an all-around sourpuss. Can he make up for it by being extra nice and helpful to you tomorrow?
When your boss behaves in a way that makes your job difficult (like being overly critical or short-tempered), it’s called supervisor undermining, which can negatively impact employee health and well-being. After a good night’s sleep, the boss feels bad about the inappropriate behavior and poor management, and tries to make it up to you by providing extra assistance at a later time.
New research by Nahum-Shani, Lim, Henderson, and Vinokur (2014) has found two situations in which Inconsistent Leader Behavior can work well, and two others in which this approach can backfire and make things even worse.
INCONSISTENT LEADER BEHAVIOR
When supervisors undermine their employees and then try to make up for it by being extra helpful, the inconsistent behavior creates uncertainty for the employees.
Three bad things can happen as a result. First, employees will lack a coherent picture of how well they are doing at their job, which can be confusing and/or frustrating. Second, employees will lose a sense of control over their work environment. And third, employees will have doubts about the quality of their relationship with their supervisor.
But the current study shows that, if the employees can overcome these three obstacles, the supervisor’s strategy can actually work.
EMPLOYEES WHO CAN OVERCOME INCONSISTENT LEADER BEHAVIOR
The researchers found that two types of employees can overcome the challenges associated with supervisor inconsistency: Those with high self-esteem and those who perceive a high “quality of work life.” High quality work life occurs when the resources, relationships, and outcomes of their work satisfy the employee’s needs.
The study found that when high self-esteem and high quality of work life employees were exposed to inconsistent leader behavior, they used coping skills to mitigate its harmful effects. When supervisors tried to rectify poor behavior with considerate behavior, these employees benefited from the turnaround, experiencing better health and fewer job strains.
On the other hand, employees who had low self-esteem or experienced poor quality of work life didn’t have the coping skills to deal with inconsistent leader behavior. With this group, bosses who tried to rectify poor behavior with considerate behavior actually created more problems by being inconsistent. These employees experienced worse health and more job strains.
Oftentimes managers are trained to provide careful attention and consideration to their employees, especially when they know they have previously messed up.
But this study warns against this one-size-fits-all approach, suggesting the strategy only works if employees can handle the negative effects of inconsistent supervision. If they can’t handle it, managers are only making things worse.
New research like this is helping I-O psychologists determine how to maximize the benefits to all employees by recognizing that employees are unique and don’t all respond the same way.
Will Being an Average Performer Prevent Employee Victimization?
There has been a surge of interest in research on employee victimization in the last few years, both because the phenomenon is on the rise and because of the negative effects it has on both a personal and organizational level. Employee victimization has many causes and takes many forms, from aggressive incivility and bullying to general mistreatment.
Although previous studies investigated the situational and personal factors that precipitate victimization, little research has been focused on the behaviors that may lead to someone getting targeted.
THE VICTIMIZATION OF HIGH & LOW PERFORMERS
The research paper under review looked at the extent to which high and low performers may experience victimization because of their performance. Attention was paid to the factors that influence different performance levels, which in turn leads co-workers to punish the victims in different way. The researchers also examined whether this victimization would affected later performance, and in what way. Their findings showed that those people that were on either end of the performance spectrum outside norms for their group were more likely to be victimized. When employees perform well, they may be perceived as a threat and make others look bad, and so they’re mistreated. But when one under-performs and fails to contribute to overall group performance, they too will likely be victimized.
DIFFERENCES IN EMPLOYEE VICTIMIZATION TACTICS
The research also highlighted the different forms that employee victimization may take. With low performers, the treatment they get will be more overt “in-your-face” aggression, such as being yelled or sworn at. This may be because of co-workers feeling resentment against freeloaders, and their frustration at the effect their colleague’s lack of contribution has on overall team performance.
High achievers are more likely to experience covert and subversive forms of victimization, such as being ignored, resources being withheld and co-worker sabotage. This may be because of feelings of envy or inferiority, as well as the fact that high performers may highlight other member’s shortcomings. An important factor that was noted, which affected certain outcomes, was the victim’s feelings of entitlement or benevolence. With low performers this had little effect, but when high performers had a sense of entitlement– such as disregarding others and being self-serving in goal attainment– more overt forms of aggression were more prevalent. Those high performers who were more team-oriented and benevolent in their actions didn’t experience these blatant forms of aggression.
