Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Teamwork done right: New study sheds light on how to avoid destructive conflict

19.02.2004


Experts agree that when it comes to teamwork, constructive conflict can result in better decisions and performance. When teams develop ideas together, debate differing perspectives, and synthesize those perspectives, the resulting group decision is often superior to a decision made by one person. But what about destructive conflict – when personalities clash, rivalries erupt, emotions flare, and the whole dynamic turns bad?

In a new study, two teamwork researchers at Stevens Institute of Technology have made surprising findings about both the good and bad kinds of conflict. Their study shows that for identifiable reasons, constructive conflict often mutates into destructive conflict. The study also shows that destructive conflict – the personal and emotional kind – is highly detrimental to teams’ performance and decision-making. But the good news is, understanding how and why destructive conflict happens offers keys to good management.

Surveying 94 project teams in large U.S. corporations over two years, Drs. Patricia Holahan and Ann Mooney, professors in Stevens’ Howe School of Technology Management, studied two primary areas related to teamwork: the factors that lead to both constructive and destructive conflict, and the implications of conflict – how conflict, both good and bad, affects team decision-making and performance.



"Although other researchers had theorized that constructive conflict could spiral into destructive conflict, our study is the first to provide strong empirical evidence of such a mutation," said Dr. Mooney.

So what can be done to keep good conflict from going bad? How can teams experience the benefits of constructive conflict and avoid the pitfalls of destructive conflict?

"One thing our study demonstrates is that trust matters," said Dr. Holahan. "Team members who trust each other and display more supportive and less contentious norms of communication are less likely to take constructive conflict personally."

Behavioral integration also matters. That is, when team members freely share information and resources, and feel mutually accountable for decisions reached, constructive conflict is less likely to mutate into destructive conflict.

The research explored several factors thought to stimulate conflict in teams. The researchers found that large teams experience more conflict than small teams. Task characteristics, such as the clarity of the team’s goal, also play a role. The less clear the team’s goals, the greater the conflict the team experiences.

What about team turnover, and new team members? "Our findings suggest that new membership brings freshness to decision-making, which encourages teams to critically evaluate issues," said Dr. Mooney.

In their research, Drs. Holahan and Mooney also demonstrated that there’s a lot at stake when constructive conflict degrades into destructive conflict.

"We found that destructive conflict has a powerful negative effect," said Dr. Holahan.

"It’s quite dangerous for teams because it degrades the quality of their decisions and erodes the understanding of and commitment to those decisions. Ultimately, we found that teams experience destructive conflict are less likely to achieve their goals and complete projects on schedule."



The researchers co-wrote two papers, "Conflict, Decision Outcomes and Project Team Performance" and "Managing Conflict in Teams: Gaining the Benefits and Avoiding the Costs." Their studies were supported by grants from the Stevens Alliance for Technology Management and the Center for Technology Management Research. The research papers have been submitted to the Academy of Management’s 2004 Annual Meetings, which will be held in August in New Orleans and focus on "Creating Actionable Knowledge."

Dr. Holahan conducts research on implementing new technology and managing product development teams. She has served as a consultant to several Fortune 500 companies, advising them on issues related to the installation of self-managing teams, team effectiveness, and team reward and recognition systems. She has received grants from funding agencies such as the GE Foundation to study teamwork issues. Her work has been published in several leading management journals including, the Journal of Applied Psychology and Journal of Management.

Dr. Mooney conducts research on strategic decision making. Among other things, she has explored conflict management in top management teams, the importance of effective process in boards of directors, and the pressures and constraints on CEOs. She has co-authored articles in places such as the Academy of Management Executive, the Academy of Management Review, and the International Journal of Conflict Management, and has recently received a Women’s International Science Collaboration Award. Dr. Mooney has also served as a consultant to several Fortune 500 companies.

The Stevens researchers have recently announced that Dr. Allen Amason of the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business has joined their research team. He is the author of numerous articles and book chapters, which have appeared in places such as the Academy of Management Journal, the Journal of Management, and Organizational Dynamics. He is the Associate Editor of the Journal of Management and has served on the Editorial Board of the Academy of Management Journal, the International Journal of Conflict Management and the Case Review Board of Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice.

Established in 1870, Stevens Institute of Technology offers baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degrees in engineering, science, computer science, management and technology management, as well as a baccalaureate in the humanities and liberal arts and in business and technology. The university, located directly across the Hudson River from New York City, has a total enrollment of about 1,700 undergraduates and 2,600 graduate students. Additional information may be obtained from its web page at http://www.stevens.edu.

Cass Bruton-Ward | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.stevens.edu

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Internet use in class tied to lower test scores
16.12.2016 | Michigan State University

nachricht Geographers provide new insight into commuter megaregions of the US
01.12.2016 | Dartmouth College

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

Im Focus: Bacterial Pac Man molecule snaps at sugar

Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.

The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle

17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Smart homes will “LISTEN” to your voice

17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>