Redefining multidisciplinary teams: An institutional approach

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Paik, Yonjeong
Seo, Myeong-Gu
Multidisciplinary teams, of which members are from different knowledge domains or disciplines, have been studied mostly in the context of cognitive diversity. However, diversityfocused approach may be missing some potential barriers to successful performance of individuals in multidisciplinary teams. Relying on institutional theory for a theoretical framework, I conceptualize two of such barriers: disciplinary embeddedness, or the extent to which an individual is cognitively, affectively and normatively influenced by her discipline, and disciplinary hierarchy, or the degree of perceived status differences among disciplines in the team. Further, I develop a multilevel model of their effects on team member performance in multidisciplinary teams. In the model, it is proposed that individual voice behavior and openness to voice may mediate the negative effects of the two barriers. In addition, I suggest that individual commitment to the team and team leader attributes such as disciplinary background breadth and transformational leadership may mitigate these negative effects. I test the proposed model using a data set from 138 team members in 23 multidisciplinary research teams at a large national research institute in South Korea. I find that disciplinary embeddedness and hierarchy indeed interrupt with team member performance. Additionally, openness to voice and voice behavior are found to be a mediator for the effect of disciplinary embeddedness and hierarchy, respectively. Leader disciplinary background breadth weakens the negative effect of disciplinary hierarchy on voice behavior.