Feeling Like A Team: Team Cohesion

Does your work group want to be a team but can’t seem to make it happen?

Is your team really a team or just a group of people going through the motions? To achieve optimal performance team members should be committed to team goals and to the team process. When team members identify with their team and its goals, they adopt a team identity. Team goals become individual member goals. Team members put forth the effort to be successful.

Team cohesion refers to the interpersonal bonds between team members and their shared social identity. Cohesion can be due to team members liking each other or being collectively committed to the goals of the team. Cohesion is more likely to develop when the team members are interdependent; that is, team members recognize that they need each other to reach their goals.

There are a variety of benefits of a team being cohesive. Team cohesion is motivating. There is more commitment to the task and team and the team takes pride in team performance. Team members are personally involved in the task and enjoy working together. They are supportive of each other. The team can therefore better manage any stress or conflict that occurs. Due to these factors cohesive teams typically have better performance than non-cohesive teams. Greater team cohesion also enhances coordinated action, cooperation, and team member satisfaction. Team members are therefore happier and more successful. The cohesiveness that comes with team identity is also obvious to those outside the team. The team can have a greater impact; their voices are stronger together than separately.

How can team cohesion be improved? To build team cohesion team members need to spend some time together – to learn how the team members are similar to each other. As they get to know each other better, they can better communicate (knowing each other’s “language”). Secondly, a leader can help to develop cohesion by creating a climate of respect, instilling pride in the team, and by acknowledging all team members’ contributions. Finally, ideally, the team should be rewarded as a whole for reaching their goals. The incentives should be structured to apply to the whole team rather than being structured to reward separate individuals.

Sandra Carpenter, Ph.D., Director of Team Development, TEaM, Inc.