Looking Back, Moving Forward: A Review of Group and Team-Based Research: Volume 15


Table of contents

(21 chapters)

We created the Research on Managing Groups and Teams conference in 1997 with the first edited volume appearing in 1998. This is the 15th volume in the series, and its publication is truly bittersweet, as it will be our final volume as editors. Each year we explored a different theme, with a young scholar selected to be the thematic editor for the conference and volume. Our intention was to create a venue for junior scholars to develop and showcase their work. Over the years, this small conference of approximately 50 participants (who varied depending on the theme) has become a research incubator for junior faculty members. Their contributions to the field of management have been extensive, covering topics such as technology, time, social identity, status, and diversity – to name just a few.

Purpose – This chapter examines how we study group dynamics in the organizational behavior literature, in terms of the past, present, and future potential. The goal is to aid researchers in considering studying group processes in their own work.

Methodology/approach – Examples are given of different approaches used to elucidate how group dynamics can be studied in terms of frequencies, phases, and sequences across a variety of group process domains.

Findings – Results of the review suggest that while there has been more interest in studying group dynamics and examples can be found in the literature, there is still much opportunity for additional research. Advancements in theory and methods provide the means for doing so.

Originality/value – Suggestions are provided for groups researchers on how to put their existing recordings of group processes to work.

Purpose – Leadership is a very large topic with a long history of scholarship. Despite this, existing theories of leadership have been mostly silent about group-level phenomena and challenges that leaders of small teams face. Our chapter begins to address this problem by specifying four functions or challenges that any theory of group leadership should address if it is to be helpful to small-group scholars looking for answers about leading teams.

Approach – In order to identify main group functions that should be managed by leaders and be developed into refined leadership theories, we review both leadership and team studies. Based on the four functions that we establish, we briefly review a selection of major leadership theories that we believe can provide the foundations for new and better group-level leadership theories.

Findings – By using two theoretical categorization (managing individual group members vs. managing group; affective/motivational vs. cognitive functions), we suggest that leaders of small groups deal with the four key leadership functions – (1) managing within-group interpersonal dynamics, (2) within-group coordination of information/resources, (3) group-level affect management, and (4) managing group boundaries for information/resources flow and group identity.

Value – This chapter provides specific group functions that groups and teams scholars can use as a foundation to develop better theory of small-group leadership.

Purpose – In this chapter, we review the research on status hierarchies in groups and teams to assess the relative validity of two major models – the dominance and functionalist theories of status hierarchies. We find that these models cannot fully account for empirical evidence in the literature, and thus propose a new model of status hierarchies, Micropolitics.

Methodology/approach – We examine the relative validity of current major theories by reviewing the literature on status hierarchies in groups.

Findings – We find that, although most of the literature supports the functionalist theory of status hierarchies, this theory cannot explain some of the existing empirical evidence. Drawing on both functionalist and dominance perspectives, we propose a new theory of status, the Micropolitics model, to account for this evidence. Specifically, we propose that in the “micro” context of groups and teams, individuals attain status by convincing their group that they possess the skills and abilities needed to take charge – just as political candidates must convince voters they are the right people for the job.

Originality/value of paper – This paper proposes a new theory of status hierarchies in groups that may provide additional explanatory power for status researchers. It suggests that groups strive to attain meritocracy, but may put the wrong people in charge.

Purpose – This chapter provides a framework that captures the fundamental impacts of power at the individual, dyadic, small group, and organizational levels. Within each level, we trace the psychological, cognitive, and behavioral consequences of having or lacking power.

Approach – We integrate theoretical approaches from psychology, sociology, behavioral economics, and organizational theory to underscore the far-reaching effects that power has.

Findings – We review theoretical and empirical evidence that demonstrate that (a) power leads people to take action, increases their general sense of control, and shape the way they construe the world; (b) power anesthetizes people to other people's emotions and immunizes them from the pressures of conformity; and (c) power differences within groups may facilitate group functioning by creating order, reducing conflict, and facilitating coordination. In addition to providing a framework for existing research on power, we also provide three research directions in hope of generating fruitful future research.

Originality/value – Through a careful review of the literature, we demonstrate that power helps people know who does what, when, and how.

Purpose – To motivate efforts within the ethics, fairness, and justice literatures to address some largely unexamined questions regarding how reactions to potential transgressions might depend on the group context.

Design/approach – We draw on prior literature on ethics, fairness, and justice to develop a framework that highlights gaps in the literature. We develop a section on future work that provides suggestions to researchers on how to address these gaps.

Findings – Although it is important to understand how to prevent transgressions from being committed, we start from the point of view that they are likely to remain an unfortunate aspect of organizational life. Thus, it is important to consider how people not only interpret transgressions, but also how they might respond after such transgressions occur. Through a review of the prior literature, we highlight the relative lack of research on such responses, particularly at a collective level, by considering (1) the types and implications of attributions made for transgressions in a group context and (2) how collective reactions to potential transgressions may ultimately differ from those of individuals.

