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Cutthroat cooperation: The effects of team role decisions on adaptation to alternative reward structures


Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes


Organisational Behaviour

Authors / Editors

Beersma B;Hollenbeck J R;Conlon D E;Humphrey S E;Moon H;Ilgen D R

Publication Year



Structural Adaptation Theory proposes that it is more difficult for teams to change from competitive to cooperative reward conditions than it is for them to change in the opposite direction, and this has been labeled the cutthroat cooperation effect [Johnson, M. D., Hollenbeck, J. R., Ilgen, D. R., Humphrey, S. E., Meyer, C. J., & Jundt, D. K. (2006). Cutthroat cooperation: Asymmetrical adaptation of team reward structures. Academy of Management Journal, 49, 103–120]. The current study investigated whether team role discussion can neutralize this effect and promote successful adaptation from competitive to cooperative reward structures. Consistent with our predictions, in a study that involved 75 four-person teams performing a complex task under cooperative reward conditions, we found that teams with a history of competitive rewards performed worse than teams with a history of cooperative rewards in a control condition. However, this effect was neutralized when teams allocated their roles in a team role discussion. This neutralization effect was driven by behavioral coordination and unmet expectations regarding conflict.


Teams; Reward structure changes; Role discussion; Conflict; Coordination; Performance

Available on ECCH


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