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Teamwork and Synergy in Groups

The use of teams in organizations has increased constantly over the last years. Part of the reason is the expectation that teamwork provides additional performance gains that exceed the mere sum of its members' single contributions. However, such process gains or "synergy effects" in teams are not for granted but depend on specific preconditions and context factors. Psychology research has just began to explore these success factors in a systematic way. 

One focus of our work is on motivation gains in teams, i.e., the question when and why persons in groups are more strongly motivated as compared to working alone. This question is not trivial given that group researchers have  often demonstrated that team members overestimate their performance in teams, leading to motivation losses rather than gains.

In a series of controlled laboratory studies we have repeatedly shown underlying mechanisms of motivation gains in groups. Moreover, we have replicated these effects also in field studies outside of the laboratory. A central trigger factor in these studies is the perceived responsability (or social indispensability) of individual team members for others. Conceptualisations of humans as merely maximising individual gains are therefore too restricted to explain the motivational potential of persons in work processes.

This research is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft since 2004.



Hüffmeier, J., Hertel, G., Torka, A.-K., Nohe, C., & Krumm, S. (2022). In field settings group members (often) show effort gains instead of social loafing. European Review of Social Psychology, 33(1), 131-170. DOI: 10.1080/10463283.2021.1959125

Gärtner, L. U. A. & Hertel, G. (2020). Age as moderator of the relationship between self-efficacy and effort in occupational teams. Work, Aging and Retirement, 6(2), 118–129. https://doi.org/10.1093/workar/waz024

Hertel, G. & Hüffmeier, J. (2020). Temporal stability of effort gains in teams. In Karau, S. J. (Ed.), Individual motivation within groups: Social loafing and motivation gains in work, academic, and sports teams (pp. 109-148). New York: Academic Press.
Hüffmeier, J. & Hertel, G. (2020). Effort losses and effort gains in sports teams. In Karau, S. J. (Ed.), Individual motivation within groups: Social loafing and motivation gains in work, academic, and sports teams (pp. 223-258). New York: Academic Press.

Gärtner, L. U. A., Nohe, C. & Hertel, G. (2019). Lifespan perspectives on individuals’ effort in work teams. In Balres, B. B., Rudolph, C. W. & Zacher, H. (Eds.), Work across the lifespan (pp. 437-454). London: Academic Press

Hertel, G., Nohe, C., Wessolowski, K., Meltz, O., Pape, J., Fink, J., & Hüffmeier, J. (2018). Effort gains in occupational teams - The effects of social competition and social indispensability. Frontiers in Psychology. [Link]

Gärtner, L. U. A. & Hertel, G. (2017). Future time perspective in occupational teams: Do older workers prefer more familiar teams? Frontiers in Psychology, section Organizational Psychology. [Link]

Hüffmeier, J., Filusch, M. A., Mazei, J., Hertel, G., Mojzisch, A. & Krumm, S. (2017). On the boundary conditions of effort losses and effort gains in action teams. Journal of Applied Psychology , 102, 1673-1685. Link

Hüffmeier, J., Wessolowski, K., van Randenborgh, A., Bothin, J., Schmid-Lortzer, N. & Hertel, G. (2014). Social support from fellow group members triggers additional effort in groups. European Journal of Social Psychology, 44, 287–296.

Wittchen, M., Krimmel, A., Kohler, M. & Hertel, G. (2013). The two sides of competition: Competition-induced effort and affect during intergroup vs. interindividual competition. British Journal of Psychology, 104(3), 320-338.

Hüffmeier, J., Dietrich, H. & Hertel, G. (2013). Effort intentions in teams: Effects of task type and teammate performance. Small Group Research, 44(1), 62-88.

Hüffmeier, J., Kanthak, J. & Hertel, G. (2013). Specificity of partner feedback as moderator of group motivation gains in Olympic swimmers. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 16(4), 516-525.

Hüffmeier, J., Krumm, S., Kanthak, J. & Hertel, G. (2012). “Don’t let the group down”: Facets of instrumentality moderate the motivating effects of groups in a field experiment. European Journal of Social Psychology, 42, 533-538.

Hertel, G. (guest editor)(2011). Excellence in teams: how to achieve performance gains in working groups. Special issue of Journal of Managerial Psychology, 26, 176-258.

Hertel, G. (2011). Synergetic effects in working teams. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 26, 176-184. [Link]

Hüffmeier, J. & Hertel, G. (2011). Many cheers make light the work: How social support triggers process gains in teams. Journal of Managerial Psychology26, 185-204.

Hüffmeier, J., & Hertel, G. (2011). When the whole is more than the sum of its parts: Group motivation gains in the wild. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology47, 455–459. 

Kerr, N.L. & Hertel, G. (2011). The Köhler group motivation gain: How to motivate the ‘weak links’ in a group. Social and Personality Psychology Compass5, 43-55.

Wittchen, M., van Dick, R., & Hertel, G. (2011). Intergroup competition as a trigger of motivation gains in groups: A review and process analysis. Organisational Psychology Review, 1(3), 257-272. [PDF]

Weber, B., Wittchen, M. & Hertel, G. (2009). Gendered ways to motivation gains in groups. Sex Roles, 60, 731–744.

Hertel, G., Niemeyer, G. & Clauss, A. (2008). Social indispensability or social comparison: The why and when of motivation gains of inferior group members. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 35(5), 1329–1363.

Weber, B. & Hertel, G. (2007). Motivation gains of inferior group members: A meta-analytical review. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93(6), 973-993.

Wittchen, M., Schlereth, D. & Hertel, G. (2007). Indispensability effects under temporal and spatial separation: Motivation gains in a sequential task during anonymous cooperation on the Internet. International Journal of Internet Science, 2(1), 12-27.

Hertel, G., Deter, C. & Konradt, U. (2003). Motivation gains in computer-mediated work groups. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 33, 2080-2105.

Messé, L.A., Hertel, G., Kerr, N.L., Lount, R.B. Jr. & Park, E. (2002). Knowledge of partner's ability as a moderator of group motivation gains: Exploration of the Köhler Discrepancy Effect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 935-946.

Hertel, G., Kerr, N.L., & Messé, L.A. (2000). Motivation gains in performance groups: Paradigmatic and theoretical developments on the Köhler effect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 580–601. 

Hertel, G., Kerr, N.L., Scheffler, M., Geister, S. & Messé, L.A. (2000). Exploring the Köhler Motivation Gain Effect: Impression management and spontaneous goal setting. Zeitschrift für Sozialpsychologie, 31, 204-220.

Hertel, G. (guest editor) (2000). Motivation gains in groups. Special issue of the Zeitschrift für Sozialpsychologie, 31(4).