Originality/value – We attempt to spur greater understanding of how groups understand and collectively react to potential transgressions. By doing so, we motivate greater attention toward an important, though underexplored, area in the literature.

Purpose – There are a number of ongoing debates in the organizational literature about conflict in groups and teams. We investigate two “conflicts about conflict” (i.e., two meta-conflicts) in the literature: we examine whether and under what conditions conflict in workgroups might be beneficial and we also explore the idea that group members may not always perceive the same levels of conflict.

Design/approach – We bring together the research and theorizing of the past 15 years to inform the current state of literature and move forward research on these conflicts about conflict. We examine and develop the two meta-conflicts to illustrate the importance of studying these ideas and to provide guidance for future research.

Findings – These two meta-conflicts in the conflict literature are important to investigate as conflict is a multifaceted construct that contains many dimensions that may influence group outcomes. We explore these two issues by briefly reviewing the literature on conflict and then highlighting some of the recent research on the conflict debate (i.e., is conflict constructive or destructive?) and conflict asymmetry in workgroups.

Originality/value – We identify interesting areas that future researchers could explore with respect to team conflict and conflict asymmetry.

Purpose – We investigate the antibias norm, “political correctness” (PC), and explore the consequences of the PC norm for group processes and group performance.

Methodology/approach – We define the term PC as it is used in public discourse and distinguish the PC norm from the related antibias norm of color blindness.

Findings – We suggest that the PC norm may play a unique role in reducing a critical type of uncertainty that would otherwise constrain performance, in particular, group creativity and decision making, in diverse work groups. We then explore the controversial argument that being politically incorrect can actually promote freedom of expression.

Originality/value of chapter – We conclude by reflecting on the costs of the PC norm and why the PC norm may remain prevalent in work groups for some time to come.

Purpose – To motivate diversity researchers to reconsider prior findings that use homogeneity as the standard to which diverse teams are compared. To recognize that homogeneity may be just as (if not more) influential than diversity in shaping group processes.

Design/approach – We selectively review the diversity literature and develop a conceptual reinterpretation of prior research. We challenge the general orientation in the literature to treat homogeneity as a baseline to which the effects of diversity are compared. We develop propositions that use diversity as the baseline for homogeneity and provide directions for future research.

Findings – We redigest evidence relating to five core areas in which researchers have identified differences between diverse and homogeneous groups, indicating that homogeneity may lead to (1) an avoidance of disagreement, (2) less use of unique information, (3) overconfidence about performance, (4) more social focus, and (5) less sensitivity to relationship conflict than might be warranted. Based on this reinterpretation of prior literature, we propose that homogeneous teams are prone to delusions, assuming they share similar values, opinions, knowledge, and preferences that make their world seem more homogeneous and comfortable than it may actually be.

Originality/value – We attempt to spur greater understanding of how diversity and homogeneity affect group functioning. We stress the independent effects of homogeneity in shaping group outcomes, an underexplored perspective in the diversity literature.

Purpose – We explore two characteristics of groups in today's work environments, membership dispersion and geographic dispersion, and the effects that these conditions have on group and organizational learning.

Approach – We integrate findings on group membership dispersion and geographic dispersion and develop predictions of dispersion's effects on group learning, incorporating the literature on knowledge transfer, transactive memory, turnover, and communication.

Findings – Members in multiple work groups, while exposed to knowledge from different areas, have weaker group identities and are more adversely affected by time constraints than members who belong to only one group. Group members can be dispersed sequentially through turnover, which creates more knowledge-retention problems than those experienced by stable groups. Members of geographically dispersed groups are in positions to integrate novel knowledge. The necessary use of technology to communicate, however, reduces the ability of geographically dispersed group members to convey ideas as effectively as their collocated counterparts. Geographically distributed group members experience less common ground and more difficulty in transferring knowledge, especially tacit knowledge, than their collocated counterparts.

Originality/value – We discuss how membership and geographic dispersion pose challenges to and provide opportunities for group learning. We suggest how learning within dispersed groups can be supported as well as what the future holds for the role of these groups in the new economy. The chapter concludes that although membership and geographic dispersion pose challenges to learning at the group level, these conditions enable learning at the level of the organization.

Purpose – The technologies teams use in organizations have dramatically changed in the 11 years since the 2000 Volume, Research on Managing Groups and Teams: Technology. This is an update focusing on new research and perspectives.

Approach – I recall where we left off in 2000 and then present a plea for changing our research approach to one that focuses on actionable research more aligned on how teams design their work than the effects we see when they do. I review a variety of literatures relevant to teams and technology and then suggest what the next 10 years may bring.

Findings – The scholarship on teams, technology, and teams and technology has blossomed, though not evenly. We are only beginning to see actionable research related to teams and technology.

Practical implications – The pace of organizationally relevant technology change has outstripped our ability to provide high-quality research in a timely manner if we maintain our current practices of studying individual or even interactions of effects as they exist in organizations. Our research will be more helpful if we shift our focus to how team members design their work.

