Putting the Team in the Driver's Seat: A Meta-Analysis on the What, Why, And When of Team Autonomy's Impact on Team Effectiveness

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Personnel Psychology

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Autonomy is a ubiquitous team design feature, which is purported to relate positively to team effectiveness. However, the theoretical link between team autonomy and team effectiveness is not well understood, and previous studies have found inconsistent relations between them. We aim to resolve this incomplete understanding by examining “why” autonomy relates to team effectiveness, “what” aspects of team effectiveness are affected by team autonomy, and “when” the relations vary. To do so, we investigated task- and relationship-focused team functioning as mediators, expanded the construct of team effectiveness beyond just team performance to include attitudes, and tested the moderating effects of task routineness and interdependence. Our meta-analyses based on 415 effect sizes from 69 studies conducted on approximately 6,035 teams revealed that team autonomy positively relates to both task- and relationship-focused team functioning. The results showed significant indirect effects of autonomy on both team performance and attitudes via both types of team functioning. Task routineness weakened the effect of team autonomy on task-focused functioning and, ultimately, on team performance and attitudes, while it did not change the effect on relationship-focused functioning. The influence of team autonomy did not vary by the level of task interdependence. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.


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