What is Cohesion on a team?

Team Cohesion is an emergent dynamic steady-state group structure, that as psychological construct, allows team members and other observers to predict the behavior of one team member by observing the behaviors of other team members.

It is ’emergent’ because it only becomes observable after work groups have been interacting overtime. This is because its nature is determined by the interactive experiences within the group. For example, team performance during early stages of team formation positively predicts team cohesion. Importantly, however, Team Cohesion continually and positively predict team performance over time.

The level of Team Cohesion in a group of individuals can be inferred intuitively by group members and observers, but it can also be measured by considering both interpersonal and task-oriented characteristics. Three interpersonal dynamics that can be measured are: a sense of unity within the team, the sense of belonging to the team by its members, and the experienced sense of closeness among team members. The shared task-orientation elements to be considered include: a shared focus on the work to be done, a concentrated effort by all to get the work done, and the tendency to pull-together to get the work done.

As can be gathered from its name, Team Cohesion is not a personal characteristic. It is a team characteristic. But this does not mean individuals cannot influence the emergence of Cohesion in the their work groups. They can.

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Mathieu, J.E., Kukenberger, M.R., D’Innocenzo, L. & Reilly, G. (2015) Modeling Reciprocal Team Cohesion-Performance Relationships, as Impacted by Shared Leadership. Journal of Applied Psychology, 100(3), 713-734.

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