Teamwork and performance management: Is your appraisal system....

Teamwork and performance management:  Is your appraisal system putting the brakes on OCB’s (organizational citizenship behaviors)?


Joe Colihan

Anthony Schulzetenberg

Alan Colquitt

John Colby


| ˈtēmˌwərk | The employee’s perception that the organization promotes and practices collaboration among team members. Teamwork also includes the sense of having positive, supportive relationships with fellow employees.




The importance of teams for success has been widely accepted in behavior research for decades.  As part of teaming, connecting employees involves nurturing a sense of the big picture, or vision.  Once shared goals are analyzed and developed, employees can focus on success in their roles toward the big picture.  This diminishes the need for leaders to micromanage and define methods, which may not be the best use of their time.


That’s why defining a vision and a set of guiding principles is much more effective.  If a leader can define a compelling vision, they can begin to build support from employees will start to work together to help make it happen.  That’s the essence of teamwork – a shared purpose driving decisions and behaviors.  A feeling of having the support of a team (e.g., when you need backup for a vacation or help with a task, or you are struggling with a difficult problem) creates an atmosphere where organizational citizenship behaviors are commonplace.


Organizational citizenship behaviors (OCB) is a decades old concept in I-O Psychology.  It describes behaviors of being willing to help and be supportive of coworkers, creating a positive teamwork-savvy workplace.  Some have argued that these behaviors may be a drain on the organization if they get in the way of getting primary tasks completed. 

However, recent research found support for positive effects of OCB on team performance, meaning, and well-being (Lam, Wan, & Roussin, 2016):  “Drawing from research on the meaningfulness of work, we propose a pattern opposite to depletion: that OCB enhances energy, which contributes to an enrichment of personal resources and results in better well-being.”  Positive effects of citizenship behaviors were also found on employee vigor at the end of a workday. 

Other research confirms this impact.  One study (Colihan & Shulzetenberg, 2018) found a strong positive relationship between ratings of having positive relationships with co-workers and reports of feeling energized at work – a component of engagement.  In fact, those with poorest ratings of teamwork were 44 percentage points less likely to report feeling energized than those with the best teamwork scores, a whopping 152% potential gain. 


What about Performance Management?


Alan Colquitt (2018) kicked off the MPPAW season last night with an excellent presentation on performance management.  As he documents in his book “Next Generation Performance Management:  The Triumph of Science over Myth and Superstition,“ traditional 1.0 performance management (think annual goals, documentation, ratings, and rewards) tend to overemphasize competition, evaluation and differentiation of individual rewards to the detriment of collaboration and teamwork, employee well-being, and organizational health. 


This idea of team unity as a moderator of individual, group, and organizational health and performance is both well-established and supported. Social interdependence theory states that when actions of individuals promote the achievement of joint goals, rather than obstruct the goals of others, people 1) invest more positive psychological energy outside oneself to help others, 2) are more open to diverse perspectives and sharing their ideas, 3) have more positive and productive social interactions, 4) invest more effort to achieve shared goals, 5) have improved psychological health, and 6) experience higher achievement and greater productivity  (Johnson and Johnson, 2009).  On the flip side, competition, individualism, and social dependence (when Person A’s achievement is affected by Person B’s action, but not the other way around) are all enemies to effective teamwork and OCBs.  By simply creating a goal structure where either everyone succeeds together, or everyone fails together, encourages collaboration, cooperation, and improved health and performance. 


Research shows traditional practices like negative feedback, relative performance ratings, competition for ratings and rewards, pay for performance, and heavy differentiation of individual rewards can negatively affect individual outcomes like satisfaction, engagement, well-being, performance, retention, and innovation.  PM 1.0 can negatively affect organizational outcomes as well.  These practices can even make people sick. 


