Is Bigger Better When it comes to Work Team Size?

Employers have long recognized the benefits of work teams. Rather than relying solely on the output of individual employees, organizations have compounded the effectiveness of their staff members by grouping them together for maximum productivity. “The popularity of teams in organizational settings can be attributed to the numerous advantages ascribed to them,” said Caroline Aube of the Department of Management at HEC Montreal in Canada. “In effect, the presence of work teams may contribute to improving not only the performance, the creativity, and the flexibility of employees, but also the satisfaction of the members and the quality of life at work.” However, research has shown that the design of the team is a crucial element to its success. “It appears, for example, that large-size teams encounter more problems of absenteeism and turnover, and that their members are less satisfied with their work, experience more negative emotions, and present a lower level of mental health,” said Aube.

Aube conducted a study on 97 Canadian work teams to determine how the size and structure of the groups influenced overall effectiveness and found that the bigger the team, the lower the quality of the overall output. “In effect, the results reveal that the relationship between team size and quality of group experience is indirect and that counterproductive behaviors may intervene as mediators in this relationship.” Aube said, “In this regard, when team members engage in parasitism, interpersonal aggression, and boastfulness, they are more likely to worsen the quality of group experience.” Aube noted that the results confirm previous research but should be examined more closely in order to identify which behaviors impact productivity and experience the most. Aube added, “On the whole, this study indicates that the number of members to include in a team is an important management decision, the repercussions of which may be observed both in the internal functioning of the team and in its outcomes.”

Reference:
Aube, Caroline, Vincent Rousseau, and Sebastien Tremblay. “Team Size and Quality of Group Experience: The More the Merrier.” Group Dynamics: Theory, Research and Practice 15.4 (2011): 357-75. Print.

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • mark c

    mark c

    December 23rd, 2011 at 4:22 PM

    Hate working as a team! For some it may spark creativity but for me it makes me stagnant. I do not feel like my voice is heard when I am working with others, so I would just rather take on the job and show my boss that I can do it on my own. That does not mean that I am not or can’t be a team player- it just means that most of the time I know that I can do better by myself than what most people can do as a group of 5.

  • Alana G

    Alana G

    December 24th, 2011 at 10:05 AM

    Hey, word to the wise mark c- you don’t sound like the kind of guy that I would EVER want to work for me. Honestly you sound like a guy with a pretty big ego who is to afraid that someone is going to get a little more credit for getting a job done than you will, and that is definitely not the role that I like for my employees to have! You act like this is something that you can always do on your own, but I think that if you look at most situations with an objective eye you will see that there are times that all of us have to rely on others to get things done. So you sit back and be a loner, and I think that you will continuously see others passing you by, quite simply because you have not learned yet how to play well with others.

  • abigail sloane

    abigail sloane

    December 24th, 2011 at 4:57 PM

    Ever hear the phrase “Too many cooks spoil the broth”? There will be nothing but arguments and conflict if one tries to force the issue on something that three others have a problem with. Success in teamwork is all about having defined goals. You require though one staff member overall to be in charge of accepting ideas imho or it’s fraught with problems.

  • Adrian Shaw

    Adrian Shaw

    December 24th, 2011 at 5:21 PM

    Well, look at it this way: it takes one man 30 minutes to clean a car. In theory this means it would take 2 men 15 minutes, 30 men one minute, and 1800 men would clean a car in one second. In reality it doesn’t work like that. There’s a point where you get diminishing returns. Bigger is not always better.

  • francescastevens

    francescastevens

    December 24th, 2011 at 5:51 PM

    @Adrian Shaw: They also say many hands make light work. :) In my experience for most American companies solution is often throw more staff and money at it. Then they wonder why it’s not going anywhere.

    Quality over quantity, people! You need the right people for the job and it only takes one that’s not to ruin everything. Reassess your existing staff’s capabilities before adding more, because they could be the problem.

  • Mr. garrison

    Mr. garrison

    December 25th, 2011 at 1:23 PM

    If you are a good manager then you are going to learn pretty quickly what kind of work situations are going to work best for most of your team members, and you should then be able to assign tasks accordingly. There are bound to be in any work setting those who work better as a part of a team and those who do their best work alone. It does not have to be a one way or another type of situation. Real life is not like that so why should we expect that the work environment would be any different? Everyone has their talents and everyone is able to shine- it is all a matter of knowing what is going to be the best fot for the whole. And sometimes that has to mean that it is something different for everyone.

  • Caroline

    Caroline

    December 26th, 2011 at 12:20 PM

    What matters most in the workplace is that the employees feel valued and appreciated, and I guarantee that this will then trickle down into their feelings about work in general.

  • Eric.A

    Eric.A

    December 26th, 2011 at 3:12 PM

    A large team-not very good a plan if you ask me.

    The very concept of a closed team is defeated in a large team and there is no real connection between all team members in a large team. It can also lead to a lot of things as mentioned in the article here.So smaller teams are always preferable for me!

  • Corey Spencer

    Corey Spencer

    December 26th, 2011 at 9:15 PM

    @francesca-You could put Albert Einstein, Erwin Schrodinger, Max Born, R. H. Fowler, Owen Richardson, Steven Hawking, Nicolai Tesla,and Peter Debye all in the same room. It goes without saying that all of them are great men with enormous accomplishments to their name. When you put that many intelligent men in one place though I doubt the conversation would be harmonious for too long because of their differing outlooks. There has to be a clear leader at the helm of any team, and who would you pick when faced with such brilliance?

    Not all great minds are good at teamwork either and many prefer solitary pursuits. We shouldn’t make staff join a team if they excel when they are working alone.

  • AlanPitts

    AlanPitts

    December 27th, 2011 at 11:57 PM

    @Corey Spencer: Even if there is a clear leader there will always be a complainer who thinks the chosen leader doesn’t have the skills to lead the team. jealousy runs rampant in teams and the bigger it is, the bigger the problem.

    Also, what you described (sans Professor Hawking) was the most famous of the Solvay Conferences in the 1920’s attended by the most notable physicists in the world. I recall reading there were quite a few heated moments.

  • P. Parsons

    P. Parsons

    December 29th, 2011 at 4:41 AM

    It’s not difficult to engage in productive and fulfilling teamwork. The team leader should ensure the team plays to everyone’s strengths as much as possible. All they need do is ask “What can you do?” “What can you do that nobody else can?” “Who can you fill in for?” “Can you work with the team members happily?”, and decide from there. Good synergy is paramount to teamwork getting somewhere.

  • Benjamin Smith

    Benjamin Smith

    December 29th, 2011 at 8:49 PM

    I’m not a team player by any means. I have such poor compatibility with workmates and high standards of my own that I’m better off doing the entire thing myself than endlessly debating and discussing it. Either let me get on with it without interruption or count me out.

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