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Employee Motivation: Self-Directed Work Teams


Self-managed or directed works teams are designed to achieve a common goal. Individuals assigned to such teamwork intensively to achieve this common goal and are assumed to have the skill set required to complete their job. Like any working group, there are positives and negatives. This paper focuses on the major consequences and problems of self-directed work teams.

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Group Development

Self-directed work teams are often subject to extraordinary pressures and often become “extreme teams” (George, 2002) that can produce results where other types of work environments cannot. Typically these groups go through Tuckman’s five-stage model (George, 2002): forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning when groups are first identified.

The size of the self-directed work team can make the group functional or not. Larger groups (20 plus) tend to not function well. Self-directed work teams do not have a designated leader for the group, so everyone in the group helps lead the group to its final goal (Capozzoli, 2006)

Social Loafing

The tendency for individuals to put less effort into group projects is called “social loafing.” These individuals tend to perform better when working alone than in a group. The “sucker effect” causes performers to be non-performers when they see others loafing.

They don’t want to be the “sucker” stuck with all the work. Social loafing and the sucker effect cause the group to lose momentum. As the group size gets larger, the more social loafing and sucker effect will take place. A smaller group size would solve this problem. Other tactics used to combat social loafing are to (George, 2002):

  • Making individual contributions identifiable
  • Making individuals feel that they are making valuable contributions a group
  • Have group members evaluate each members contribution
  • Make sure that the group members have the resources required by them to complete individual tasks
  • Establish a team norm where everyone shares a code of conduct to guide their behaviors

Member Roles

Member roles are needed for the self-directed work teams to accomplish their tasks. Ignoring either the member’s social wellbeing or the task to be accomplished will result in a nonfunctional team.

Members of the team should include the task specialist role, social-emotional role, and the dual role. One other role included in the group is the nonparticipator role, which is held in low esteem by the team (Daft, 1998) because he/she contributes little to the team effort.

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“Many of the attempts to install self-directed work teams have failed because the teams have neither the skill nor the experience to ensure their successful outcome” (Capozzoli, 2006). The success of the self-directed work team is dependent on how the team is organized, how the team bonds, and each member having the skill set to contribute to the team effort.

The person responsible for establishing the self-directed work team should include members of the team that would contribute to the roles of task specialist, social-emotional, and dual roles. Unprepared team members stand the chance of being labeled as non participators. Team competence is a major goal of self-directed work teams.

Works Cited

Capozzoli, Thomas. (2006). Supervision; Vol. 67 Issue 2, p25-26, 2p.

Daft, Richard L., and Dorothy Marcic. (1998) Understanding Management, Harcourt Brace and Company, Fort Worth, Texas, USA, pp. 515-516.

George, Jennifer M and Gareth R. Jones. (2002) Understanding and Managing Organizational Behavior. Pearson Education, Inc. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, USA.

Kaufeld, Simone. (2006) Selfdirected workgroups and team competence. Journal of Occupational & Organizational Psychology; Vol. 79 Issue 1, p1-21, 21p, 5 charts.

Vecchio, R.P. (2006) Organizational behavior: Core concepts (6th edition): Thomson-South-Western: Chapter 5: Enhancing Employee Motivation Using Rewards, Goals, Expectations, and Empowerment pp. 91-120.

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