Team Cohesion

“A dynamic process that is reflected in the tendency for a group to stick together and remain in the pursuits of its instrumental objectives and/or for the satisfaction of member affective needs.”

(Hambley et al., 2007, p. 6)

Team cohesion is one construct that has been accepted and extensively studied in the literature by various disciplines (Joo et al., 2012). For teams to be considered a cohesive unit team members need to feel a sense of pride of belonging to a specific team, members are committed to one another (Joo et al., 2012), and feel that they are a valuable member to the team. Bahli and Buyukkurt (2005) expanded on group cohesion to include the perceived prestige of the group and/or its members, to specific activities in which the group is involved in.  Joo et al. (2012) identified the following characteristics for cohesive teams: “high level of trust, support, teamwork, collaboration, interdependence and camaraderie, and create a better norm or culture for creative problem-solving” (p. 80). In addition, Janssen and Huang (2008) reported that team members identified more strongly with a team when individual team members perceive:

  • stronger awareness of their membership in the team,
  • more positive value attached to this team members, and
  • a sense of emotional involvement with the team (p. 71).

A large percentage of the studies in the literature that include team cohesion utilize the unitary definition of cohesion. however, a few authors (Carless and De Paola, 2000; Bahli and Buyukkurt, 2005) have identified team cohesion as being a multidimensional construct consisting of task cohesion and social cohesion. Carless and De Paola (2000) identified task cohesion as being related to group members’ motivation to achieving goals whereas social cohesion related to group members’ motivation to maintain social relationships within the group.

Team Cohesion Definitions

There are a variety of definitions relating to team cohesion. Probably the most common definition for team cohesion was provided from Festinger et al. (1950), from their seminal work on team cohesion. There were also a number of similar constructs used in the literature for team cohesion. These similar constructs ranged from social and task cohesion (Carless and De Paola, 2000) to team identity (Janssen and Huang, 2008), to name only a few. The definitions found in the literature relating to team cohesion are provided in the following Table.

SourceTeam Cohesion Definitions
Bahli & Buyukkurt (2005); Festinger et al. (1950)The total field of forces which act on members to remain in the group.
Carless & De Paola (2000); Festinger et al. (1950); Widmeyer et al. (1985)The total field of forces which act on members to remain in the group. Task Cohesion: motivation towards achieving the organization’s goals and objectives. Social Cohesion: motivation to develop and maintain social relationships with the group.
Dobbins & Zaccaro (1986); Festinger (1950)The resultant of all the forces acting on members to remain in the group.
Hambley et al. (2007); Carron et al. (1998)A dynamic process that is reflected in the tendency for a group to stick together and remain united in the pursuits of its instrumental objectives and/or for the satisfaction of member affective needs.
Huang (2009)A dynamic process reflected in the tendency for a group to stick together.
Janssen & Huang (2008); Dutton et al. (1994); Van Knippenberg (2000)Team identity: A sense of oneness with the team that induces individuals to perceive the team’s goals, interests, and norms as their own.
Joo et al. (2012); Carless & De Paola (2000); Zaccaro et al. (1995)

The degree to which team members exhibit interpersonal attraction, group pride and commitment to the task.
Moore & Mamiseishvili (2012); Festinger (1950)The resultant of all of the forces acting on members to remain in the group.
O’Reilly et al. (1989); Shaw (1981)The degree to which members of the group are attracted to each other.
Seethamraju & Borman (2009)Social Cohesion: Groups form on the basis of ensuring that members are socially and personally compatible with each other.
Stewart et al. (2012); Lott & Lott (1961); Zander et al. (1960)The extent to which individuals internalize group standards and thereby adopt group goals as their own.
Thatcher & Patel (2011); Guzzo & Shea (1992); Hogg et al. (1990); Molleman (2005)The extent to which individual workers identify with the team, are influenced by other team members, and are committed to team goals.
Troth et al. (2012); Carron (1982)The tendency of the group to stick together and remain united when pursuing its goals and objectives.
Tseng & Yeh (2013); O’Reilly et al. (1989)Attraction to the group, satisfaction with other members of the group, and social interaction among the group members.
Yang & Tang (2004)The forces holding the individuals within the groupings in which they are.


Bali, B, & Buyukkurt, M. D. (2005). Group performance in information systems project groups: An empirical study. Journal of Information Technology Education, 4, 97-113.

Carless, S. A., & De Paola, C. (2000). The measurement of cohesion in work teams. Small Group Research, 31, 71-88. doi:10.1177/104649640003100104

Dobbins, G. H., & Zaccaro, S. J. (1986). The effects of group cohesion and leader behavior on subordinate satisfaction. Group & Organization Studies, 11, 203-219. doi:10.1177/105960118601100305

Festinger, L. (1950). Informal social communication. Psychological Review, 57, 271-282. doi:10.1037/h0056932

Hambley, L. A., O’Neill, T. A., & Kline, T. J. B. (2007). Virtual team leadership: The effects of leadership style and communication medium on team interaction styles and outcomes. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 103, 1-20. doi:10.1016/j.obhdp.2006.09.004

Huang, C.-C. (2009). Knowledge sharing and group cohesiveness on performance: An empirical study of technology R&D teams in Taiwan. Technovation, 29, 786-797. Retrieved from

Janssen, O., & Huang, X. (2008). Us and me: Team identification and individual differentiation as complementary drivers of team members’ citizenship and creative behaviors. Journal of Management, 34, 69-88. doi:10.1177/0149206307309263

Joo, B.-K. B., Song, J. H., Lim, D. H., & Yoon, S. W. (2012). Team creativity: the effects of perceived learning culture, developmental feedback and team cohesion. International Journal of Training and Development, 16, 77-91. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2419.2011.00395.x

Moore, A., & Mamiseishvili, K. (2012). Examining the relationship between emotional intelligence and group cohesion. Journal of Education for Business, 87, 296-302. doi:10.1080/08832323.2011.623197

Seethamraju, R., & Borman, M. (2009). Influence of group formation choices on academic performance. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 34, 31-40. doi:10.1080/02602930801895679

Stewart, G. L., Courtright, S. H., & Barrick, M. R. (2012). Peer-based control in self-managing teams: Linking rational and normative influence with individual and group performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97, 435-447. doi:10.1037/a0025303

Thatcher, S. M. B., & Patel, P. C. (2011). Supplemental material for demographic faultlines: A meta-analysis of the literature. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96, 1119-1139. doi:10.1037/a0024167.supp

Yang, H.-L., & Tang, J.-H. (2004). Team structure and team performance in IS development: a social network perspective. Information & Management, 41, 335-349. doi:10.1016/S0378-7206(03)00078-8

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