Team Intimacy and Organizational Interventions: Emphasizing Team Cohesion May be More Effective (IO Psychology)

Topic(s): assessment, teams

Topic: Teams, Development
Publication: Human Resource Management Review (JUN 2012)
Article: Too Close for Comfort? Distinguishing Between Team Intimacy and Team Cohesion
Authors: Rosh, L., Offermann, L. R., & Van Diest, R.
Reviewed By: Thaddeus Rada

Within IO psychology, research on teams has become increasingly important in recent years. 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 constructs that have received research attention in the realm of teams include team intimacy and team cohesion. Although these constructs may appear to be very similar from the outside, Lisa Rosh and colleagues argue that there are important differences between these constructs, and that they are best conceptualized as distinct constructs.

Rosh and her colleagues explored the literature surrounding group intimacy and group cohesion, noting that, although there are areas of overlap between the constructs (e.g. interpersonal attraction), there are also key differences between them. Specifically, group intimacy necessarily requires some level of group cohesion, while a group may have high levels of cohesion without the added elements (e.g. interpersonal affection) of intimacy.

The authors suggest that, to date, many team-building initiatives in organizations have been designed to foster team intimacy, not cohesion. Noting that the link between intimacy and team performance has not been well-established, the authors suggest that practitioners shift their focus towards team-building interventions that focus, not on intimacy, but rather on the “work-focused” purpose of the group, such as the group’s commitment to their task and the task-based collective efficacy of the group. 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, they 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.

human resource management, organizational industrial psychology, organizational management


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