Responsibility in Teams

Xinyu Li (University of Paderborn)
Wendelin Schnedler (University of Paderborn)

Abstract: This paper provides a rationale for why holding responsible fewer rather than more members of a team increases team success. Team members can freely coordinate on who should do what. The outside world cannot observe what happened within the team but only whether the team was successful or not. In case of failure, one or several members of the team may be sanctioned; their reputation or image may suffer or they may lose their yearly bonus. Sanctioning, however, cannot be arbitrary. A team member can appeal against unfair sanctions; sanctions are repelled if this team member did not violate any norm (or if this violation is unlikely). If the organization places little emphasis on protecting the right of "innocent" team members and team cohesion is low, holding the whole team formally responsible is optimal. Otherwise, assigning responsibility to one member is optimal.

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