The Development and Consequences of Group Affective Tone
Embargoed until: 2019-05-31
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The rise of team-based structures within organisations has prompted increasing research focused at improving team processes, typically with a view to increasing team performance (e.g., Allen & Hecht, 2004). This expanding team-level focus within the organisational behaviour literature has required researchers to consider the complexities surrounding the conceptualisation and measurement of team-based constructs and phenomena (e.g., team satisfaction; team cohesion; team conflict), including how best to aggregate traditionally individual-level phenomena to the team level (Bliese, 2000; Chan, 1998). Increasing recognition of the role of affect in organisations ( e.g., Ashkanasy & Dorris, 2017; Barsade & Gibson, 2007) has similarly led to a growing cohort of researchers conceptually and empirically considering affect-related constructs at the team level (e.g., Ashkanasy, 2003; Barsade & Gibson, 2012; Cote, 2007). One influential stream within this area is research on group affective tone established by George and her colleagues ( e.g., George, 1990, 2002; George & King, 2007). George (1990) provided some of the earliest empirical evidence for group affective tone by demonstrating that individuals in workgroups tend to experience highly similar levels of state affect. The affective tone of a team has been shown to have significant impact on team functioning. A more positive affective tone has been linked with a number of advantageous team outcomes, including better team cooperation (Barsade, 2002), better coordination (Sy, Cote, & Saavedra, 2005), lower team conflict (e.g., Barsade, 2002), lower absence rates within the team (Mason & Griffin, 2003), and more helping behaviours displayed within the team (Chi, Chung, & Tsai, 2011 ). However, there have also been some counterintuitive findings that suggest the impact of group affective tone on team outcomes is more complex than sometimes theorised. In line with the IPSO model of team effectiveness (Marks, Mathieu, & Zaccaro, 2001) my program of research will consider the interplay of affective input variables of the team (specifically trait affect and emotional intelligence) on the development of group affective tone and discrete emotional tones as an emergent state. I use affect-asinformation theory (Schwarz & Clore, 2003) and the emotions-as-social-information model (EASI; Van Kleef, 2009) to guide my propositions regarding the influence of group affective tone on team dynamics ( conflict) and outcomes (team performance and team satisfaction). Finally, my expectations regarding the impact of team conflict on team outcomes are based on Jehn and Bendersky's (2003) contingency theory of the consequences of conflict. My broad research questions are: RQ 1. Under what conditions will team members' positive affect and negative affect converge? RQ2. What are the consequences of group affective tone on team conflict? RQ3. What are the consequences of group affective tone on team performance/ satisfaction? RQ4. To what extent does team emotional intelligence influence the interplay of team conflict and team performance? Three studies were conducted to address these questions. All studies used student samples in order to have a high amount of control over the formation of teams and the tasks they completed. Study 1 involved existing student teams assessed during the completion of a survival decision-making task. It examined the convergence of team members' affect, and whether the consequences of teams' affective tone on experienced conflict and objective performance in the task was dependent on teams' (self-rated) collective emotional intelligence, as well as the role of collective emotional intelligence in determining the effectiveness of team conflict on performance. Study 2 utilised an experimental design of randomly formed university teams, and addressed how the trait affective composition of a team contributed to the affective tone of teams, and whether this link was contingent on teams' self-rated level of emotional intelligence, as well as the impact of collective emotional intelligence and formally imposed display rules on the link between teams' affective tone and performance (both self-rated and objective) in a creative task. Finally, the aim of Study 3 was to take a more fine-grained look at the collective emotions of a team, and investigate the convergence of discrete emotions (e.g., joviality, fear, and hostility) in university teams completing a workplace-based decision-making task, as well as whether the consequences of teams' various emotional tones on experienced conflict and objective performance was dependent on teams' collective emotional intelligence (assessed via a situational judgement test). Results of my program of research have both supported previous research on affective tone and extended knowledge regarding the impact of collective emotional intelligence on team interactions with some counterintuitive findings. In an extension of previous research on affect at the team level, I examined specific emotions and their convergence in short tasks, and demonstrated that specific emotions will have differential influences on team outcomes which are not easily apparent when researchers classify affect as either globally positive or negative in nature. Regarding the role of emotional intelligence in team affectivity, different facets were found to have opposing effects. My research has extended past findings by demonstrating that the awareness facets of emotional intelligence can be harmful to a team's functioning when considering the negative affective tone of the team. When a team is lower in negative affective tone, having high awareness of emotions can be detrimental in terms of both relationship conflict experienced in the team, and objective performance of the team. This finding is in contrast to the majority of affective tone models which predict emotional intelligence will help buffer against the harmful impacts of negative affective tone. However, certain management aspects of emotional intelligence were found to be highly valuable in the interplay between positive affective tone, task conflict, and team performance. Contrary to past theory suggesting the desirability of a highly positive affective tone (e.g., George, 1995), and research demonstrating a simple positive link between positive tone and performance ( e.g., Hmieleski, Cole, & Baron, 2012; Kim & Choi, 2012) my research has challenged the notion that a positive affective tone is universally advantageous. Based on my research, during complex decision-making or creative tasks, teams need to be able to manage their positivity so that it remains functional, rather than making them complacent about their task; providing team-level support for affect-as-information theory (Schwarz & Clore, 2003). The practical implications of my research include the notion that team-level emotional intelligence may be a vital resource for maximising team performance. Managers of teams, in particular, should be aware that a highly positive team atmosphere may not be beneficial unless team members possess the skills to manage that collective positive emotion productively. Team selection which considers the emotional intelligence of potential members to ensure adequate collective levels, or training interventions which aim to increase employees' emotional intelligence are two options for organisations to consider.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Dept Empl Rel & Human Resource
The author owns the copyright in this thesis, unless stated otherwise.
Group affective tone