2013. Vol.4, No.10, 741-743
Published Online October 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 741
The Mediating Role of the Sense of Relatedness and Task
Cohesion in the Relation between Psychological Power Distance
and Efficicency of a Working Team
Laurent Auzoult
Department HSE, University of Franche-Comté, Besançon, France
Received August 13th, 2013; revised September 12th, 2013; accepted September 29th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Laurent Auzoult. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons At-
tribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original work is properly cited.
Understanding of the effectiveness of work-teams is a major issue in the business world, where they are
expected to facilitate developing individual skills and increasing organizations’ efficiency. Eighty-three
engineers working in teams have responded to a questionnaire devised to measure perceptual power
distances, the sense of relatedness, cohesion measured by integration around the task, and teams’
effectiveness. Results reveal that “task cohesion” and sense of relatedness mediate the relationship
between power distance and perceived effectiveness. These results are related with those observed in the
context of the self-determination theory and presented in order to highlight their practical implications.
Keywords: Power Distance; Team Effectiveness; Self-Determination Theory; Autonomy
Along with potency (Jordan, Feild & Armenakis, 2002), co-
hesion is presented as a key determinant of work-teams’ effec-
tiveness (Evans & Dion, 1991; Cohen & Bailey, 1997; Webber
& Donahue, 2001), though this psychological construct does
not always turn out to be as unambiguous as one would like
(Friedkin, 2004). Initially, cohesion reflects all forces encour-
aging a group’s members to stick together (Festinger, 1950).
Cohesion has gradually been broken up into several dimensions
that refer to interpersonal attractiveness and individual or col-
lective commitment to the task. “Task cohesion” seems to be a
better predictor of effectiveness than social cohesion (Mullen &
Cooper, 1994).
“Task cohesion” refers to team-members’ perceived spirit of
unity around the activity, i.e. to the quality of cooperation
within the team. Cooperation quality could account for a sense
of relatedness (Lavigne, Vallerand, & Crevier-Braud, 2011),
which reflects a sense of acceptance, i.e. the feeling of being
understood and accepted by others, as well as a sense of inti-
macy, i.e. feeling one is emotionally attached to colleagues. As
regards running a work-team, we can assume that the stronger
the sense of relatedness among teammates (i.e. their feeling
close to—and understood by—others), the more satisfactory the
perceived quality of cooperation. A study by Deardorff Bell and
Belohlav (2011) highlights the impact of relationships quality
(sharing ideas and communications quality) on performance. In
this case, cohesion might be expected to mediate the relation-
ship between the sense of relatedness and perceptions about the
team’s effectiveness.
From a broader perspective, cohesion mediates the effects of
psychosocial factors referring to the team’s organizational en-
vironment (Gladstein, 1984), the quality of individual interac-
tions (Mesmer-Magnus & DeChurch, 2009) or to wage-earners’
characteristic features (Campion, Papper & Medsker, 1996).
Sharing common values has been put forward to account for
work-teams’ effectiveness (Ashkanasy & O’Connor, 1997;
Stinglhamber, Bentein, & Vandenberghe, 2004). Schaubroeck,
Lam and Cha (2007) and Earley (1999) have shown a relation-
ship between power distance values, which refer to the degree
of inequality employees consider as normal (Hofstede, 2001),
and work-teams’ performance. Specifically, it has been shown
that the higher power-distance values are (i.e. when employees
consider inequality as normal), the better the team’s perform-
ance turns out to be. Power distances may also be considered as
psychological distances (Mulder, 1977), i.e. a degree of per-
ceived inequality within a power structure. Psychological dis-
tances are related with psychological values. In this case, the
more individuals can express strong power values, the closer to
their line manager they perceptually get, while distancing
themselves from the organization’s shop floor (Auzoult, 2012).
As for psychological power distances vis-à-vis the team leader,
reducing psychological power distances should increase the
team’s perceived effectiveness.
The power equalization effect, i.e. the relation between per-
formance and reduction of status and power, has already been
highlight at organizational level (Abdel-Halim, 1980) but never
in work team level. In this study, we examine the mediating
role of a sense of relatedness and cohesion between power dis-
tance and work-teams’ effectiveness. We rely on observations
made about training engineers working in teams on industrial
projects. Studies involving teams during training-periods high-
light processes similar to those seen in professional or sports
organizations (Lent, Schmidt, & Schmidt, 2006; Hsu, Ya-Ling
Chen, Chiu, & Ju, 2007; Lira, Ripoll, Peirό, & González, 2007).
We expect “task cohesion” to mediate the relationship between
psychological power distance and the team’s effectiveness (Hy-
pothesis 1); and the feeling of social acceptance to mediate the
relationship between psychological power distances and “task
cohesion” (Hypothesis 2).
