Use of Teams to Accomplish Radical Organization Change: Examining the Influence of Team Cognitive Style and Leader Emotional Intelligence

Alice Marie Cahill

Use of Teams to Accomplish Radical Organization Change: Examining the Influence of Team Cognitive Style and Leader Emotional Intelligence
Cahill, Alice Marie
Thesis Advisor(s):
Burke, W. Warner
Social-Organizational Psychology
Permanent URL:
Ph.D., Columbia University.
As organizations continue to experience external pressures and uncertainties regarding their future viability, they are increasingly choosing to engage in some form of inter-organizational restructuring in order to survive (Burke, 2011; Campbell, 2009; Kohm & La Piana, 2003). Mergers, the combination of two separate organizations into a single new entity, are occurring more often, especially in the non-profit sector. A merger represents a radical, transformational change for each of the organizations involved and success requires careful planning and implementation, a significant amount of time and energy, and attention to the profound loss and emotional reactions experienced by organization members. The use of teams within organizations to address these requirements and accomplish the merger implementation has been recommended by organizational scholars (Marks & Mirvis, 2001), but the conditions necessary for teams to be successful in this type of situation are not clear. However, it is expected that the composition of merger teams and the ability of the leader to create conditions that support the team members and their work together are critical to the success of a merger as a radical change strategy. Based on adaption-innovation theory (Kirton, 1976) and the ability- based theory of emotional intelligence (Mayer, Salovey & Caruso, 1991), this study proposed that teams that are heterogeneous and innovative with respect to cognitive style will be most successful in accomplishing a merger implementation and that the emotional intelligence of the team leader has a direct effect on the team's success. Using data collected from 26 parish merger teams in a large Catholic diocese, support was found for hypotheses relating to the composition of the team with respect to cognitive style, but not for hypotheses related to leader emotional intelligence. Results of regression analyses testing the predicted relationships confirmed that teams that were more diverse and innovative were more effective in accomplishing a merger implementation; however, the predictions related to leader emotional intelligence were not supported. In contrast, analysis of qualitative data provided support for the critical influence of the team leader, specifically with respect to relationship-oriented leader behavior and its effect on team work processes and outcomes. Implications for the use of teams to accomplish mergers as well as future research are discussed.
Organizational behavior
Organizational psychology
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