The role of attachment styles in team functioning

Pheiffer, Gary (2016) The role of attachment styles in team functioning. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


This research explored the potential influences on team functioning, from the perspective of adult attachment theory. Attachment styles are seen to reflect internal working models of self, others, and relationships, and influence individuals’ motivations, abilities, and perceptions as regards relationships. The research question explored what the role and influence of an individual’s global and team attachment style may have upon an individual’s experience of a work team. It sought to explain engagement with an individual’s work team, what is the subsequent influence of this on performance and how attachment style contributes to this. The key issues of Team Member Exchange and Team Identification were explored as areas of team functioning. These are the variables used to study and understand an individual’s team experiences, their engagement with the team, and the relationship with their performance ratings. The research found that both adult global and team attachment styles were negatively associated with Team Member Exchange (TMX), Team Identification, job satisfaction, performance ratings and Organisational Citizenship Behaviours (OCB). Using mediation analysis, team avoidant attachment was consistently and strongly associated with the study’s dependent variables and emerged as the key explanatory variable in this research. When all the attachment styles were analysed simultaneously to determine the unique effects of each attachment style, team avoidance style was the most useful in understanding both TMX and Team Identification, job satisfaction, OCB and performance measures. Those with avoidant team attachment styles felt that the experience of team was negative with lower TMX and Team Identification reported. The research has added new insights to the team and attachment literature with the important contribution of team avoidance attachment to TMX and Team Identification.

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