THE BIG TAKEAWAYS
These initial results aren’t necessarily a reason to accept average performance in the workplace. But they are particularly useful in being able to better predict victimization, which may help improve risk assessments and targeted prevention strategies.
Despite their limitations, these findings also highlight the need to look at how performance appraisals and incentives are given as well as how high and low performers may be dealt with to reduce victimization.
Employee victimization has the potential to seriously affect teamwork co-operation and productivity, and is therefore a critical issue to address at the organizational level.
How to Create Successful Work Teams
Teamwork plays an essential role in the success of many organizations. But what factors determine whether work teams will succeed or fail?
This question is an important one for I-O psychologists, and research by Chun and Choi (2014) has provided new insights into how managers can form successful work teams by considering the role members’ needs and intragroup conflict play in overall group performance.
INDIVIDUAL NEEDS AND TEAM PERFORMANCE
Previous research has examined how different personalities interact to influence team success, but this study primarily considered the needs of employees. Needs are defined as the basic things that a person strives for.
The researchers explored three types of needs– the need for achievement (i.e. when employees have a desire to accomplish goals), the need for affiliation (when employees desire quality personal relationships), and the need for power (when employees desire to control people).
The researchers studied how these three types of needs can ultimately lead to team success or failure.
SOURCES OF TEAM CONFLICT
When team members had a high need for achievement, there was more task-related conflict, meaning healthy debate about how to solve work-related problems. These teams ultimately had higher performance. Interestingly, these results were even better when team members had similar amounts of need for achievement.
When team members had a strong need for affiliation, less relationship conflict occurred. When they were also able to communicate effectively, even less relationship conflict occurred. Unlike task conflict, the study deemed relationship conflict (refering to interpersonal squabbles that are not related to solving problems) as bad. In this study, relationship conflict was typically associated with lower team performance.
Finally, when team members had a need for power, more status conflict occurred. The study showed that status conflict is also bad, and happens when people fight for the right to control others. However, this effect was alleviated when group members had varying levels of need for power. In other words, when some people desired power and others didn’t, there was not as much conflict. Also, researchers found that teams that communicated better had less status conflict.
THE BIG PICTURE ON CREATING SUCCESSFUL WORK TEAMS
So what do these findings ultimately mean? It means that managers are capable of creating successful teams simply by paying special attention to the types of people they place on a team.
Teams composed of members with a need for achievement are especially well suited to successfully solving problems in a diplomatic way, especially when they have similar levels of this need.
Teams with members who need affiliation and communicate well are better at avoiding the interpersonal issues that sometimes hinder team performance.
And teams that have power hungry members can be expected to compete for control, but this can be mitigated by including some people who do not need as much power, and by helping to improve team communication.
Make It Rain: How bad weather could be good for work productivity
Have you ever woken up to the sound of rain and thunder outside your window, with the decisive thought that it would be a lazy day?
Although inclement weather might not necessarily be the best thing for putting you in a great mood in the morning, a recent study in the Journal of Applied Psychology suggests that those thunderstorms just might enable you to get more work done.
BAD WEATHER VS. GOOD WEATHER
Recent research has determined that bad weather actually increases work productivity when compared to days with good weather.
The article suggests that this is because good weather can cause distractions, while bad weather forces our attention onto work projects.
Without distractions such daydreaming about playing tennis or going out on the lake to take advantage of the beautiful weather, more work generally gets accomplished.
HOW RAIN IMPACTS PRODUCTIVITY
The researchers studied employees at a Japanese bank and online surveys, and then compared their findings with archival data on the weather for the area.
They found that, when people perceive the weather to be bad, they think of fewer non-work activities to do, and they find these activities less attractive than when the weather is good. Most intriguingly, they found that bad weather often results in enhanced speed, accuracy and productivity among workers, with an average of a 1.3% decrease in productivity on bright, sunny days.
At first this might not sound like an incredible impact on workplace efficiency. But, over time and across an organization, endless days of good weather could translate into big bucks lost while employees daydream about a relaxing day at the beach.
THE BIG PICTURE TAKEAWAY
Since there is little that we can do to control the weather, how can we apply these findings to our organizations?
As this study suggests that good weather provides distractions and lessens work productivity, we can attempt to offset this effect by providing breaks on good weather days. If possible, structuring work projects to take these effects into account could help take advantage of the increased productivity created by bad weather and avoid the negative influences of good weather.
