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Conﬂict management and effectiveness in virtual teams
Department of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia, USA
Purpose – This paper aims to explore the role of goal-oriented attitudes and behaviors as antecedents of conﬂict management and the subsequent impact of conﬂict management on team outcomes in virtual teams. Of particular interest is the role of “commitment to team goals” as a predictor of successful conﬂict management and the subsequent impact of conﬂict management on team outcomes. Design/methodology/approach – This paper describes the results from a quasi-experimental study examining the relationships among commitment to team goals, conﬂict management and team outcomes in virtual teams. First, it provides an in depth review of relevant empirical ﬁndings. Next, it describes a study examining the relationships between three sets of variables: commitment to team goals; conﬂict management; and team outcomes (performance and attitudinal) in the context of virtual teams. Data were collected from 141 students grouped in 39 teams size 3 to 4 that were part of four cohorts of an Engineering Management course. Findings – The results provide some preliminary evidence that conﬂict management mediated the relationships between goal commitment and team outcomes. Results suggest that commitment to team goals is a signiﬁcant predictor of successful conﬂict management. Findings also suggest that teams that are more actively involved in preventing and solving their conﬂict experience a signiﬁcant increase in the relationship between commitment to team goals and team performance, suggesting that use of effective conﬂict management can support team effectiveness in the context of virtual teams. Finally, limitations and suggestions for future research are presented. Originality/value – This paper sheds some light into the role conﬂict as a mediator on the relationship between goal commitment and virtual team effectiveness. It provides preliminary evidence that conﬂict management plays a critical role in enhancing virtual team effectiveness. Keywords Virtual teams, Conﬂict, Performance management, Team effectiveness, Conﬂict management, Communication technologies Paper type Research paper
Conﬂict management and effectiveness 401
1. Introduction Virtual teams (VT) are becoming prevalent in the current corporate environment. According to The Wall Street Journal, over half of companies with an employee base of 5,000 or more use virtual teams (De Lisser, 1999). McDonough et al. (2001) also predicted that in the upcoming years almost two-thirds of new product development teams will evolve into virtual teams. In line with these trends, a survey by the Gartner Group found that more than 60 percent of professional employees work in VTs (Kanawattanachai and Yoo, 2002). This increased interest in harnessing the potential of VTs needs to be supported by an understanding of the key drivers of VT performance.
The author truly appreciates the input of anonymous reviewers, which helped to strengthen this article.
Team Performance Management Vol. 18 No. 7/8, 2012 pp. 401-417 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 1352-7592 DOI 10.1108/13527591211281138
McGrath. Conﬂict management has been recognized as a particularly critical process in the context of VTs due to factors such as increased social distance. 2008). Virtual teams cannot necessarily rely as much on social cues and mechanisms and have their limited access to rich interaction among members. 2010) but little is known about the speciﬁc factors that support successful conﬂict management in VTs and how conﬂict management processes impact team outcomes. and McGrath. Figure 1 conceptual model used in this study including the variables investigated and their hypothesized relationships.g. use of information and communication technologies. team performance and satisfaction as team outcomes. The IMOI model was inspired on previous systemic approaches (e. Three types of variables were investigated: input..2. This variable was deﬁned as the extent to what team members took responsibility for the team outcomes and were committed to a collective goal. 1997. A speciﬁc aspect of VTs that has been largely ignored is conﬂict prevention and conﬂict management and their subsequent impact on team attitudinal and performance outcomes. It has been noted that virtual teams can specially beneﬁt from temporal coordination mechanisms and goal coordination and alignment as those processes can help enhance team functioning and performance (Marks et al. Montoya-Weiss et al. they were grounded in prior theoretical ﬁndings and their construct validity was evaluated using factor analysis (see Methods section). but for the purpose of this paper. Commitment to team goals was measured using four items based on the work of Pazos et al.. Conﬂict has long been the focus of research in the area of teams ( Jehn and Mannix. Mathieu et al. 2001. 2004. 1991) and it is aimed at shedding light on the factors affecting the effectiveness of small-groups (Martins et al.1 Input variables The input variable evaluated in this study was commitment to team goals. the term is deﬁned as a group of geographically and/or temporally dispersed individuals brought together via information and telecommunication technologies to work towards a common goal. Hackman. 2001). 2001. 1991. A thorough literature search revealed no prior empirical research assessing how conﬂict management may work in tandem with goal oriented attitudes and behaviors to inﬂuence team effectiveness. (2011)... Figure 1. etc.. 1. 2008). For a more detailed description of this measure see section 3. The model was grounded on the IMOI framework (Cohen and Bailey. mediator and outcomes. 1987. This study examines the relationships between three sets of variables in the context of VTs: commitment to team goals as an input variable. Mathieu et al..TPM 18. conﬂict management as a mediator variable. The reported study is grounded on the IMOI (input-mediator-output-input) model of team performance. prevalence of asynchronous communication. Proposed research model . These variables illustrate the original intent of the study. Onkman et al.7/8 402 Several deﬁnitions of VTs exist. Understanding the role that conﬂict management plays in the relationship between commitment to team goals and team outcomes is vital in preventing relationship conﬂict while supporting constructive disagreements.
