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Team or Organizational Commitment?

by Chris Straw
April 2018

From the ICCR Blog 

Chris Straw
For individuals, working within and across teams is an ever-present part of organizational life.  Conflict between teams, however, is often a common companion as differences in goals, needs, values and priorities emerge. One such example is when brand managers demand rapid time to market while manufacturing tries to control costs.  Research has generally shown that an integrative or collaborative win-win conflict management strategy is the most effective in bridging these intergroup differences and producing the best outcomes for the organization. If a collaborative strategy is best, what motivates employees to expend the additional effort and time to work together for win-win outcomes?

To explore the question of motivation and conflict style preference, a recent study analyzed the interplay of an individual’s commitment to the team, commitment to the organization, and his or her preferred conflict management strategy. Commitment here is affective; it is the force that pulls individuals to take action favorable to the group and in line with the group’s values and goals. The researchers’ findings indicate that a dual commitment – that is commitment to both their team and to their organization – resulted in a preference to use a collaborative conflict management approach. 

Past research is conflicting in the advice it offers practitioners, suggesting that focusing on the superordinate goals of the organization regardless of the level of commitment to the team is best, while others suggest focusing on the organization will induce team members to use a dominating style.  This new study suggests that it isn’t either-or.  To motivate individuals to work collaboratively with another team, both high commitment to their own team and high commitment to the organization are needed.  Building individuals’ identification both with their team and with the organization are important precursors of dual commitment, which provides the motivation to act collaboratively and produces outcomes good for the team and the organization.

 

ENDNOTES 

Tjosvold, D., Wong, S.H., & Feng Chen, N.Y. (2014).  Constructively managing conflicts in organizations.  Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior. Vol. 1:545-568. https://doi-org.ezproxy.cul.columbia.edu/10.1146/annurev-orgpsych-031413-091306

Wombacher, J. & Felfe, J. (2017). The interplay of team and organizational commitment in motivating employees’ interteam conflict handling.  Academy of Management Journal, 60(4), 1554-1581.  Doi:10.5465/amj.2014.0718

Biography


Chris Straw is currently a Project Manager at the Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict and Complexity (AC4) at the Earth Institute, Columbia University where she supports applications projects and other initiatives related to the Dynamical Systems Theory. Her interests lie in considering conflict, cooperation and collaboration through a systems lens, recognizing that history, relationships and dynamics matter. She holds an MS from Columbia University’s program in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution and an MBA from Temple University. She also holds a Certificate in Conflict Resolution Studies from the ICCCR at Teachers College. Chris is an experienced manager, having worked in a variety of positions in the governmental, for-profit and educational sectors. She is also a certified community mediator, mediating community disputes at Community Mediation Services in Queens, NY.



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