Intergroup behavior in military multiteam systems

Julia Wijnmaalen*, Hans Voordijk, Sebastiaan Rietjens, Geert Dewulf

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    15 Citations (Scopus)
    413 Downloads (Pure)


    The use of multiteam systems is increasing rapidly, as the diversity in skills and knowledge they supply assists organizations in responding more effectively to volatile environments. Multiteam systems consist of teams that depend on each other to achieve a common overarching goal, while simultaneously pursuing different proximal goals. However, multiteam systems often struggle to achieve the expected level of synergy. Multiteam system scholars have speculated that this may be owing to the presence of multiple teams within multiteam systems. Negative effects of salient group identities are well-documented, and yet there is no published empirical evidence of these same effects in multiteam systems yet. In this article, we examine the extent to which salient component team identities lead to multiteam system intergroup behavior. Given the nascent state of multiteam system research, we used Eisenhardt’s method to generate theory from case studies. Three military multiteam systems were studied, with data collected before and during a deployment to Afghanistan. The study’s findings contribute to our understanding of multiteam systems in several ways. First, the study provides empirical evidence that multiteam systems are vulnerable to intergroup behavior. Second, it shows how boundary spoilers, a well-designed team-building period and effective multiteam system leadership influence if and how multiteam system intergroup behavior develops. Finally, the results underscore the importance of existing knowledge of teams and groups in furthering our understanding of multiteam system processes.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1081-1104
    Number of pages24
    JournalHuman relations
    Issue number6
    Early online date17 Aug 2018
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019


    • UT-Hybrid-D
    • Case study research
    • Intergroup behavior
    • Military
    • Multiteam system leadership
    • Multiteam systems
    • Boundary spoiler


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