. In comparing face-to-face groups to VTs. which involves working through disagreements among team members (Marks et al. which involves establishing conditions to prevent or guide team conﬂict before it occurs. Marks et al. We will use a team process approach to evaluate conﬂict management that considers the extent to which teams actively manage their conﬂict (e. Satisfaction was measured using a construct based on 5 items based on the work of Van der Vegt et al. 1989. members’ perception of having a common group identity reduced the amount of conﬂict.2 Mediator variables Conﬂict management was evaluated as a mediator between commitment to team goals and team outcomes. (2005) suggest the importance of creating a shared context by focusing on early experiences within the team.. some researchers have found that conﬂict is more likely to occur in virtual contexts partly due an increased difﬁculty in achieving goal alignment and goal commitment (Mortensen and Hinds. Poole et al. 2001). (1991) found that the ability of VTs to manage their conﬂict in productive ways also depended on how teams adapted to and used the available communication technology to handle conﬂict. Perceived level of performance was measured using ﬁve survey items based on a previous construct by Mortensen and Hinds (2001). 1995). The extent and effects of conﬂict in VTs has been found to depend on several contingency factors. Mortensen and Hinds (2001) found that. Hertel et al.1 Relationship between input factors (commitment to team goals) and mediator (conﬂict management) Goal setting and goal alignment is a well-documented factor in the team related literature (Mento et al. 2001).3 Outcomes Team outcome variables consisted of perceived performance and satisfaction. Jehn. 2009). 2. (2001).2 Relationship between inputs and outcomes The signiﬁcance of commitment to team goals in the performance of an effective team has been largely acknowledged in the team literature (Larson and LaFasto. and outcome variables in the model. The approach to measuring conﬂict management used in this paper incorporates two types of conﬂict management processes: preemptive conﬂict management. Our approach assesses the extent to which teams engage in preventing conﬂict and whether they are prepared to manage it when it arises (Tekleab et al.. Background In this section we will present an in depth review of prior research describing relationships between the input.1. Teams that manage their conﬂicts effectively tend to be more proactive in preventing conﬂict.g. Conﬂict management relates to the team’s ability to play an active role in preventing conﬂict before it emerges and in resolving existing conﬂict. 1995. 1. Those initial experiences tend to focus on key processes such as goal setting and role clariﬁcation. 1987). and reactive conﬂict management. Conﬂict management and effectiveness 403 . more open in discussing differing opinions and tend to play a more active role in solving their differences (Jehn. mediators. This item was revised based on the results from the factor analysis and reduced to two items. 2. within VTs. 2001).. 2. See deﬁnition of measures for additional details on the variable.
