Dispositional factors, experiences of team members and effectiveness in self-managing work teams
Coetzee, Susanna Catherina
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Changes in South Africa's political and economic sphere demand the democratisation of the workplace, participation and empowerment of the work force. Flatter hierarchical structures, as a result of downsizing, enhance involvement but also demand that workers function in a more autonomous manner. The use of self-managing work teams has increased in response to these competitive challenges. Self-managing work teams are groups of employees who are fully responsible for a well-defined segment of finished work that delivers a product or a service to an internal or external customer. The functioning of self-managing work teams, in terms of the systems model, can be described as certain inputs that help the team to perform certain tasks and follow processes in order to achieve certain outputs. Inputs include the motivation, skills and personality factors of team members, while the tasks and processes refer to problem solving, conflict resolution, communication and decision making, planning, quality control, dividing of tasks, training and performance appraisal. These inputs and processes lead to outputs such as efficiency, productivity and quality of work life. To date empirical studies regarding self-managing work teams in South Africa focused on the readiness of organisations for implementing these teams. Little research has been done on characteristics of successful self-managed work group members. Findings regarding members of self-managing work teams elsewhere in the world couldn't uncritically be applied to South Africa, because of widely different circumstances. Research on dispositional factors such as sense of coherence, self-efficacy, locus of control and the big five personality dimensions could therefore help to identify predictors of effectiveness that can be validated in consecutive studies for selection purposes in a self-managing work team context in South Africa. The objective of the research was therefore to determine the relationship between dispositional characteristics of members of a self-managing work team and the effectiveness and quality of work life of these members. A cross-sectional survey design was used. The sample included members of self-managing work teams (N = 102) from a large chemical organisation and a financial institution in South Africa. The Orientation to Life Questionnaire, a Self-efficacy Scale, the Locus of Control Questionnaire and Personality Characteristics Inventory were used to measure the dispositional variables. Quality of work life (measured as consisting of satisfaction, commitment to the organisation and commitment to the team) and self-rated team member effectiveness were used as dependent variables. Descriptive statistics, Pearson and Spearman correlations, canonical correlations and structural equation modelling were used to analyse the data and investigate the relationships between the various dispositional characteristics quality of work life and effectiveness of the team members. The results showed practically significant positive relationships between sense of coherence, self-efficacy, autonomy, external locus of control and internal locus of control on the one hand, and quality of work life and effectiveness of the team members of self-managing work teams on the other hand. Of the big five personality dimensions only openness was associated with commitment to the team in terms of the quality of work life. Stability, extraversion and openness were associated with the self-rated effectiveness of the team members of self-managing work teams. The structural equation modelling showed that there is a positive path from the dispositional characteristics to the satisfaction, commitment and self-rated effectiveness of the team members. The dispositional characteristics will also enhance the members' experience of role clarity and mediate the effects of job-induced tension on the members' self-rated effectiveness. Satisfaction of the team members moderate the relationship between the dispositional characteristics and commitment, as well as mediate the effects of job-induced tension on the commitment of the team members. Organisations implementing self-managing work teams can benefit from developing and enhancing these dispositional characteristics in their selected team members and could also validate these dispositional characteristics in terms of selection criteria for self-managing work team members.