Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=1992628
 


 



Performance Pressure as a Double-Edged Sword: Enhancing Team Motivation While Undermining the Use of Team Knowledge


Heidi K. Gardner


Harvard Business School - Organizational Behavior Unit

January 26, 2012

Administrative Science Quarterly, 57:1-46

Abstract:     
In this paper, I develop and empirically test the proposition that performance pressure acts as a double-edged sword for teams, providing positive effects by enhancing team motivation to achieve good results while simultaneously triggering process losses. I conducted a multi-method field study of 78 audit and consulting teams from two global professional firms, revealing an irony of team life: Even though motivated to perform well on a high-stakes project, pressured teams are more likely to engage in performance-detracting behaviors. Survey results show that, as performance pressure increases, team members begin to over-rely on general expertise while discounting domain-specific expertise, leading to suboptimal performance. I use longitudinal qualitative case studies to explore the underlying behavioral mechanisms that generate this outcome. Results also show that only domain-specific expertise — the kind that teams under-use when facing higher pressure — increases client-rated team performance. I thus find, paradoxically, that when teams need domain-specific expertise the most, they tend to use it the least, despite evidence suggesting they are highly motivated to do well on their task.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 82

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Date posted: January 27, 2012 ; Last revised: April 8, 2013

Suggested Citation

Gardner, Heidi K., Performance Pressure as a Double-Edged Sword: Enhancing Team Motivation While Undermining the Use of Team Knowledge (January 26, 2012). Administrative Science Quarterly, 57:1-46. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1992628

Contact Information

Heidi K. Gardner (Contact Author)
Harvard Business School - Organizational Behavior Unit ( email )
Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States
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