Pazos and Beruvides. Siegel et al.. Goals and role clarity affect team performance and satisfaction through four mechanisms. 1994). clarity of goals and roles has an energizing function. First.TPM 18. Locke and Bryan (1969) observed that people who were given feedback about multiple aspects of their performance on a driving task improved their performance on the dimensions for which they had goals but not on other dimensions. such as the ergometer (Bandura and Cervone. Putnam. Larson and Schaumann. clarity of goals and roles affect action indirectly by leading to the use of task-relevant knowledge and strategies to properly prioritize and scheme a plan of action (Wood and Locke. When participants are allowed to control the time they spend on a task. 2011). 1990) and empirical literatures (Weingart.. a clearly deﬁned mission has been recognized as critical to team performance and satisfaction according to both the conceptual (Gladstein. Similarly. and name-calling was signiﬁcantly more likely in computer mediated groups than in face-to-face groups. 2007). but attainable (Larson and LaFasto. 1986. 1991. 1984. entail repeated performance of simple cognitive tasks. Likert.. Fourth.. 2001. 1987. Sundstrom et al. prior studies have found a higher likelihood of uninhibited behavior by team members when compared to face-to-face interactions (Martins et al. Pazos et al. 2. Prior studies suggest that team goals lead to greater team success when they are challenging. 1999) because they require more effort and are usually associated with lower chances of success (Erez and Zidon. 1990). utilize measurements of subjective effort (Bryan and Locke. such as addition. insults. This effect occurs both cognitively and behaviorally. 1989. Sproull and Kiesler (1986) noted greater self-absorption (individuals focused more on themselves than on others) and uninhibited behavior in e-mail when compared to face-to-face communication. For example. 1984).. (1986) and Pazos and Beruvides (2011) found that uninhibited behavior such as swearing. 1961).3 Relationship between mediators (conﬂict management) and outcomes Researchers have long stated that conﬂict is an important emerging state that allows teams to make better decisions because more alternatives are generated and considered prior to a decision being reached (Jehn and Mannix. 1976). The goal-performance relationship is strongest when people are committed to their goals. clarity of goals and roles has also been found to impact persistence. Team members that feel responsible for the collective result tend to be great contributors to the team (Pazos and Beruvides. 1992. 1983). 2002). 1987. 1970).. Marks et al. Commitment is most important and relevant when goals are difﬁcult (Klein et al. Commitment to goals may be more important in a team than in an individual setting because there is more potential for conﬂict or disagreement on team’s goals and responsibilities (Pazos et al. Rothkopf and Billington (1979) found that students with speciﬁc learning goals paid attention to and learned more effectively. Likewise. This has been shown with tasks that: require physical effort. 2004. In the virtual team context..7/8 404 Kirkman et al. 2011). Third. Van de Vliert and De Dreu. 1967). 2007). and utilize physiological indicators of effort (Sales. Research has also shown that conﬂict management behavior is an important determinant of team performance (Baron. Weldon et al. 2001). hard goals prolong effort (LaPorte and Nath. Hackman.. Second. they direct attention and effort toward goal-relevant activities and away from goal-irrelevant activities. 1993. Shea and Guzzo. De Dreu and Weingart (2003) ﬁndings suggest that . 1989. clarity of goals and roles serve a directive function.
1 Context of the study This study was conducted at a public university in Virginia. The main deliverable was a group project report and a presentation at the end of the semester along with a group portfolio including: team charter. Construct validity of the survey was also evaluated using exploratory factor analysis. The following sections describe the context of the study. The Institutional Review Conﬂict management and effectiveness 405 . The students were primarily full-time employees at various organizations and were part-time master engineering management students. 141 subjects from four sections of a graduate level Engineering Management course participated in the study. which are conceptually related to team satisfaction. and it included analysis. Students were randomly assigned to 39 groups of size 3 to 4.2 hours per week at their jobs. 3. mediator and outcome variables explored in this study. Methodology The main goal of the study was to explore the relationships between commitment to team goal and team outcomes (perceived performance and satisfaction) and the mediating role of conﬂict management on that relationship. The survey was also pilot-tested with two teams to ensure that the wording of the items aligned with the researchers intent. problem identiﬁcation and recommendations for improvement. the students were currently working 39. The surveys were completed within a week of the project ﬁnal submission and before grades were assigned to avoid some potential bias.relationship conﬂict between team members channels cognitive and emotional resources to deal with personal relationships and friction. So far we have described the state of the art knowledge related to the input.g. Participants’ gender was 75 per cent male and 25 per cent female and ages ranged from 22 to 55. we present the results of a study using a quasi-experimental design approach into exploring the relationship between variables in the suggested model (see Figure 1) using the context of a graduate level engineering management course. the main variables being evaluated along with its deﬁnitions. On average. rather than devoting these resources to working on the team’s task and goals. All sections were taught by the same instructor using identical syllabus and guidelines. This empirical evidence suggests that teams with higher levels of conﬂict management may be likely to develop greater levels of cohesion and a more satisfactory team experience. mutual trust and quality of personal relationships). team project plan and team collaboration web site. 3. and the analysis conducted to explore the relationships among the variables. The project was based on the team’s independent research on the company. Data were collected using an electronic survey consisting of 15 items excluding demographic questions. Van de Vliert et al. Two experts in team performance measurement reviewed all items to ensure content validity. Participants were blind to the hypotheses of the study. (1995) hypothesized and found support for the effect of conﬂict management on relational outcomes (e. This study focused on identifying the relationships between goal commitment and outcomes in a virtual team setting and the mediating role of conﬂict management on that relationship. As a result of their feedback some items were revised. Next. In total. Each group worked together for a period of 13 weeks to complete a project consisting of an analysis of a large private company.
