Entering the boxing ring: intergroup behavior in multiteam systems

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UT

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Organizations nowadays need to adjust quickly to new challenges. Consequently they are in need of a form of cooperation to help them react more efficiently. A Multiteam system (MTS) is such a form of cooperation. MTSs are two or more teams that interface directly and interdependently and that need each other to achieve a common goal. The defining characteristic of MTSs is that they consist of multiple teams (called component teams, CTs). Existing literature on intergroup behavior teaches us that intergroup behavior is characterized by issues such as limited interaction, conflicts, and non-cooperative behavior. Hence, this study aims to provide clarity on the relationship between MTS intergroup behavior and MTS teamwork over time. Four real-time longitudinal case studies aimed at theory building were conducted. The cases consisted of three military construction MTSs and one civilian construction MTS. The results indicate that MTS and CT identity strength fluctuate, yet the direction and size of these changes differs per case. The relationship between MTS intergroup behavior and MTS teamwork is best explained using a boxing ring as an analogy. CT membership provides MTS members with ‘safe havens’ like corners in a boxing ring. Negative MTS (teamwork) experiences influence the MTS/CT identity strength triggering intergroup behavior. Intergroup behavior then causes MTS members to retreat to their own corner. If the distance between the CTs rises, the number of negative MTS (teamwork) experiences also rises. Negative MTS (teamwork) experiences triggers even more intergroup behavior, hence the MTS members retreat even further to their own corners. Every time the distance between the CTs increases MTS teamwork is negatively affected and the MTS becomes less successful. How the relationship between intergroup behavior and MTS teamwork develops over time varies per case due to ‘game changers’. The game changers which stand out are: 1) the extent to which the leader acts as a role model; 2) the frequency and quality of inter-CT contact; 3) the presence of boundary spoilers; 4) the MTS structure; 5) the presence of role ambiguity and role conflict; and 6) the occurrence of a teambuilding program.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Twente
  • Dewulf, Geert, Supervisor
  • Rietjens, S.J.H., Co-Supervisor
  • Voordijk, Johannes T., Co-Supervisor
Award date17 Sept 2015
Place of PublicationEnschede
Print ISBNs978-94-6233-032-0
Publication statusPublished - 17 Sept 2015


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