The Winner Takes All
A Qualitative Study of Cooperation on Cycling Teams
Katrine O. Netland, Vidar Schei, Therese E. Sverdrup
Department of Strategy and Management, NHH Norwegian School of Economics
Cycling is arguably one of the most physically demanding sports. However, road cycling athletes are also challenged by a social-psychological tension induced by a fairly simple dilemma: There will only be one individual winner, but no one can win unless teammates sacrifice their own chances to win. This article addresses ways to effectively handle this challenge. We conducted in-depth interviews with athletes from professional and continental road cycling teams, as well as team sports directors. Our findings indicate that a prime undertaking indeed is to deal with the trade-off between individual goals and team goals. We identify three principles that may help to improve cooperation: involvement, cohesion, and the psychological contract. These principles seem to facilitate cooperation and a collective orientation, and they seem to be positively related to performance and satisfaction. We discuss these findings and their implications for cycling teams in particular, as well as for teams and team management in general.
About the Authors
KATRINE O. NETLAND holds a master degree from NHH Norwegian School of Economics, and have also studied corporate social responsibility at Södertörns Högskola in Buenos Aires and French at the Université de Paul Valéry in Montpellier. She is now at Deloitte in Oslo. Her areas of interests include sport and teamwork in general, and she has a passionate interest for road cycling in particular.
VIDAR SCHEI is an Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior at the NHH Norwegian School of Economics, and Deputy Head of the Department of Strategy and Management. His research interests are teams, conflict management, creativity and culture. He has taken part in research appearing in journals such as Science, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, and Journal of Managerial Psychology.
THERESE E. SVERDRUP has a Cand. Polit degree in Organizational Psychology from Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and defended her Ph.D about psychological contracts in work groups at the NHH Norwegian School of Economics in November 2012. Her research interests are team, leadership and working relations, and she is now research coordinator at the FOCUS program at NHH.
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