The scree plot and Eigen values support the proposed dimensions (see discussion on results of factor analysis later in this section). Next. We assessed goal commitment using a four-item measure developed by Pazos et al. and work excellence.95) reliability. Table I indicates the variable category. Satisfaction. 3. We adapted a performance measure from Ancona and Caldwell (1992). (2011).35 loading was cut-off point for deciding to include items in a scale. The ﬁnal measure consisted of two questions. A sample item for this scale is “Conﬂict is dealt with openly on this team.7/8 Board approved the protocol and data collection for this study. This variable was deﬁned as the extent to which team members were committed to a common goal and supported each other in accomplishing that goal. The analysis was conducted using PASW/SPSS version 20. We assessed conﬂict management using a four-item measure developed by Tekleab et al. We used a measure of satisfaction based on the work by Van der Vegt et al. and anchors. Perceived performance.TPM 18. We used the maximum likelihood method and oblique rotation to evaluate the underlying factors along with scree plot to determine the number of factors to include in the model. (2009) with a ﬁve-point Likert-type scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree).” Exploratory factor analysis resulted on all items loading on a single factor. The reliability coefﬁcient for this scale was a ¼ 0. we deﬁne the main variables and the instruments used in their assessment. we examined the underlying factor structure of the items in the questionnaire. A 0. Conﬂict management measured the extent to which the team was able to prevent negative conﬂict and solve emerging conﬂict. corresponding items in the survey. The coefﬁcient alpha for goal commitment was 0. which included team member’s ratings of their team along ﬁve dimensions: efﬁciency. technical innovation. Team members rated each question on a ﬁve-point Likert scale in which 1 ¼ poor and 5 ¼ excellent.88. adherence to requirements.93. The ﬁve-item scale showed high (a ¼ 0. 406 Variable type Variable name Input Mediator Outcome Outcome Commitment to team goals Conﬂict management Perceived performance Satisfaction with team process and outcomes Items Range of values (anchors) 1-4 5-8 9-13 14-15 1-5 1-5 1-5 1-5 (strongly disagree-strongly agree) (strongly disagree-strongly agree) (poor-excellent) (strongly disagree-strongly agree) Table I. We evaluated Conﬂict Management as a process mediator of the relationship between the input variable and team outcomes. Relevant variables . (1998) and Flynn et al. A sample item is “Our team was united in trying to reach its goals for performance”. The resulting reliability of the measure was a ¼ 0. quality. The initial measure had 4 items but after factor analysis two items were dropped as they loaded poorly in the factor. (2001) to assess the overall team satisfaction with processes and outcomes. name.91 indicating high reliability. Commitment to team goals.2 Relevant measures Using exploratory factor analysis.
