Team(work?): The Pros and Cons of Working in Teams

Mar 17, 2020

A group of young workers conversing in an office.Dr. Mary Rose
HDO Professor
March 17, 2020

Most of us can probably think of examples in which working with others led to great insights and helped our motivation. But we can probably also recall some counter-examples, in which we felt as if other people got in the way of clear thinking, made us inefficient, or we felt unfairly saddled with the work of others who were not performing. What does social psychological science say on group effects? Under what circumstances do we perform better in the presence of others, and when do groups get in our way? Are some tasks better suited than others to teamwork?

In my recent webinar on teamwork, we looked at examples of early studies in social psychology that examined the basic question of whether the presence of others improves our performance (“social facilitation”) or harms our performance (“social inhibition”). Focusing on the latter, we took a closer look at the task of creative brainstorming and explored what factors explain why others might impede our ability to generate the best ideas.

While further examining recommendations for helping groups avoid detrimental team processes, we discussed how commitment to accountability and both fair outcomes and processes are key to avoiding a motivational loss in groups. Finally, we considered the fact that cohesive groups are more likely to hold one another accountable and have norms again people slacking off; at the same time, groups must not get so cohesive that they stifle dissent.

This particular webinar was the latest in HDO’s Humans@Work webinar series. These free one-hour sessions provide participants with immediately applicable professional insights based on research by UT Austin’s top faculty. Be on the lookout for our next installment soon!

In the meantime, you can view Dr. Mary Rose’s past webinar on both the importance and downfall of teams below.

Webinar Leader: Dr. Mary Rose

Mary Rose received an A.B. in Psychology from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in social psychology from Duke University. Formerly a research fellow at the American Bar Foundation, she is currently an associate professor of sociology and law at the University of Texas at Austin, where she teaches courses on social science and law as well as social psychology and research methods. Additionally, she is also a professor in the Human Dimensions of Organizations Master’s Program.

Dr. Rose’s research examines lay participation in the legal system and perceptions of justice, and she has written on a variety of topics including the effects of jury selection practices on jury representativeness and citizens’ views of justice, jury trial innovations, civil damage awards, and public views of court practices. She is also an investigator on the landmark study of decision making among 50 deliberating juries from Pima County, Arizona. She has served on the editorial boards of Law & Social Inquiry, Law & Society Review and is a former trustee of the Law & Society Association. In 2005, her research on the peremptory challenge was cited in the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Miller-el v. Dretke (Breyer, J., concurring) and her work on punitive damages was cited in the 2008 decision Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker.


UT Austin