Participants and Procedure
Eighty-three students (12 females, 71 males, M = 22 years,
SD = 8 months) from the same engineering school were put
together in teams and participated to the study. Teams were
formed around industrial- or R & D-related projects, over a
30-week period. After four months of operation, students were
asked to fill in a questionnaire presented as meant to identify
their team’s operating modalities
Power distance. Each team member expressed his sense of
leadership and power, using five-point scales from seven items
(α = .81) referring to the importance of their work for the pro-
ject, to its contribution to conflict resolution, to the collective
success or to communications quality. Individual power dis-
tance corresponded to the difference between the team-leader’s
score and each teammate’s (Auzoult & Abdellaoui, 2011).
Cohesion. “Task cohesion” was measured using five-point
scales from 12 items (α = .78) about mutual agreement on ob-
jectives (clarity, commitment and agreement), the means im-
plemented to achieve the project (agreement on roles and
working methods) or team management (conflicts management,
mutually supportive behaviour).
Sense of relatedness. The sense of relatedness was measured
using the “feeling of relatedness” scale (Richer & Vallerand,
1998), while the sub-dimensions of intimacy and acceptance
had been separated beforehand.
Work-team’s effectiveness. An overall indicator of the
team’s effectiveness was drawn from three dimensions pro-
posed by Beaudin & Savoie (1995) to measure work-teams’
effectiveness (group life quality, durability and performance).
Respondents had to deal with 9 items (α = .78) on five-point
Reducing distances can be associated with a rise in the de-
gree of acceptance (r = .42, p<.001) or intimacy (r = .43, p
< .001) and an increase in “task cohesion” (r = .33, p<.01) or
in perceived effectiveness (r = .35, p < .001). Enhanced the
task cohesion is associated with the team’s perceived effec-
tiveness (r = .73, p < .001) as well as with a heightened sense of
acceptance (r = .64, p < .001) or of intimacy (r = .60, p < .001).
We conducted a hierarchical linear regression analysis (Ta-
ble 1) by introducing power distance in the first step, the two
sub-dimensions of relatedness in the second one and, in the
third step, “task cohesion”. The dependent variable was “level
of perceived work-team’s effectiveness”.
Power distance alone can account for 11% (R2 = .11, F (1,82)
= 11.27, p < .001) of the variance related to work-team’s effec-
tiveness. In the second step, the addition of two relatedness
sub-dimensions can explain 26% (ΔR2) of additional variance
(R2 = .37, F (3,82) = 16.77, p < .001). In this case, acceptance
alone contributes significantly to justify effectiveness. It can
Table 1.
Hierarchical regression analysis of team-effectiveness from its antece-
Step 1 Step 2 Step 3
β Student’testa β Student’test β Student’test
Power distance.35 t = 3.36* .09 t = .92 .06 t = .80
Acceptation .38 t = 2.49* .13 t = .97
Intimacy .23 t = 1.51 .09 t = .71
Task cohesion .57 t = 5.90**
Constant 25.49** 17.72** 7.82*
Note: a. *p < .01, **p < .001.
therefore be concluded that power distances account for the
sense of relatedness through acceptance but not for intimacy
among team members. In the third step, adding “task cohesion”
justifies 19% (ΔR2) of additional variance (R2 = .56, F(4,82) =
26.65, p < .001). All these relationships lead one to conclude
that “task cohesion” mediates the relationship between psycho-
logical power distance and team’s effectiveness (Hypothesis 1
is verified) and that acceptance plays a mediating role between
power distance and “task cohesion” (Hypothesis 2 is verified).
The results of this study show that the reduction of percep-
tual power distances between teammates and their team-leader
emphasizes “individual feeling of acceptance” within the team,
“task cohesion” and “team’s perceived effectiveness”.
The sense of relatedness proves to be a determinant factor of
participation, motivation and individual well-being at work
(Deci, Connell & Ryan, 1989; Gagné & Deci, 2005). Our re-
sults lead to the conclusion that “sense of relatedness” also im-
pacts the collective level, in this case the team’s cohesion and
effectiveness. This can be paralleled with the effects observed
about the need for autonomy and competence in the context of
the self-determination theory (Ryan & Deci, 1999; Chirkov,
Ryan, & Sheldon, 2011). Indeed, Cabrera Collins and Salgado
(2006) have observed that “satisfaction of the need for auton-
omy” led to greater motivation to share knowledge within the
work-group. Morrison (2006) noted that “satisfaction of the
need for autonomy” was associated with enhanced pro-social
behaviour. These different results may suggest that developing
intrinsic motivation linked to “needs for autonomy” and “need
for relatedness” might be expected to lead to collective regula-
tions along the lines of strengthening ties at work and, inciden-
tally, to collective efficiency as well.
Finally, perceptual power distances are likely to account for
the regulations operating within work-teams. Unlike values,
perceptual power distances are directly related to organisations’
formal aspects, such as “type of hierarchical structure” (Ng,
1980) or unequal power resources (Raven, 1992). Our results
therefore suggest possible practical implications, since any
formal element reflecting proximity among teammates and their
leadership makes it possible to a priori reduce psychological
power distances.
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