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8 November 2022, 15 - 16.30 

Crooked Teams: Coordination for Deviant Purposes

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Marlys Christianson

Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

The organizational literature on team coordination is vast but presupposes that teams work towards productive organizational ends; absent from our understanding is how deviant teams – those who aim to detract from organizational ends–coordinate. We conduct a video ethnography and inductively examine 84 videos of convenience store robberies by deviant teams (i.e., interdependently committed by two or more individuals) to unpack the unfolding behavioral mechanisms that characterize coordination for deviant purposes. We find significant variation in performance across these teams: higher performing deviant teams engage in several key coordination processes which ultimately help them navigate a fundamental tension they face—simultaneous collective goals of performance and avoiding apprehension. In addition to shedding light on coordination for deviant purposes, our inductive theory also contributes to a richer understanding of how team goal orientations shape coordination behavior and performance, which has previously focused on team learning and performance goals but has not explained how teams successfully manage the tensions inherent in approach and avoid goal orientations.

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