670 0. only exploratory factor analysis was conducted. suggesting strong agreement. Prior research determined that goal setting in VTs is positively associated with cohesion. which is the case in this study.840 0. Table II shows the loadings that resulted from the factor analysis.3 Hypotheses Next we present the hypotheses in the alternative form along with the rationale supporting them. collaboration. based on the rWG estimates.699 0. Due to the limited size of the sample.967 0. commitment. Oblique rotation derives factor loadings based on the assumption that the factors are likely to be correlated.820 0. For all teams.80.758 0. Exploratory Factor analysis was conducted on the independent variables to explore the multidimensionality of the data. Results justiﬁed the use of the two constructs (goal commitment and conﬂict management). 2004. rWG has been suggested as an indicator of the extent to which group members agree in their evaluations of the variables considered in the study. The aim of this analysis is to provide justiﬁcation to the aggregation of measures within each team.In order to justify aggregation at the group level of dependent and independent variables we used a measure of within group agreement (rWG) developed by James et al. The ﬁrst factor accounted for 69 percent of the variance. which support a two-factor structure for the independent variables consistent with the conceptual model in Figure 1. Huang et al.601 Conﬂict management and effectiveness 407 Table II. Lack of a common goal in the team may cause team members to work towards their own personal agendas instead of collaborating toward a team goal. Researchers suggest that work team members that are not committed to each other or to a common goal are more likely to leave the team or even the organization (Larson and LaFasto. and numbers of alternatives generated (Martins et al. 1989). whereas the second accounted for 20 percent. 2002). it was observed that rWG .. 3. decision quality. The scree plot in Figure 2 further supports the two-factor structure as indicated by the elbow on the graph seen after the second factor. (1984). The red line just before the elbow shows components with eigenvalues greater than 1. aggregating the individual data to the team level can be justiﬁed. The extraction method used was maximum likelihood with oblique rotation. It has been argued that Factor 1 Goal commitment 1 Goal commitment 2 Goal commitment 3 Goal commitment 3 Conﬂict management 1 Conﬂict management 2 Conﬂict management 3 Conﬂict management 3 Extraction Method: Maximum Likelihood Rotation Method: Oblique rotation Rotation converged in three iterations 2 0.. We used a uniform distribution to represent random responses from team members.984 0. Thus. . Factor loadings .
2003). Brett. Scree plot developing a shared vision or mission is especially critical for VTs due to diminished levels of personal interaction and lack of shared context (Blackburn et al. mutual trust and quality of personal relationships) which are conceptually related to team satisfaction. 1968. (1995) hypothesized and found support for the effect of conﬂict management on relational outcomes (e..TPM 18. H1. As a result.7/8 408 Figure 2. 2005). 1984. Siegel et al. 2009.. 2003).. VT members are more exposed to task. Lurey and Raisinghani (2001) found that clarifying mission and goals is a critical element to support successful VT processes. reduced levels of social presence may cause VT members to feel more disconnected to the team and less accountable for results (Massey et al. De Dreu et al. 1986) along with greater self-absorption (Sproull and Kiesler. role and responsibility ambiguity and these factors can cause conﬂict in VTs (Shin. Montoya-Weiss et al. Van de Vliert et al. 1986) (individuals focused more on themselves than on others) and uninhibited behavior.. As a result. we have developed H1. 1986). In addition. In fact. 2005) which in turn makes the role of conﬂict prevention and conﬂict resolution very critical in supporting team outcomes and a viable team experience. Campbell and Dunnette. it is not as easy for VT members to receive guidance regarding their tasks from their managers as it is for face-to-face teams (Shin.. There is a signiﬁcant positive direct relationship between commitment to team goals and team outcomes (performance and satisfaction). 2004. Researchers have found that the virtual context can result on an increase of uninhibited behavior when compared to face-to-face interactions (Martins et al. 2001. VT members have less opportunity to clarify their tasks and roles compared FTF team members. Moore. This empirical . 2000. In VTs..g.. Teams who are able to address conﬂict directly are expected to develop a more open and constructive team environment (Tekleab et al.
