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Has become an increasingly popular means of organizing work in contemporary organizations. The idea of teams of workers is inextricably linked to the increasing importance of flexibility. Contemporary management thinking suggests that groups of workers who have been trained to perform a range of tasks are of greater use to the organization than the traditional view of workers undertaking specialized, segmented, repetitive tasks (see scientific management). Not only are flexible teams of workers able to undertake a greater variety of work (because there is no demarcation of tasks), there are also thought to be motivational advantages: from the collective spirit built up within teams, and the competitive spirit between teams in the same workplace. However, team-working means different things in different organizations. One useful distinction is between groups of employees working in teams, as opposed to those working as teams. In the case of the former, employees might simply be working alongside others, and sharing a common work experience, but not truly engaging in teamworking. In this sense, many organizations have teams, and many people would describe themselves as being part of a team. But it is the latter definition of working as teams that is sought by management since this brings the flexibility and motivational benefits. Whilst the idea of teamworking has received considerable management attention, it is not a new concept. Indeed, human relations theorists at the Tavistock Institute (UK) in the 1960s identified the supposed motivational effects of establishing autonomous workgroups. Teamworking might be seen as a contemporary expression of this in those organizations where the teams have been empowered with the authority to organize their work as they see fit in order to meet targets set by management (see empowerment). There are, in practice, relatively few instances where this extent of team autonomy actually occurs, although most teams would be expected to be responsible for monitoring their own quality standards. Research has also revealed negative aspects to teamworking: bullying and victimization of team members who do not fit in, who underperform, or who are in some way different.

Subjects: Human Resource Management.

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