Collectivism Impairs Team Performance When Relational Goals Conflict With Group Goals

Xin Qin, Kai Chi Yam, Wenping Ye, Junsheng Zhang, Xueji Liang, Xiaoyu Zhang, Krishna Savani*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This research challenges the idea that teams from more collectivistic cultures tend to perform better. We propose that in contexts in which there are tradeoffs between group goals (i.e., what is best for the group) and relational goals (i.e., what is best for one’s relationships with specific group members), people in less collectivistic cultures primarily focus on group goals but those in more collectivistic cultures focus on both group and relational goals, which can lead to suboptimal decisions. An archival analysis of 100 years of data across three major competitive team sports found that teams from more collectivistic nations consistently underperformed, even after controlling for a number of nation and team characteristics. Three follow-up studies with 108 Chinese soccer players, 109 Singapore students, and 119 Chinese and the U.S. adults provided evidence for the underlying mechanism (i.e., prioritizing relational goals over group goals). Overall, this research suggests a more balanced view of collectivism, highlighting an important context in which collectivism can impair team performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-132
Number of pages14
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number1
Early online date23 Sept 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Sept 2022


  • collectivism
  • culture
  • group goals
  • relational goals
  • team performance


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