Research on teams has become increasingly important. As organizations have begun to use teams for a wider variety of roles and purposes, it has become necessary for both researchers and practitioners to gain a better understanding of how teams work and how they can be designed to operate most effectively. Two team concepts that have received research attention include team intimacy and team cohesion. Although these ideas may appear to be very similar, researchers (Rosh et al., 2012) argue that there are important differences between them, and that they are best conceptualized as distinct concepts.
The researchers explored the literature surrounding group intimacy and group cohesion. They found some areas of overlap (e.g. interpersonal attraction) and also key differences between the two concepts. Specifically, group intimacy necessarily requires some level of group cohesion, while a group may have a high level of cohesion without the added element of intimacy.
PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS FOR ORGANIZATIONS
The authors suggest that, to date, many team-building initiatives in organizations have been designed to foster team intimacy, not cohesion. However, the link between intimacy and team performance has not been well-established. Instead, the authors suggest that practitioners shift their focus towards team-building interventions that focus on the “work-focused” purpose of the group, such as the group’s commitment to their task. However, the authors do not discount the importance of intimacy entirely; indeed, they note that group intimacy is likely to become more common as teams take on more and more sophisticated projects in organizations. As such, the authors argue that additional research and examination of group intimacy is needed so that practitioners will be equipped to address this component of life in teams.
Rosh, L., Offermann, L. R., & Van Diest, R. (2012). Too close for comfort? Distinguishing between team intimacy and team cohesion. Human Resource Management Review, 22, 116-127.