First. H3. Table III shows data on descriptive statistics and correlations of the variables evaluated in this study.51246 0. H2. 2008). 2004).2295 3. Simulation research shows that bootstrapping is more powerful than the Sobel test and the causal steps approach to testing intervening variable effects (MacKinnon et al.4 Analysis The main unit of analysis in this study was the team. We found that there is a signiﬁcant and direct relationship between commitment to team goals and performance.524 * * Note: * *Correlation is signiﬁcant at the 0. The mediator variable was conﬂict management..01 level (two-tailed) Table III. 4.577 * * 0. Results of the direct relationship between independent and dependent variables are shown in Table IV. therefore. leading to the following two hypotheses. 2004) using PASW/SPSS version 20 to conduct the analysis. As a result. Descriptive statistics of relevant variables .616 * * 0.evidence suggests that teams with higher levels of conﬂict management may be likely to develop greater levels of cohesion and a more satisfactory team experience. we tested the existence of the direct relationship between independent and dependent variables.6954 4. 3.717 * * 0.8925 3. Team level variables were calculated as the averages of the individual team members’ values for all variables. We used a test for direct and mediation effects with bootstrapping (Preacher and Hayes. data were not analyzed at the individual level. The method took 5. Williams and MacKinnon. Results The nonparametric method used to test direct and mediated effects is based on bootstrapping (Preacher and Hayes.303 0.54743 0.1487 Std dev 0. The analysis tested a simple mediation model with commitment to goals as independent variable and performance and satisfaction as dependents.57503 0.56022 1 0. Conﬂict management and effectiveness 409 Variable name 1 2 3 4 Commitment to team goals Conﬂict management Performance Satisfaction Mean 4. we expect that successful conﬂict management in virtual teams will enhance team outcomes by supporting positive and goal-oriented behaviors and controlling negative ones. 2004. We also found a direct positive relationship between commitment to team goals and satisfaction. The effect of goal commitment on satisfaction is mediated through conﬂict management. The effect of goal commitment on perceived team performance is mediated through conﬂict management. Based on the output from the mediation test.000 samples from the obtained data (with replacement after each speciﬁc number is selected) and calculated mediational effects for each sample.440 * * 2 3 0.
since the corresponding interval on Table V does include zero.1119 2 0. Table V shows the results of the mediation effect on the two outcome variables. Bootstrapped point estimates for the indirect effects of conﬂict management on the outcome variables Outcome variable Performance Satisfaction Product of ab coefﬁcients Point estimate SE 0. These results will be further discussed in the following section (see Table VI). the point estimate is signiﬁcant at the level indicated.1794 BCa 95 percent CI Lower Upper 0. Direct effect of commitment to team goals on performance and satisfaction Variable Performance Satisfaction Coeff 0. the mediating effect of conﬂict management on team satisfaction is not signiﬁcant.000 bootstrap samples.3700 0. The results also show that conﬂict management mediates the relationship between goal commitment and performance.19 Table V. If the conﬁdence intervals do not contain zero. That is. There is a signiﬁcant positive relationship between goal commitment and the outcome variables (performance and satisfaction) H2.1999 t 2.0286 0.58 0. the impact of goal commitment on team performance is partially explained by the teams approach to conﬂict management.3402 0. conﬂict management did not mediate the relationship with attitudinal outcomes measured in terms of satisfaction. The bias corrected and accelerated 95 percent conﬁdence intervals were then examined.1554 0. The mediation analysis was based on 5. The analysis suggests that goal commitment is a signiﬁcant predictor of team performance and satisfaction in a virtual team setting. Results of the hypotheses test .0891 0. The direct effect of goal commitment on team satisfaction is mediated through conﬂict management Supported Yes Yes No Table VI. H3 tested the mediating effect of conﬂict management on the relationship between goal commitment and satisfaction.5335 Note: BCa CI ¼ bias corrected and accelerated conﬁdence intervals Hypothesis H1.1492 0. Table IV. The direct effect of goal commitment on perceived team performance is partially mediated through conﬂict management H3.7/8 410 H2 concerned the mediating effects of conﬂict management on the relationships between goal commitment and perceived performance.1758 0. On the other hand. Bias-corrected 95 percent conﬁdence intervals corresponding to the mediating effect of conﬂict management on performance is signiﬁcant since the interval shown in Table V does not include zero. Interestingly.TPM 18.2804 2.0363 R2 0.4348 SE 0.1753 p 0.7203 0.
