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Teamwork shows no effort gains per se

It´s the indispensability of each contribution, social comparing and women that count



The largest meta-analysis ever focusing on teamwork and performance refutes the popular assumption, teamwork triggers performance as such. The truth: It is not before three factors got their place in daily team management that team outputs are going up: a) each team member considers his/her contribution to be indispensable for the common goal, b) evaluations or comparisons with others are possible or c) there is a substantial number of women within the team.

These are the unequivocal results of researchers at the TU Dortmund who have gone through 622 relevant papers and more than 300.000 participants involved. Particularly the factor „indispensability“ seems to be crucial: even completely new teams that have to establish processes and relations among each other first can get quickly close to the maximum when motivating team members with their individual indispensability. Additionally helpful: this factor is beneficial for blue and white collar workers alike.

„Together, everyone achieves more – or less? An interdisciplinary meta-analysis on effort gains and losses in team”, Torka/Mazei/Hüffmeier, in: Psychological Bulletin, 147 (5) 2021, 504-534.


From the practice:

Exactly. The team for the sake of the team is rather seldom a good idea. Leaders often think they could earn some points of sympathy or motivation just because they are building teams. They underestimate how important the set up of the team work is – an aspect they are responsible for, too. Based on my experience especially when working with and in teams you have to implement straight rules (i.e. what is the duty and what is the free choice of the team?), monitor the performance and provide feedback. If not so, superiors or project managers are regularly confronted with weak results. This is also true for agile working.

A leader who cannot communicate requirements and leeways clearly and who is ducking off when it comes to a precise look at quality and potential follow ups is now at least getting some recos by the scientists from Dortmund: If you want to improve team performances then 1. Communicate unambiguously how and why each contribution in the team is indispensable 2. Make Perfomance of individuals and teams visible in order to nourish constructive competition and mutual support and 3. Keep an eye on lots of women in your teams.



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