The researchers even suggested that, ultimately, it might be advantageous to select locations for the organization that have frequent bad weather. Whether that’s practical or not is for you to decide.
The Connection Between Sleep Deprivation, Caffeine and Self-Control
Many of us can’t imagine going a day without our caffeine of choice—coffee, energy drinks, tea, soda, or any number of others. A recent study cited in this article claims that 90% of Americans ingest some form of caffeine daily in order to overcome the effects of sleep loss. But did you know that caffeine could also help you maintain better self-control?
THE IMPACT SLEEP DEPRIVATION
When our mental resources are depleted, we have a harder time regulating our behavior. This is often what happens with sleep deprivation, which can decrease our ability to control impulses and overcome temptation.
As our resources for self-control are depleted from lack of sleep, we become more susceptible to negative social influence— such as being less able to resist someone who tries to persuade us to do unethical things, such as deceiving others.
CAFFEINE & SELF-CONTROL
The authors claim that caffeine can actually boost our natural resources in these situations, helping us to better control our actions and refrain from unethical behavior, even when someone is attempting to influence us.
The study found that, when participants were tired, they were more likely to succumb to unethical suggestions from others. But, after consuming caffeine, the participants had more resources to resist social influence (that is, the researcher telling them to deceive the other participants) because the caffeine alleviated some of the effects of sleep deprivation.
SLEEP VS. CAFFEINE
These findings are particularly applicable in work settings, where sleep deprivation in employees could make them less able to resist unethical temptations from others at work.
But, while helpful in some regards, caffeinated beverages also have some disadvantages. Caffeine is a diuretic, can increase anxiety and heart rate, and can cause withdrawal symptoms like headaches and fatigue when you stop consuming it.
It’s not a cure-all solution for resisting unethical suggestions, either: The study found that well-rested individuals had much greater self-control than those who were tired, even when the sleep-deprived individuals ingested caffeine. Well-rested individuals didn’t experience the same benefits as sleep-deprived individuals who ingested caffeine, because it affected them less. So they were ultimately able to resist unethical behavior equally well, whether there was social pressure or not.
But if rest is lacking, caffeine may give people the extra boost they need in order to get back some of the self-control they’ve lost from being exhausted.
Taking control back: Surviving an Abusive Supervisor
Abusive supervision is a serious issue, and much more prevalent than you might realize.
A lot of research has been done on this topic– partly because it is on the increase, but also because of its devastating effects on morale and productivity.
In looking at personality and the choice of coping strategies, new research reveals insights that can help employees maintain performance while surviving an abusive supervisor.
COPING WITH AN ABUSIVE SUPERVISOR
The transactional stress model details a 2-step process in individuals confronted with a stressful event: First, they decide how this event impacts their general well-being; secondly, they decide if something can be done to minimize negative effects, choosing an appropriate coping strategy to deal with the situation.
So what coping strategy would you employ in dealing with the stress caused by an abusive supervisor? Either you would directly address the issue and take initiative to solve your problem (i.e. active coping strategies), or you may prefer avoiding the issue until the worst passes (i.e. avoidance strategies).
The question is, is one of these strategies better than the other, or is there more complexity involved in effectively handling such a situation?
PERSONALITY & PERFORMANCE
A new study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology suggests personality has a more significant effect on performance than the choice of coping strategy when dealing with an abusive supervisor. However, the research does suggest that avoidance strategies will negatively affect employee performance in the long run.
That being said, researchers found that conscientiousness (one of the Big 5 personality traits) influences how well you work under such circumstances, no matter you choose to deal with it. In this case, conscientiousness refers to how people control themselves, preferring planned behavior over more spontaneous expressions.
The work performance of employees who ranked high on conscientiousness and used various coping strategies wasn’t affected nearly as much as those who were low on conscientiousness and using various strategies. This highlights the major role conscientiousness plays in helping people maintain their performance, even when choosing different ways of coping with an abusive supervisor.
THE BIG-PICTURE TAKEAWAY
This research can be useful for an organization’s selection criteria, as it seems that certain kinds of people are naturally more adept at maintaining their performance in the face of stressful work environments and demanding superiors.
But, on a more personal level, those employees struggling with an abusive supervisor may want to stop avoiding the issue, as the study shows that their work performance will inevitably suffer.