Publication Date

2015-06-09

Availability

Embargoed

Embargo Period

2017-06-08

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Department

Management (Business)

Date of Defense

2015-05-28

First Committee Member

Chester A. Schriesheim

Second Committee Member

Terri A. Scandura

Third Committee Member

Linda L. Neider

Fourth Committee Member

Kevin B. Lowe

Abstract

The increasing diversity of the workforce and a greater emphasis on teamwork in today’s organizations necessitate a better understanding of how to ensure unity in heterogeneous work teams. Relational harmony (defined as the coexistence of two or more entities in a state of mutual acceptance and benevolence) is, therefore, a critical end state that diverse teams should seek to achieve. This dissertation aims to develop the construct of relational harmony in organizational research in general and to apply this concept to team research in particular. Research has suggested that team members may be divided into two or more subgroups based on the alignment of multiple individual attributes, or namely, group faultlines (Lau & Murnighan, 1998). The existence of subgroups in work teams (Carton & Cummings, 2012) poses challenges to ensuring team relational harmony (Hornsey & Hogg, 2000a). In this dissertation, I focus on the effects of resource-based subgroups, particularly subgroups based upon members’ differences in status (as a social resource; Foa, 1971). Specifically, I investigate how configurational properties (including the number of subgroups and the variation of subgroups in size) affect harmonious interpersonal relationships among team members, as well as the extent to which harmony impacts team performance. A contingency approach to leadership is also used to provide actionable knowledge that informs managers of how to deal with resource-based subgroups in teams so as to improve relational harmony and team performance. Since a measure of harmony in organizational settings is not currently available, I first develop a scale to assess the state of interpersonal relational harmony. Scale development follows a deductive approach, including a quantitative assessment of initial items’ content adequacy based on 18 subject matter experts (study 1), an exploratory factor analysis of surveys obtained from 137 employees from a variety of industries (study 2), and a confirmatory factor analysis of survey data obtained from 122 employees who worked in teams in a manufacturing company (study 3). Hypotheses are then tested on complete information from 320 employees and their leaders in 46 teams from 3 companies in China (study 4). Although these companies vary in their industries and businesses (financial services, hospitality, and manufacturing), the selection of the teams employed identical criteria and procedures. The findings demonstrate that there appears to be an inverted U-shaped curvilinear relationship between the number of resource-based subgroups and team relational harmony such that teams with a moderately large number of resource-based subgroups have the highest relational harmony. This curvilinear effect is moderated by leaders’ interaction facilitation behavior in such a way that the inverted U-shape only appears when leader interaction facilitation is low. When leaders demonstrate a high level of interaction facilitation behavior, teams with more resource-based subgroups display higher relational harmony. Moreover, although the current results do not provide support for a positive relationship between balance of resource-based subgroups and team relational harmony, leader interaction facilitation behavior changes the nature of the relationship such that the relationship turns from positive to negative when leader interaction facilitation behavior varies from low to high. Team relational harmony, in turn, translates the impact of resource-based subgroup configurational properties and leadership interaction facilitation behavior to team performance. Taken together, these findings show the importance of properly configuring teams as well as enacting suitable leadership behaviors in managing subgroups and building high-performing teams.

Keywords

Relational Harmony; Teams; Resource-Based Subgroups; Leader Interaction Facilitation

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