etc. some groups might have a preference for addressing conﬂict in a direct fashion whereas others prefer to do it in an implicit way. increasing transparency and accountability are a critical elements to support constructive conﬂict and increase cohesiveness in VTs. 1980). This results support prior ﬁndings in other contexts suggesting that commitment to team goals and shared responsibility for the team outcomes serve a directive function. members need to establish the team’s own operating principles. goals and metrics (Massey et al. For instance. 2011).. they may not be equally comfortable or satisﬁed with their team’s conﬂict management approach. 2009). To prevent negative conﬂict. In a classic study of string quartets. Murnighan and Conlon (1991) found that the most successful quartets dealt with task conﬂict implicitly rather than through a more direct fashion. Other teams may have a preference for directly handling relationship conﬂict by attempting to transform it into task-related conﬂict. this study explored role of conﬂict management on the relationship between goal commitment and outcomes (perceived performance and satisfaction). Discussion and limitations The purpose of this study was to increase our understanding of antecedents and outcomes of conﬂict in VTs. 1997). The failure to reject H3 warrants further examination. One possible explanation of this result might stem from the teams’ make up and from the fact that individuals in the teams had diverse nationalities including American. Wilson. The ﬁrst research question evaluated if commitment to the team goals is a predictor of successful virtual team outcomes. roles. These cultural differences could have impacted the perceived satisfaction of team members. thereby keeping conﬂict task-based. teams that are more actively involved in conﬂict resolution result on higher perceived performance and satisfaction with the team process and outcomes. Our ﬁndings suggest that commitment to team goals is a signiﬁcant predictor of team outcomes. that additive effect is not present in attitudinal outcomes measured in terms of team satisfaction with the outcomes and with the process.. Turkish. teams that focus their initial efforts on establishing clear goals for the team and whose members are committed to those goals were more likely to prevent and manage conﬂict more effectively. However. Our ﬁndings support the idea that formalizing work processes and responsibilities during the goal setting process. As a result. That is. That is. responsibilities. handle and solve conﬂict within their teams (Elron. Some teams were all made up of American students. In particular. People from different cultures have been found to differ in the ways in which they experience. 2003). 2003. Many tools are available to virtual work teams that can be used to support goal setting Conﬂict management and effectiveness 411 . Data suggests a statistically signiﬁcant positive relationship between commitment to team goals and conﬂict management. The second question aimed at evaluating if successful conﬂict management and increased cohesion can strengthen the relationship between goal commitment and team outcomes. Different national cultures have been known by having different preferences as to how to handle conﬂict (Hofstede. Goal commitment and goal clarity is especially critical for VTs due to their reduced social presence (Pazos and Beruvides. whereas others had one or two non-American. conﬂict management has an additive effect to the relationship between goal commitment and team performance. In addition. they help the team direct attention and effort toward goal-relevant activities and away from goal-irrelevant activities (Tekleab et al.5. Chinese.
The results of this study should be interpreted in light of the following limitations. there was no mediating role of conﬂict management on this relationship. timelines. team formation. early planning stages are critical in successfully managing team conﬂict and ensuring VT’s effectiveness (Shin. 1993. We also found a statistically signiﬁcant relationship between goal commitment and team performance.7/8 412 and role clarity during the early planning stages and over a project lifecycle. Future research could incorporate more objective measures of team performance. the conﬂict training should be prioritized given that our results suggest that conﬂict management supports performance. Sundstrom et al. For instance. team contracts or charters can be extremely valuable in supporting team goal setting. required task involvement. Mediation analysis can provide important information regarding the impact of certain team processes on team outcomes. we propose that to develop high-performing teams. and supportive team environment have been linked to enhanced performance (Jehn and Mannix. and clarifying norms and expectations (Marks et al.. prior studies have suggested that perception of team performance and team satisfaction are important measures of team effectiveness and good indicators of team viability (Campion et al. (2003) suggest an emphasis in temporal coordination mechanisms such as scheduling deadlines and coordinating the pace of effort to increase accountability. 1997. accessible.TPM 18. A second limitation is the small sample size that could be attributable for the lack of signiﬁcant relationships between some of the variables.e. and interdependence) are comparable to some project-based teams in organizational settings that are created to address a speciﬁc issue and are temporary in nature. etc. and ever present during the life of the project to increase goal clarity and commitment. Massey et al. 1990). One last limitation relates to some of the outcome measures used. Virtual teams should focus on creating a uniﬁed sense of purpose and identify available tools and technologies that can support them to accomplish that in the virtual environment.. Although we acknowledge the limitations of measures based on self-report. managers must encourage strategies that promote goal clarity and accountability while supporting conﬂict prevention and positive conﬂict management. Prior studies have shown that results from student samples and work teams have been comparable (Van Vianen and De Dreu. After investigating one key antecedent of conﬂict (commitment to goals). Groups with open discussion norms. however. 2001). First. Nevertheless. We acknowledge some characteristics of the teams in this study that may not fully align with organizational teams such as being isolated of an organizational context but that is a tradeoff from having more control over other variables such as tasks. 2001). visible. This relationship gained strength in teams that had higher levels of conﬂict management. In addition. 2001). suggesting that good conﬂict management can help sustain higher levels of perceived performance. results generalizability might be somewhat limited by the use of student teams.. An extension of this study will look into incorporating an objective value of performance based on expert rating of actual team performance. In addition. It can also shed light on how team processes . 2005). in many respects the characteristics of the project assigned to participants (i. Hyatt and Ruddy. Data also suggests a signiﬁcant positive relationship between goal commitment and satisfaction. Those charters should be agreed on by all team members. high levels of respect among members. Therefore. high level of member responsibility and accountability.