For example, Arie Shirom and his colleagues (1999) studied the health impact of different pay systems (time-based, piece-rate, combination and group incentives) on workers in 21 different factories in Israel. They found being on a performance-contingent pay system was associated with higher levels of depression and somatic complaints, even after controlling for other factors.  This was true for all performance-contingent pay systems, but even more for piece-rate systems.  It is also well-established that the negativity that characterizes traditional PM and reward systems (emphasis on negative feedback, win/lose competition, lower than expected/deserved ratings, smaller than expected/deserved rewards) has detrimental effects on people.  As Roy Baumeister and his colleagues demonstrate, “bad is stronger than good” and the ratio of positive to negative affect in people’s lives (work and non-work) is a strong predictor of well-being and flourishing (Fredrickson and Losada, 2005).  These findings are even more sobering given epidemiological work suggesting that fewer than 20% of U.S. adults flourish and that the costs of not flourishing (“languishing”) are high (and comparable to depression).  Languishing brings more emotional distress, psychosocial impairment, limitations in daily activities, and lost work days (Keyes, 2002).


Colquitt (2018) argues that changing mindsets away from these traditional practices in this area is nearly impossible, but that a focus on the team as the unit of analysis rather than individuals would go a long way toward improving organizational health and performance. 


People have a deep-seated need to belong, it is one of our most powerful motives (Baumeister & Leary, 1995).  In fact, the absence of belonging (loneliness) is one of the most important predictors of early death, as much a risk factor as major risk factors like smoking.  Similar negative effects are seen at work.  People who are more socially isolated at work are less satisfied, more likely to quit, and have poorer job performance and overall well-being (Baumeister et al, 2005).  And even relationships that are more superficial can have positive benefits (Walton et al, 2012).  So, our connections with others at work and in our personal lives can be very powerful motivators.  Employees will work hard to support the goals of their team and to maintain the respect and support of their teammates.


Organizations don’t do enough to facilitate connections between people at work and, what’s worse, HR practices like those embodied in PM 1.0 have exactly the opposite effects, alienating employees and turning them against one another, undermining the very OCB’s that organizations need to foster and reinforce.  This puts socially-motivated employees in a bind.  More progressive PM practices like Colquitt’s “PM 2.0” can address this problem by focusing more energy on teams and less on individuals, unleashing the power of teams to motivate, control, and achieve on behalf of the organization.




Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117, 497–529.

Baumeister, R. F., Bratslavsky, E., Finkenauer, C., & Vohs, K. D. (2001). Bad is stronger than good. Review of General Psychology, 5, 323-370. 

Baumeister , R. F., DeWall, C. N., Ciarocco, N. J., & Twenge, J. M. (2005). Social exclusion impairs self-regulation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 589-604.

Cacioppo, J. T., & Patrick, W. (2008). Loneliness: Human nature and the need for social connection. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. 

Chak Fu Lam, Wan WH, Roussin CJ.  (2016).  Going the extra mile and feeling energized: An enrichment perspective of organizational citizenship behaviors.  Journal of Applied Psychology, 101(3):379-391. doi:10.1037/ap10000071.

Colihan, J., & Schulzetenberg, A.  (2018).  Minnesota Workplace Wellness Assessment.

Colquitt, A. (2018).  Next Generation Performance Management:  The Triumph of Science over Myth and Superstition.  Charlotte, NC:  Information Age Publishing.

Colquitt, A.  (2018).  Performance management.  Presentation at the September 2018 meeting of Minnesota Professionals for Psychology Applied to Work.

Fredrickson, B. L., & Losada, M. F. (2005). Positive affect and complex dynamics of human flourishing. American Psychologist, 60, 678-686 


Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. T. (2009). An educational psychology success story: Social interdependence theory and cooperative learning. Educational researcher, 38(5), 365-379.

Keyes, C. L. M. (2002). The mental health continuum: From languishing to flourishing in life. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 43, 207–222.


Shirom A, Westman M, Melamed S.  (1999).  The Effects of Pay Systems on Blue-Collar Employees’ Emotional Distress: The Mediating Effects of Objective and Subjective Work Monotony.  Human Relations, 52(8): 1077-1097.


Walton, G. M., Cohen, G. L., Cwir, D., & Spencer, S. J. (2012). Mere belonging: The power of social connections. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102, 513-532.