Originality – I make two direct and dramatic requests of my colleagues. First, that they become more precise in their presentation of or at least specify the technological settings used in their research. Second, that they shift to actionable research that explicitly considers team, technology, and the processes through which team members design their work.

Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to explore the implications of viewing group decision-making through the lens of a social dilemma.

Design/methodology/approach – The chapter reviews the literature on why group decision-making often fails to live up to its potential, and then applies the social dilemma perspective to develop new insights about how the limitations of group decision-making might be overcome.

Findings – Applying the social dilemma perspective to group decision-making provides several prescriptions for group decision-making improvement by highlighting a critical distinction between participation and engagement.

Limitations – An important limitation of applying the social dilemma perspective to group decision-making is that improving group engagement by redefining member duty carries the risk of energizing dissent that only questions the group's answer and not the group's question.

Practical implications – The chapter refocuses the dialogue about group decision-making effectiveness away from “just” participation to include group member engagement.

Social implications – A key social implication of this chapter is that all social behavior represents a social dilemma, and that viewing everyday social activities (such as group decision-making) as social dilemmas can help identify new ways to understand cooperation failures and thereby improve future cooperation in groups.

Originality/value – The chapter extends and re-energizes research on group decision-making by providing a fresh lens – the social dilemma perspective – through which to understand and improve group decision-making failures.

Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to explore the question of whether there is an optimal level of time pressure in groups.

Design/approach – We argue that distinguishing performance from productivity is a necessary step toward the eventual goal of being able to determine optimal deadlines and ideal durations of meetings. We review evidence of time pressure's differential effects on performance and productivity.

Findings – Based on our survey of the literature, we find that time pressure generally impairs performance because it places constraints on the capacity for thought and action that limit exploration and increase reliance on well-learned or heuristic strategies. Thus, time pressure increases speed at the expense of quality. However, performance is different from productivity. Giving people more time is not always better for productivity because time spent on a task yields decreasing marginal returns to performance.

Originality/value of chapter – The evidence reviewed here suggests that setting deadlines wisely can help maximize productivity.

Purpose – Existing research in organizational behavior and social psychology focuses on comparisons in behaviors and attitudes across national groups, instead of studies on interactions among individuals with different national cultural backgrounds. In this chapter, we hope to motivate efforts within cross-national literatures to address some largely unexamined questions regarding dynamics in multicultural diverse teams.

Design/approach – Through a review of the prior perspectives on multicultural teams and a summary of findings in a recent meta-analysis study on multicultural teams in both single nation and multinational settings, we critique the limitations of the current perspectives and propose a new theoretical framework that draws on status perspectives in sociological and ethological research.

Findings – Drawing from status literatures, we explore how the status construction process and the status differential hierarchy of the team may affect trust, psychological safety, and creative problem solving of complex tasks in multicultural teams.

Originality/value – We propose a new theoretical angle of status for future research on interaction dynamics in multicultural teams, and diverse teams in general.

Purpose – We review how team members’ identities and interests affect team functioning, paying special attention to subgroup dynamics triggered by faultlines and coalitions. This review sets the stage for describing novel pathways through which identities and interests, when considered together, can affect team processes and outcomes.

Design/approach – We use an extended example of a hypothetical team's decision-making process to illustrate how team members’ identities and interests intertwine to affect the distribution and flow of information, subgroup dynamics, and team decisions.

Findings – We develop three specific ideas to demonstrate the utility of this integrative approach. First, we show how the formation of identity-based subgroups can shape information sharing to create a hidden profile where there was none initially. Second, we describe how individual defection can weaken subgroup competition and, paradoxically, increase the chance that a team will optimize its collective welfare. Third, we analyze how shared identities can shape team members’ side conversations in ways that create shared interests and information among those with similar identities, even before the team begins its formal meetings.

Originality/value – By identifying new routes through which identities and interests can affect team functioning, we provide a foundation for scholars in this domain to theoretically develop and empirically test these and related ideas. More generally, we encourage scholars to study the interplay among identities, interests, and information in their own research to paint a more complete picture of how individuals, subgroups, and teams perform.

Wow! It was about this time of year – but about sixteen years ago – that we held our first Research on Managing Groups and Teams conference. The first one was held at Stanford but we moved the location between the East and West coasts for 14 years. As homage to where we met and as the touchstone to where so many of the participants in our conferences and the authors in our volumes were trained, taught, or visited, we returned to the Kellogg School of Management, our intellectual spawning ground. With generous and facilitating support from the Kellogg dean Sally Blount (who, not coincidentally, was the thematic editor of the RMGT Volume 5: Time in Groups), about 60 of us convened to present our ideas, engage in good-natured roasting of our colleagues, and remember how we and the field had changed – and the part that we all have played in that transformation. When Beta and I said our last good-byes at the conference, we left Evanston, not with sadness at the ending of the conferences, but with a sense of accomplishment and collegiality. We have watched young assistant professors transform into leaders in the field. We had seen our own research fortunes, responsibilities, and accomplishments ebb and flow over the 16 years. And now – we move on to new adventures, new horizons, and, with luck, a few more successes.

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Research on Managing Groups and Teams
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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