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 (Chun & 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 (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 (referring 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 did not, 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.
Chun, J. S., & Choi, J. N. (2014). Members’ needs, intragroup conflict, and group performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 99(3), 437-450.