Teamwork is commonly associated with organizational productivity, but not all group dynamics are helpful or lead to positive outcomes. Due to the ambiguity, a substantial amount of research has explored the specific behaviors that produce desired organizational outcomes. Much of this research has considered how personality affects whether individual people will be helpful to the team or not.
However, few researchers have considered the impact that team personality has on individual actions. The team of researchers (Gonzalez et al., 2014) behind a new study on teamwork and cooperation sought to examine the extent to which group dynamics ultimately influence individual behavior.
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 that don’t adopt these norms. In general, groups with cooperative norms have higher performance and satisfaction.
This study investigated the influence team personality (i.e. the characteristics that define a group) has on encouraging norms and increasing helping behavior among team members.
THE IMPORTANCE OF EXTRAVERSION AND AGREEABLENESS
Researchers were interested in examining two primary traits at the group level– extraversion and agreeableness. Agreeableness is essentially about cooperation with others, while extraversion generally concerns how outgoing a person is. Given the social characteristics of people with these traits, teams employing these types of people tend to show greater cohesion and workload sharing, but less friction.
The researchers hypothesized that a group with a large number of members that ranked high on extraversion and agreeableness would have high levels of cooperative group norms, which is a strong predictor for an increase in individual helping behavior.
RESULTS OF THE STUDY
Researchers found that the level of extraversion in team personality impacted the adoption of cooperative norms, even when there was quite a difference in extraversion levels among individual members.
A high level of extraversion implies a greater degree of assertiveness and ability to influence others to accept certain norms. So even if there are only a few team members who rank high on extraversion, they can still be very influential. The norms accepted within this group then influence individual helping behavior.
Agreeableness was different. Only where there was little difference on agreeableness between team members did it quickly facilitate the adoption of cooperative norms. If there was a lot of difference between team members, then the emergence of cooperative norms was often hampered.
Cooperative norms and high levels of helping behavior 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 for those responsible for adding new team members. 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.
Gonzalez-Mulé, E., DeGeest, D. S., McCormick, B. W., Seong, J. Y., & Brown, K. G. (2014). Can we get some cooperation around here? The mediating role of group norms on the relationship between team personality and individual helping behaviors. Journal of Applied Psychology, 99(5), 988–999.