Can you have too much team cohesion?

A recent study out of Ryerson University questions the conventional wisdom that the performance of workplace teams always increases as their social bonds grow. Instead, the relationship between team cohesion and performance looks more like a classic bell curve -- rising significantly at first, but peaking at a certain point and declining beyond that.

One reason for the previously undocumented decline in performance at the far end of the spectrum could be that "groupthink" hampers innovation and dampens a team's urge to challenge the status quo, according to an article in Strategy+Business. The risk of teams aligning their analysis with senior leaders has been explored in the past, but those posed by intra-team social ties less so.

There are benefits to team cohesion, including higher levels of job satisfaction, fewer conflicts, and less turnover, but the implications of the study seem to be that a balancing act is required. Team leaders and managers should try to find that optimal level of social ties that promote high performance, and to monitor and make adjustments if the risk of stagnation and groupthink starts to grow.


Image: Example team connection maps. Source: Baylor University

-- Segundo Saenz, Bojan Angelov

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