When and why hierarchy steepness is related to team performance

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This study develops and tests a contingency theory on the functions of status hierarchy steepness in teams. Findings from a field study among 438 employees working in 72 work teams across diverse business settings demonstrate that task complexity moderates the relationships between status hierarchy steepness, different types of team conflict, and team performance. Steeper status hierarchies were negatively related to both process and task conflict, and hence increased team performance in teams working on tasks with lower complexity but did not yield such clear conflict and performance effects in teams working on more complex tasks. By showing that various levels of task complexity determine whether status hierarchy steepness has a conflict-regulating function that drives team performance, this research generates valuable insights about the context dependency of team responses to status hierarchy steepness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)658-673
Number of pages16
JournalEuropean Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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