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A. S. 555-69. Vol. and Kenny. Sociological Methodology. (1986). Greenwich. and Bolger.R. L. Vol. and MacKinnon. Psychological Methods. 23-51. 4. R. Pilar Pazos can be contacted at: mpazosla@odu. G.. 489-99. organizational learning. Vol. K. Evaluation Review. Vol. (1982). C. Spain. Wilson. N. “Forming virtual teams”. D. Weldon. E. ASQ’s Annual Quality Congress Proceedings. She was a Research Associate at Northwestern University with a joint position for the VaNTH Engineering Research Center and the Searle Center for Teaching Excellence.A. and Bolger. Her research interests include: knowledge management. (2003).com/reprints . (1981). and Cummings. 22 No. 1. (Eds). 3. “Goal setting and strategy effects on complex tasks”. virtual teams and team dynamics. (1998). “Managing relationship conﬂict and the effectiveness of teams”. Washington. 57. (2002). P. 73-109. 290-312. team learning and consulting. Williams. M.M.. and Lindzey.edu Conﬂict management and effectiveness 417 To purchase reprints of this article please e-mail: reprints@emeraldinsight. A. Boston.A. 12. and planning on group performance”. 77 No. C. 5. R. Further reading Baron. D. P. 1173-82. D. group decision making and performance. American Sociological Association. MS in Systems and Engineering Management from Texas Tech University and a PhD from Texas Tech University (2005) in Industrial Engineering with a focus on Engineering Management and a minor in Applied Statistics from the Rawls College of Business. 682-93. (1990). 602-19. S. She holds a BSc in Industrial Engineering from the University of Vigo. “Resampling and distribution of the product methods for testing indirect effects in complex models”. Journal of Applied Psychology. Jehn. MA. N. De Dreu.E.. 6. Vol.emeraldinsight. 422-45.E. “Data analysis in social psychology”. 7 No. L. About the author Pilar Pazos is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering at Old Dominion University. “The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: conceptual. Vol. task component complexity. and statistical considerations”. Before joining Old Dominion she has worked in the areas of quality control.K. (2008). pp. The Handbook of Social Psychology. Structural Equation Modeling. and Pradhan. (Eds). in Staw. (2001). 233-65. Vol. 5 No.E. Vol. strategic. Vol. 4th ed. and Van Vianen. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. “Asymptotic conﬁdence intervals for indirect effects in structural equation models”. pp. McGraw-Hill. in Gilbert. JAI Press. D. pp. pp. Shrout. (Ed. 4. 1. Wood. pp.Weingart. (1991). and Kenny. “Mediation in experimental and nonexperimental studies: new procedures and recommendations”. effort. Judd. collaborative learning. 309-28. Sobel. pp. D. DC. “Process analysis: estimating mediation in treatment evaluations”. pp. D. (1992). Fiskeand. 61 No. Journal of Organizational Behavior.. “Impact of group goals. 5.M. Research in Organizational Behavior. “Processes that mediate the relationship between a group goal and improved group performance”.).W. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Vol. pp. 15 No. in Leinhardt. pp. B.com Or visit our web site for further details: www. CT. S. and Locke. pp. pp. 51 No.P. Kashy. Kenny. E. J.
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