Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Greg L. Stewart
Teams are being used more in organizations to do important work. However, both positive and negative effects come with the increased use of teams. One problem is the "bad apple" effect where a highly disagreeable team mate, for example, damages team performance. This research aims to study how this person damages team performance and what can be done to minimize the negative impact. I propose that a disagreeable teammate negatively impacts team affective states which in turn give rise to defensive behaviors among teammates. These defensive behaviors impact team processes which in turn impact the team's performance. In addition, I propose that team interdependence moderates the impact of disagreeableness on teammate affective reactions such that teammates in less interdependent contexts will react less negatively to the "bad apple." I designed a 2x2 lab experiment with a confederate, or trained research participant, to test these hypotheses. I manipulated disagreeableness through the behaviors of the confederate and I manipulated interdependence through the information, goals, and rewards of the teams. Results support all the hypothesized relationships. Of note, I found that interdependence interacted with disagreeableness to predict team affective reactions as measured by salivary cortisol - a well established biomarker for affective reactions. I also found support for a mediating model using team core affect or affective culture mediating the impact of disagreeableness on team process. Finally, I found support for a mediated moderation model demonstrating that the moderation of interdependence and disagreeableness on team process was mediated by team cortisol. However, the impact on process was in the opposite direction than expected. Namely, that more interdependent teams had higher processes despite elevated cortisol levels indicating a negative affective, or stress reaction. This counterintuitive finding has implications for future research attempting to discover useful methods of minimizing the impact of a disagreeable teammate on the team.
Copyright 2008 Bret Howard Bradley
Bradley, Bret Howard. "The bad apple spoils the bunch: how a disagreeable person damages team performance and what can be done about it." PhD diss., University of Iowa, 2008.